Judge in Trump hush money trial directs DA to get key witness Michael Cohen under control

NEW YORK — As the Donald Trump hush money trial wrapped up for the week Friday, New York Supreme Justice Merchan warned the DA to get Trump’s fixer-turned-foe Michael Cohen to dial back his posting on social media about Trump and the case.

Cohen has been outspoken about his feelings on his former boss ahead of his expected appearance next week, sparking a response from Trump’s lawyers. The ex-president is under a gag order and barred from talking about witnesses.

“It’s now becoming a problem every single day that President Trump is not allowed to respond to this witness but the witness continues to talk,” lawyer Todd Blanche said.

Earlier Friday, a defense team’s efforts to prove how the former president was concerned about how his family would take the news of the Stormy Daniels sex tryst allegations fizzled. The dramatic fourth week of the first criminal trial of a U.S. president wrapped on Friday with a series of witnesses establishing key pieces of evidence and setting the scene for the case’s star witness, Cohen.

Trump, 77, has pleaded not guilty to 34 felony charges alleging he covered up reimbursement to Cohen for paying adult film actress Stormy Daniels into silence 11 days before the 2016 election by logging it internally as payment for legal fees.

Prosecutors say the payoff was hastily arranged as the Trump campaign sought to contain the fallout of the damning “Access Hollywood” tape and concluded a yearslong conspiracy to unlawfully promote Trump’s candidacy by suppressing negative information from voters.

Trump’s defense has claimed that Cohen went rogue in paying off Daniels and that he believed he’d paid him for legitimate legal services.

Social media digs upset Trump

In response to the request from Team Trump, Merchan directed prosecutors to keep Michael Cohen on a tighter leash in the home stretch of the case — even though they’ve said they’ve already done everything they could do.

Cohen “was talking explicitly” about the case on a TikTok live Wednesday night, dressed in a white t-shirt with a picture of Trump in an orange jumpsuit behind bars, Trump’s lawyer Todd Blanche said, asking that “he be prohibited from talking, the same way as Mr. Trump is.”

ADA Joshua Steinglass said Cohen had already been repeatedly warned to not make public statements.

“The fact of the matter is these witnesses are not subject to the gag order and we have no recourse if they make those statements,” Merchan said.

As Merchan ordered the prosecutors to remind Cohen not to make public statements, Trump smirked.

Trump v. Cohen set for next week

Laying the groundwork for Cohen’s expected testimony next week, prosecutors used Trump’s own words to show how his feelings about his longtime fixer changed amid revelations about the hush money scheme.

Trump came to the defense — and then bashed — Cohen, who pleaded guilty to orchestrating the hush money payments to the porn star in 2018 in a series of tweets during his presidency after the feds began probing his fixer’s payoff to Daniels.

The tweets, read aloud to the jury by witness Georgia Longstreet, a paralegal for the Manhattan district attorney’s office, directly addressed the hush money payments.

“Mr. Cohen, an attorney, received a monthly retainer, not from the campaign and having nothing to do with the campaign, from which he entered into, through reimbursement, a private contract between two parties, known as a non-disclosure agreement, or NDA,” Trump wrote weeks after the FBI raided Cohen’s office in April 2018.

But Trump turned by the following August after Cohen’s surprise guilty plea to campaign finance violations and other crimes.

“If anyone is looking for a good lawyer, I would strongly suggest that you don’t retain the services of Michael Cohen!” he wrote in August of the same year.

Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg was in the courtroom for part of Friday’s proceedings.

‘The whole situation was very unpleasant’

Former top White House aide Madeleine Westerhout, who lost her job after saying she had a better relationship with Trump than his daughters, testified Friday morning that she understood the then-president was worried about his family when the Daniels allegations were made public.

But under further questioning, she couldn’t recall Trump mentioning his wife or kids at all in a conversation after the news broke.

“I don’t believe he specifically said that, but I could just tell the whole situation was very unpleasant,” Westerhout said to a sustained objection. Her comment was stricken.

Prosecutors are attempting to prove that Trump wanted Daniels’ story killed not for concern of his family — but over how news of the Tahoe dalliance would affect his political prospects.

Westerhout, 34, once Trump’s presidential executive assistant and director of Oval Office operations, first took the stand late Thursday, spoke glowingly of the presumptive Republican nominee and broke down into tears Thursday, relaying details of her firing after telling reporters she had a better relationship with the former president than his daughters and said they were overweight.

“I was invited by a White House colleague of mine to what I understood to be an off-the-record dinner. And at that dinner I said some things that I should not have said,” Westerhout testified.

“That mistake, eventually — ultimately, cost me my job. And I am very regretful of my youthful indiscretion. But I feel like I’ve learned a lot from that experience. I think I’ve grown a lot since then.”

Earlier in the week, Stormy Daniels took the stand for her bombshell testimony, including a fiery hourslong cross-examination by Susan Necheles, who attempted to paint her as an unreliable liar based on her work in the porn industry.