Donald Trump’s Attorney Spars With Michael Cohen In Tense Cross-Examination: “You Called Me … A Crying Little S–t”

UPDATED: Donald Trump’s attorney in the former president’s hush money trial went straight at the prosecution’s star witness, Michael Cohen, kicking off a profanity-laced cross examination.

To start off, Todd Blanche introduced himself to Cohen, saying that although they’d never met “you went on TikTok and called me a crying little s—t” after the trial started.

“Sounds like something I would say,” Cohen deadpanned before a prosecutor could finish objecting to the question.

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So it went for much of the next two hours in a Manhattan courtroom: Blanche confronting Cohen with insults he’s lobbed mainly at Trump on his podcasts and social media, including a TikTok account he signed up for about six weeks ago to live-stream chats, and Cohen allowing that he had probably said those things.

“Dictator d—bag,” “boorish cartoon misogynist” and “Cheetoh-dusted cartoon villain” were a few of the slurs that Cohen admitted to.

Blanche also quoted Cohen saying on TikTok in late April — a week into the trial — that he hoped Trump “goes right into that little cage where he belongs, like a f—ing animal.”

It was a far cry from the praise Cohen heaped on his former boss in happier times, before the so-called Trump ‘fixer” went to prison on federal charges including campaign finance violations tied to the $130,000 hush money payment to adult entertainer Stormy Daniels. That payment also is at the heart of the Manhattan District Attorney’s case.

Blanche, in a less fractious exchange, reminded Cohen that he had previously called Trump “a good man,” someone “who cares deeply about this country,” “tells it straight,” “speaks from the heart,” wants “to make this country great again,” and has flawless memory.

“At that time I was knee-deep into the cult of Donald Trump, yes,” Cohen replied.

Blanche’s questioning suggested that his change of heart was also motivated by a desire to exact revenge on the former president and shorten his prison sentence by cooperating with federal and New York investigations of Trump.

Blanche also got Cohen to admit that he was less than completely forthcoming in an August 2018 meeting with the office of Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who was investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election. Earlier on the stand today, Cohen had admitted to a prosecutor that he withheld details from Mueller’s team about a Trump business venture in Moscow “because I was still holding on to the loyalty.”

Questioned by Blanche, Cohen said he also provided “answers that I knew were deceptive” on another matter of interest to Mueller because he still felt protective of then-President Trump. He was, at that point, still several days away from pleading guilty in a federal probe of his taxes and campaign contributions.

Blanche questioned Cohen’s recall on matters great and small, from the number of anti-Trump merchandise items he hawked on his podcasts, to his apparent lack of memory about who told CNN that he had turned over two of his mobile phones to the Manhattan District Attorney. Blanche noted that Cohen had detailed memories of phone calls with Trump from 2016 — calls that figured prominently in his direct testimony — but seemingly couldn’t remember that in March of 2023  he had promised the D.A’.s office he would stop going on television to talk about being a cooperating witness.

“Is that your testimony?” Blanche asked, sounding incredulous.

During breaks caused by repeated objections and lawyer conferences in front of Judge Juan Merchan, Cohen tugged at his suit jacket and exhaled in an exaggerated way as he waited for the cross-examination to restart.

Cohen said that he made around $3.5 million on a pair of books, Disloyal and Revenge, that talk at length about Trump. He also admitted that he talks about Trump on nearly every episode of his podcasts, Mea Culpa and Political Beatdown. Blanche also ventured some psychoanalysis, telling Cohen, “You were actually a little bit obsessed.”

Blanche said that even before Cohen went to work for Trump he admired him, and saw something of himself in the “ambitious” and “tenacious” real estate dealmaker and reality TV star.

Cohen didn’t disagree, and added “innovative” to the list of adjectives he would have applied to Trump and himself.

Blanche suggested that Cohen’s reinvention as a prominent Trump hater fulfills the same needs he had as Trump’s self-described “fixer” — for money, influence and attention. He asked Cohen if he loved going on television as a Trump campaign surrogate. Cohen said he did.

