In a fiery cross-examination Tuesday, Trump's lawyer repeatedly attacked Michael Cohen as a "liar."
"You're not on your podcast," the lawyer, Alina Habba, snapped at Cohen at one point.
Earlier Tuesday, Cohen alleged that Trump directly ordered that his net-worth numbers be fudged.
Star witness Michael Cohen kept his cool on the stand at Donald Trump's New York fraud trial Tuesday, despite an aggressive, and at times procedurally odd, cross-examination by a defense lawyer who repeatedly interrupted his answers and called him a liar.
"Mr. Cohen, here's how it's gonna work," the lawyer, Alina Habba, told Cohen at one point, her voice striking a scolding tone as she cut into the testimony by the former Trump Organization insider.
"You're not on 'Mea Culpa,'" Habba continued, naming Cohen's podcast, which routinely targets Trump with vitriol. "You're not on your podcast," she added.
Trump, who was attending the trial, watched from the defense table as the judge presiding over the trial, New York Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron, quickly interrupted Habba.
"No speeches," Engoron warned, noting that as a lawyer, Habba must ask questions, not make statements.
Habba responded with another statement. "No speeches. That goes both ways," she said, though it was unclear if she was agreeing with the judge, or deflecting his directive onto Cohen, or both.
Habba is expected to continue her cross-examination of Cohen on Wednesday morning. She got in only a half hour of cross before court ended for the day.
But in that half hour, she called Cohen a liar and perjuror in multiple questions – "so you have lied under oath numerous times, Mr. Cohen?" was a typical query, as was "So you lied?"
The attack on Cohen's credibility – called "impeaching" a witness in legal parlance – was not surprising.
Cohen is one the former president's most legally dangerous opponents, given his key role in both the ongoing Manhattan fraud trial and a felony "hush-money" case scheduled for March in a courthouse just a block away.
But Cohen is vulnerable to perjury accusations.
In flipping against Trump, his former client and employer, five years ago, Cohen admitted he lied to Congress about the then-president's plan to build a Trump Tower in Moscow during the 2016 election. Cohen has since further admitted that he lied to a federal judge when he pleaded guilty in 2019 to federal tax evasion charges.
But at one point, Habba dragged Cohen's wife into the cross examination.
"Did you ever tell your wife that you were committing perjury?" in the 2019 tax plea, Habba asked Cohen.
Over the next minute, a figurative game of courtroom musical chairs ensued, with Cohen behaving like a lawyer instead of a witness, Habba behaving like a judge instead of a lawyer, and the real judge struggling to keep order.
"Objection!" Cohen, a former lawyer with a revoked law license, answered Habba's "did you ever tell your wife" question.
"No, you don't get to object." Habba told him, noting correctly that only lawyers can do that, but acting like a judge in saying so.
At that point, the attorney general's lawyers objected to the objection, and lead defense lawyer Christopher Kise rushed to Habba's defense.
"He is a serial liar," Kise said of Cohen. "And if he lied to his wife, that is relevant to impeachment."
Assistant Attorney General Colleen Faherty, who had just finished a direct examination of Cohen, protested that "the question is improper."
"I think it falls under spousal privilege," the judge wondered aloud of Habba's "wife" question.
"I apologize," Habba said, before turning back to Cohen and adding, "But clearly, I hit a trigger with you."
The question was eventually allowed, and Cohen answered yes, he did tell his wife that in pleading guilty to tax evasion in 2019, he had committed an act of perjury.
On his way out of court for the day, Trump paused before the hallway news cameras and called Cohen a "disgraced felon."
Cohen's testimony is scheduled to continue Tuesday at 10 a.m.
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