He as soon as stated he would take a bullet for Donald Trump. Now Michael Cohen is prosecutors’ greatest piece of authorized ammunition within the former president’s hush money trial.

But when Trump’s fixer-turned-foe is poised to supply jurors this week an insider’s view of the dealings on the coronary heart of prosecutors’ case, he is also as difficult a star witness as they arrive.

There may be his tortured historical past with Trump, for whom he served as private legal professional and problem-zapper till his practices got here below federal investigation. That led to felony convictions and jail for Cohen however no prices towards Trump, by then within the White Home.

Cohen, who is anticipated to take the stand Monday, can tackle the jury as somebody who has reckoned frankly along with his personal misdeeds and paid for them along with his liberty. However jurors seemingly additionally will be taught that the now-disbarred lawyer has not solely pleaded responsible to mendacity to Congress and a financial institution, however not too long ago asserted, below oath, that he wasn’t truthful even in admitting to a few of these falsehoods.

And there’s Cohen’s new persona — and podcast, books and social media posts — as a relentless and generally crude Trump critic.

As Trump’s trial opened, prosecutors took pains to painting Cohen as only one piece of their proof towards Trump, telling jurors that corroboration would come by way of different witnesses, paperwork and the ex-president’s personal recorded phrases. However Trump and his legal professionals have assailed Cohen as an admitted liar and felony who now makes a residing off tearing down his former boss.

“What the protection goes to need the jury to deal with is the truth that he’s a liar” with a blemished previous and a tetchy streak, stated Richard Serafini, a Florida felony protection lawyer and former federal and Manhattan prosecutor.

“What the prosecution goes to need to deal with is ‘every thing he says is corroborated — you don’t have to love him,'” Serafini added. “And No. 2, that is the man Trump selected.”

LOYALIST TURNED FOE

Cohen’s early-2000s introduction to Trump was a basic New York actual property story: Cohen was a condominium board member in a Trump constructing and obtained concerned on Trump’s facet of a residents versus administration dispute. The mogul quickly introduced Cohen into his firm.

Cohen, who declined to remark for this story, had had an eclectic profession that veered from practising private harm legislation to working a taxi fleet along with his father-in-law. He in the end functioned as each a Trump lawyer and shark-toothed loyalist.

He labored on some deal-making efforts but in addition spent a lot of his time threatening lawsuits, berating reporters and in any other case maneuvering to neutralize potential reputational dings for his boss, in keeping with congressional testimony that Cohen gave after breaking with Trump in 2018. The rupture got here after the FBI raided Cohen’s house and workplace and Trump started to distance himself from the legal professional.

Cohen quickly informed a federal courtroom that he had helped candidate Trump wield the Nationwide Enquirer tabloid as a form of home organ that flattered him, tried to flatten his opponents and bottled up seamy allegations about his private life by shopping for tales or flagging them to Cohen to buy. Trump says all of the tales had been false.

The trial was beforehand scheduled to begin Could 20.

These preparations, which Manhattan District Legal professional Alvin Bragg’s workplace portrays as a multipronged scheme to maintain info from voters, at the moment are below a microscope at Trump’s hush cash trial. He has pleaded not responsible to 34 counts of falsifying enterprise data in order to veil reimbursements to Cohen for paying off porn performer Stormy Daniels. She claimed a 2006 sexual encounter with the married Trump, which the previous president has denied.

Different witnesses have testified concerning the hush cash dealings, however Cohen stays key to piecing collectively a case that facilities on how Trump’s firm compensated him for his function within the Daniels payoff.

Trump’s protection maintains that Cohen was paid for authorized work, not a cover-up, and that there was nothing unlawful concerning the agreements he facilitated with Daniels and others.

A WITNESS WITH HISTORY

In felony trials, many witnesses come to the stand with their very own felony data, relationships with defendants, prior contradictory statements or one thing else that would have an effect on their credibility.

Cohen has a specific set of bags.

In testimony, he might want to clarify his prior disavowals of key elements of the hush cash preparations and to persuade jurors that this time he’s telling the reality, the entire fact and nothing however the fact.

Nonetheless within the Trump fold when the Daniels deal got here to gentle, he initially informed The New York Instances that he had not been reimbursed, later acknowledging reimbursement — as did Trump, who had beforehand stated he didn’t even know concerning the Daniels payout.

Then, in the midst of two federal responsible pleas, Cohen admitted to tax evasion, orchestrating unlawful marketing campaign contributions within the type of hush cash funds, and mendacity to Congress about his work on a attainable Trump actual property undertaking in Moscow. He additionally pleaded responsible to signing off on a house fairness mortgage software that understated his monetary liabilities.