“Do you love it now?” Blanche asked. “Yes, but less,” Cohen replied.

The trial resumes on Thursday.

PREVIOUSLY: Michael Cohen finished his direct testimony this afternoon in the hush money trial of Donald Trump with an expression of remorse.

“I regret doing things for him I should not have — lying, bullying people in order to effectuate a goal,” Cohen said. The former Trump lawyer added, “I don’t regret working with The Trump Organization,” where he had “some very interesting and great times.”

“But to keep the loyalty and to do the thing that he had asked me to do,” Cohen continued, with the “he” referring to Trump, “I violated my moral compass and I suffered the penalty, as has my family.”

Cohen will face questioning from Trump’s lawyers when the trial resumes after lunch.

Before then, Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Susan Hoffinger walked Cohen through a series of questions that appeared designed to defuse likely points of interrogation by the defense.

Cohen said he didn’t lie to the judge who accepted his guilty plea in August of 2018 for federal tax evasion and a false statement to a bank; he only disputed the severity of the prosecution against him as a first-time offender, not the illegality of his actions.

Cohen said he served more than 13 months in a federal prison in upstate New York, including time in solitary confinement, and the remainder of his 36 month sentence under home confinement. I remain even today, still, on supervised release,” he said. He said he paid more than $1 million in back taxes and fines.

Lawyers representing Trump in a civil case brought by New York’s attorney general had questioned him on the stand about public statements he had made complaining about his treatment by the Justice Department.

“I was going to take responsibility, because the underlying factors, I never disputed,” Cohen told Hoffinger. He said the issue was that federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York — whose offices are a couple of blocks away — threatened to also prosecute his wife, who co-signed his falsified tax returns, if he didn’t agree to plead guilty within 48 hours.

Cohen said he has written a book, called Revenge, about the case against him. He called the book “a forensic dissection of a corrupt prosecution” and a “weaponization of the Justice Department.”

Disbarred from practicing law, Cohen said he has earned money from Revenge and an earlier book that he started writing in prison, the memoir Disloyal, both of which recount his dealings with Trump. He said he also earns money from two podcasts, one called Mea Culpa, in which he talks about Trump. He had on adult entertainer Stormy Daniels once as a guest to “apologize” to her, he said. He sells advertising and merchandise through the podcast, including one item aimed satirically at Trump.

Trump’s lawyers have said the Manhattan District Attorney’s case is built on specious claims by two people, Cohen and Daniels, whose livelihoods now depend on being allied with the anti-Trump resistance.

Cohen said the Mea Culpa podcast was the first time that he and Daniels ever spoke. Cohen has already testified that he paid Daniels $130,000 in 2016 for Daniels’ silence about a claim of a sexual encounter with Trump through an arrangement with her lawyer, and that he did so on orders from Trump to “take care of it.”

Prosecutors say Trump secretly, and illegally, reimbursed Cohen by disguising the repayment through falsified business records as routine legal work, in a bid to keep a story of an extramarital affair with a porn star from derailing Trump’s White House campaign.

Earlier, Cohen and Hoffinger went month by month through the invoices, signed checks and pay stubs covering the $420,000 that Cohen received from Trump in 2017. The monthly invoices Cohen emailed to Weisselberg at Trump Tower read, “Pursuant to the retainer agreement, kindly remit payment for services rendered for the month of … “

“Was this invoice a false record?” Hoffinger asked, a variation on a question she would repeat several more times. “Yes, ma’am,” Cohen replied.

Cohen testified that there was, in fact, no retainer and there were no services rendered. The monthly payments of $35,000 were “the reimbursement to me of the hush-money fee” to Stormy Daniels along with a bonus and another expense, Cohen said.

Looking at the pay stubs, which listed “RETAINER.” Hoffinger asked, “Were the descriptions here on this check stub false?” Cohen said they were.

“And whose signature is on the check?” Hoffinger asked.

“Donald J. Trump,” Cohen replied.

They repeated the drill until they reached the last check in December.

Cohen said from that day forward he never received, or billed, another dollar from Trump, The Trump Organization or the trust established after Trump’s election to manage his holdings. But his involvement with Trump continued.

As “counsel to the president,” the title he inherited after leaving The Trump Organization following the election, he made upwards of $5 million in consulting for people wanting access to the White House, and did some unpaid legal work for Trump on a handful of matters, he said.

He also worked with Eric Trump, the president’s oldest son, and another lawyer to get a restraining order in California against Daniels when they learned she was preparing to break her non-disclosure agreement and talk publicly about her alleged liaison with Trump. After Daniels and her new lawyer, Michael Avenatti, sued Trump to get out of the NDA, Cohen said that then-President Trump agreed to release Daniels from the agreement once he learned that he “would be required to sit for a deposition.”

At that point, “The agreement was terminated,” Cohen testified. Trump’s attorney Todd Blanche immediately objected. A bench conference with the lawyers and Judge Juan Merchan followed, and the judge then ordered Cohen’s last remark stricken from the record, and told jurors “not to consider that response.”

PREVIOUSLY: Michael Cohen took the stand for the second day in Donald Trump’s hush money trial, and recounted a phone call with the then-president in April 2018.

At the time, Cohen’s home had been raided by the FBI, setting off a media firestorm.

Trump told him, “Don’t worry. I’m president of the United States. There’s nothing here. Everything is gonna be OK. Stay tough. You’re gonna be OK,” Cohen testified.

That was the last time that he and Trump spoke directly, Cohen said. They were both present in the courtroom today, for the first time since Cohen testified in Trump’s civil fraud trial last year.

“I felt reassured” by the call, Cohen said, “because I had the president of the United States to protect me. His Justice Department should go nowhere. So I felt reassured and I remained … in the Trump camp.”

Cohen said his only communications with Trump from that point forward were through surrogates who reinforced the then-president’s message. Cohen didn’t name the intermediaries but summarized their message: “You’re loved. Don’t worry. He’s got your back. Most powerful guy in the country. if not the world. You’re going to be okay.”

And when The New York Times reported on April 21, 2018, that Cohen might cooperate with federal investigators, Trump issued a string of tweets criticizing the story and the lead reporter, and praising Cohen as “a fine person with a wonderful family … who I have always liked & respected.”

“Most people will flip if the Government lets them out of trouble, even if it means lying or making up stories,” Trump’s tweets continued. “Sorry, I don’t see Michael doing that despite the horrible Witch Hunt and the dishonest media!”

Cohen said the message he received from those tweets was, “Stay in the fold. Stay loyal. I have you. You’re a fine person. Don’t flip.”

At the time, Cohen said, The Trump Organization was paying Cohen’s legal fees and he had entered into a so-called “joint defense agreement” with President Trump, at first to handle a complaint that Cohen received from the Federal Election Commission regarding his $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels.

Cohen is still on the stand for the prosecution, but he could face cross examination later today.

PREVIOUSLY: Michael Cohen returns to the witness stand this morning in the New York hush money trial of Donald Trump with a rugged cross-examination looming.

The disbarred lawyer and convicted perjurer spent Monday testifying that his secret payoff to porn actor Stormy Daniels before the 2016 election had buy-in at every stage from the Republican presidential candidate.

“When he would task you with something,” Cohen testified, “he would then say, ‘Keep me informed. Let me know what’s going on.’ Especially if it was a matter that was troubling to him.”

Cohen’s credibility as a key prosecution witness will face a trial of its own when the defense’s turn to question him arrives. Trump’s attorneys have already portrayed Cohen — a self-styled fixer and legal attack dog who addressed Trump as “Boss” — as a liar and opportunist.