Whereas many varieties of convictions could also be used to query a witness’ credibility, when crimes contain dishonesty, “there is a treasure trove of stuff there for a cross-examiner,” Serafini stated.

Furthermore, Cohen raised new questions on his credibility whereas testifying final fall in Trump’s civil fraud trial. Throughout a testy cross-examination — he answered some questions with a lawyerly “objection” or “requested and answered” — Cohen insisted he was not fairly responsible of tax evasion or the mortgage software falsehood. Finally, he testified that he had lied to the now-deceased federal choose who took his plea.

The fraud trial choose discovered Cohen’s testimony credible, noting that it was corroborated by different proof. However a federal choose recommended that Cohen perjured himself both in his testimony or his responsible plea.

Since splitting with Trump, Cohen has confronted his previous lies head-on. His podcast’s title – “Mea Culpa” – gestures at a reckoning along with his crimes, and he acknowledged within the foreword to his 2020 memoir that some individuals see him as “the least dependable narrator on the planet.”

At his 2018 sentencing, he stated his “blind loyalty” to Trump made him really feel “it was my obligation to cowl up his soiled deeds, reasonably than to hearken to my very own internal voice and my ethical compass.” Exterior courtroom, he has forged himself as an avatar of anti-Trump sentiment. In social media salvos because the trial opened, Cohen used a scatological nickname for Trump, taunted him to “maintain whining, crying and violating the gag order, you petulant defendant!” and commented acerbically on his protection.

The posts may give Trump’s legal professionals fodder to color Cohen as an agenda-driven witness out for revenge. In a nod to that vulnerability, Cohen posted two days after opening statements that he would stop commenting on Trump till after testifying, “out of respect” for the choose and prosecutors.

But in a stay TikTok this previous week, Cohen wore a shirt that includes a determine resembling Trump along with his arms cuffed, behind bars. After Trump’s legal professionals complained, Choose Juan M. Merchan exhorted prosecutors Friday to inform Cohen that the courtroom was asking him to not make any extra statements concerning the case or Trump.

To Jeremy Saland, a New York felony protection lawyer and former Manhattan prosecutor, Cohen’s background shouldn’t be such a hurdle for prosecutors.

“The place Cohen has the issue is: He doesn’t shut his lure,” Saland stated. “He simply consistently takes photographs at his personal credibility.”

Prosecutors might want to persuade Cohen to be forthright, acknowledge his previous wrongdoing and rein in his freewheeling commentary, Saland stated, or the case can turn into “the Michael Cohen present.”

Certainly, Trump lawyer Todd Blanche used his opening assertion to hammer on Cohen’s “obsession” with Trump and his admitted previous mendacity below oath.

Choose Juan Merchan dominated that former President Donald Trump had violated the courtroom’s gag order for feedback concerning the jury in his New York felony case.

“You can’t make a severe determination about President Trump counting on the phrases of Michael Cohen,” Blanche informed jurors.

However prosecutor Matthew Colangelo characterised Cohen as somebody who made “errors,” telling jurors they may consider him nonetheless.

In the meantime, prosecutors have pointed to remarks Trump has made about Cohen and others to accuse him of a number of violations of a gag order that bars him from commenting on witnesses, jurors and another individuals linked to the case. The choose has held Trump in contempt, fined him a complete of $10,000 and warned that jail may comply with if he breached the order once more.

Prosecutors additionally haven’t shied from testimony about Cohen’s combative character. A banker testified that Cohen was seen as a “difficult” consumer who insisted every thing was pressing. Daniels’ former lawyer, Keith Davidson, described his first cellphone name with Cohen as a screaming “barrage of insults and insinuations and allegations.”

Whereas such episodes may not be flattering to Cohen, eliciting them could possibly be a approach for prosecutors subtly to point he’s not their teammate, however merely an individual with info, stated John Fishwick Jr., a former U.S. legal professional for the Western District of Virginia.

“It’s a option to attempt to construct up his credibility whilst you distance your self from him,” he recommended.

When Cohen takes the stand, prosecutors can be sensible to handle his problematic previous earlier than protection legal professionals do, stated New York Regulation College professor Anna Cominsky. She taught a course with Bragg earlier than he grew to become district legal professional, however she supplied feedback as a authorized observer, not somebody aware of his workplace’s technique.

“I think about of their closing arguments,” Cominsky stated, “that the prosecutor goes to look proper on the jury and say, ‘This isn’t an ideal witness, however none of us are.’”

___

Tucker reported from Washington. Related Press writers Michael R. Sisak and Jake Offenhartz in New York contributed to this report.


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