Trump repaid Cohen in 2017 with monthly checks falsely logged as income for ongoing legal work, the Manhattan District Attorney charged in its 34-count indictment of the New York real estate magnate and former Celebrity Apprentice star. Cohen said on Monday that the repayment scheme was devised by The Trump Organization’s chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, and approved by Trump in a meeting of the trio at Trump Tower in January 2017, days before Trump’s presidential inauguration.

Cohen gave jurors a view of Trump’s business, political and personal lives as they converged during the 2016 campaign. It was wife Melania Trump’s idea, Cohen said, to explain away the damning Access Hollywood tape as “locker room talk” when it revealed Trump bragging that he could grab women by the genitals without their consent.

Cohen’s testimony also drew other Trump employees including Weisselberg and bodyguard Keith Schiller back into the prosecution’s narrative, raising the question of whether they might be called to testify. Weisselberg is serving a jail sentence at New York’s Rikers Island for perjuring himself in the New York Attorney General’s civil case against Trump for deceiving banks about his wealth. Last week Judge Juan Merchan urged prosecutors to try to put Weisselberg on the stand.

Schiller, who followed Trump to the White House, is a recurring figure in witness accounts. Checks sent from Trump Tower for the president to sign in the Oval Office went through Schiller. Stormy Daniels testified that in 2006, when she had sex with the married Trump in a Lake Tahoe hotel suite, Schiller stood guard outside.

Cohen said he knew that sometimes when he couldn’t reach Trump directly, to call Schiller. Throughout Cohen’s testimony, the prosecution put up texts, call logs and emails for jurors to bolster Cohen’s timeline of conversations and events.

The jury also heard Cohen’s secret recording of a talk with Trump in 2016 about a payoff to contain another potential scandal: former Playboy model Karen McDougal’s tale of a long-running affair with Trump in the 2000s.

“So what do we got to pay for this? One fifty?” Trump said on the recording. He and Cohen were discussing a plan for David Pecker, CEO of the Trump-friendly periodical publisher American Media, to pay McDougal $150,000 for exclusive rights to her story and bury it in a “catch and kill” arrangement.

Why Cohen would record a client without his knowledge is a question likely to be asked by the defense. Cohen told Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Susan Hoffinger that he did it to provide Pecker with proof that Trump would repay the money being advanced to McDougal. Cohen said that as it turned out he never had to share the audio, because Pecker forgave the money. But a potential violation of attorney-client privilege could be ammunition for a defense team looking to undermine Cohen’s believability.

Cohen paid Daniels $130,000 using a home equity loan and a shell company to funnel the money to her lawyer under a written agreement that Trump himself did not sign. Trump was referenced only in a so-called “side agreement” to the NDA that identified the parties — Trump and Daniels — by their real names, versus the pseudonyms chosen by Daniels’ lawyer, Keith Davidson, for the main contract.

New York prosecutors — like their federal counterparts who secured a guilty plea from Cohen in 2018 — say the $130,000 was an illegal and unreported campaign contribution to Trump. The New York indictment holds that misdemeanor business fraud becomes a felony when it is committed to further another crime, in this case election interference.

Trump denies he had sex with Daniels, and contends that Cohen’s legal fees after he no longer worked for The Trump Organization were legitimate. Outside the courtroom on Monday afternoon —  during one of his twice-daily monologues to courthouse hallway press —  Trump said the Federal Election Commission absolved him of any campaign wrongdoing.

“You know the FEC wrote this off,” Trump said, adding, “they took a pass they said there’s no problem here.” He then turned, as he usually does, to the topic of the “corrupt judge” who is overseeing the trial and “keeping me from campaigning.”

Trump surrogates including eldest son Eric Trump — a regular in his father’s courtroom entourage — have also defended the non-disclosure agreement as an ordinary, accepted business practice. “Every organization, including this one, would go down in flames if an NDA was illegal,” Eric Trump said Monday on Laura Ingraham’s Fox News program.

Ted Johnson contributed to this report.

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