Home News Michael Cohen describes Oval Office scene in which Trump talked hush-money reimbursement

Michael Cohen describes Oval Office scene in which Trump talked hush-money reimbursement


Jurors hearing the first-ever criminal case against a U.S. president were transported to the White House on Tuesday during testimony by Michael Cohen, who alleged he discussed reimbursement for paying off porn star Stormy Daniels with Donald Trump in the Oval Office.

“So I was sitting with President Trump and he asked me if I was OK, he asked me if I needed money. I said, ‘No. All good,’” Cohen recalled.

“He said, um, ‘Alright. Just make sure you deal with Allen” — referring to the Trump family’s longtime financial sentry, Allen Weisselberg, currently serving a second stint on Rikers for a perjury conviction — Cohen added.

During his second day on the witness stand, he told the Manhattan Supreme Court jury that the meeting happened Feb. 8, 2017, not long after Trump took up residency at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. Trump’s then-lawyer was still waiting to be paid back for silencing Daniels about claims of an extramarital tryst with Trump 11 days out from the election — a key detail as prosecutors seek to prove the ex-president had knowledge of the hush-money reimbursement.

Defense attorney Todd Blanche cross examines Michael Cohen in Manhattan criminal court, Tuesday, May 14, 2024, in New York. Cohen returned to the witness stand Tuesday, testifying in detail how former president was linked to all aspects of a hush money scheme that prosecutors say was aimed at stifling stories that threatened his 2016 campaign. (Elizabeth Williams via AP)
Defense attorney Todd Blanche cross examines Michael Cohen in Manhattan court on Tuesday. (Elizabeth Williams via AP)

“Did he say anything about what would be forthcoming?” prosecutor Susan Hoffinger asked.

“Yes,” Cohen replied. “A check for January and February.”

During over five hours in the witness box on Monday, Trump’s loyal lawyer-turned-chief antagonist said his boss played a direct role in the effort to silence Daniels, former Playboy model Karen McDougal and a Trump Tower doorman about a series of sex scandals, the latter two of whom were paid off by former tabloid publisher David Pecker. Trump has pleaded not guilty and strongly denies the affairs.

Trump’s chief financial officer said he’d be reimbursed for handling the hush-money deal in installments purporting to cover a retainer fee as personal attorney to the president.

“He approved it. And he also said, ‘This is going to be one heck of a ride in D.C.,’” Cohen quoted Trump as saying.

Cohen, who went to federal prison for the payoff after pleading guilty to violating campaign finance laws and other crimes in 2018, wanted the remittance in one lump sum, but “Mr. Trump allegedly said, ‘No, it’s better, it’s better to do it over the 12 months.’”

Trump, 77,  is accused of repeatedly falsifying New York business records throughout 2017 to disguise the reimbursement to Cohen — classifying it as payment for legal fees — to hide an underlying scheme to hide damaging information from the voting public.

On Tuesday morning, Hoffinger pulled up each of Cohen’s invoices to display to the court and asked him if they were false or accounted for actual “services rendered.”

“No ma’am,” Cohen answered. “They were for reimbursement.”

Asked how many hours of work he put in while being compensated monthly in the tens of thousands, Cohen said, “Less than 10.”

Among the evidence the jury will have before them is a bank statement reflecting Cohen’s payoff to Daniels — wired to her attorney, Keith Davidson, through a shell company hastily set up by Cohen in the waning days of the 2016 race. They will also have the invoices and the 11 checks Cohen received bearing Trump’s renowned spiky signature written with a Sharpie.

Last week, Weisselberg’s longtime deputy, ex-Trump Org controller Jeff McConney, identified handwritten notes on the Davidson statement as the penmanship of his former boss. The CFO calculated that Cohen was owed $420,000 — $130,000 for the payment to Daniels and an additional $50,000 Cohen paid a tech company for Trump-related work, then multiplied by two to account for taxes plus a $60,000 bonus.

Cohen revealed Monday that notes on the statement documenting the $50,000 expense were his own.

The statement was crafted “in order to protect Mr. Trump, to stay on message,” Cohen said, and “to demonstrate my continued loyalty.”

The jury on Tuesday heard how Cohen and Trump’s feud came to pass following Cohen’s 2018 guilty plea, with the former fixer saying he last spoke with his longtime boss sitting feet away at the defense table after his office and hotel room were raided by the feds, which Cohen called “the worst day of my life.”

“He said to me, ‘Don’t worry, I’m the president of the United States, there’s nothing there — everything’s going to be OK, stay tough, you’re going to be OK,’” Cohen recalled, adding that others told him he was “loved” by Trump.

In the immediate aftermath, Cohen — who has since sought to rebrand himself as a liberal resistance hero — said he felt “reassured, because I had the president of the United States protecting me.”

Trump’s eyes were closed for long periods of Tuesday’s testimony, leaving spectators wondering if he was dozing off, and he and Cohen barely looked in each other’s direction.

Trump’s court appearances have drawn high-profile supporters, including former Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum and Eric Trump and his wife, Lara Trump on Tuesday. House Speaker Mike Johnson lamented the trial outside the lower Manhattan courthouse without stepping foot inside the courtroom.

AOhio. Sen J.D. Vance, Florida Republicans Byron Donalds and Cory Mills, and Fox News host Laura Ingraham, were among those who joined Trump in court, with Ingraham receiving a talking-to from a court officer for taking out her phone.

Trump lawyer Todd Blanche came bucking out of the gate on cross-examination later Tuesday, almost instantly sustaining an objection when he asked Cohen if he’d recently referred to him on TikTok as “a crying little s–t.”

“Sounds like something I would say,” Cohen replied.

Blanche also asked Cohen about schoolyard taunts he’d made in public, ranging from “Dictator douchebag” and “Boorish cartoon misogynist” to “Cheeto-dusted cartoon villain.” Cohen didn’t deny any of them.

Blanche sought to attack his credibility from all sides by portraying him as driven by hatred and financial greed. He highlighted Cohen’s countless public statements calling for Trump to be imprisoned, his propensity to wax lyrical on the phone with reporters, and his extensive cooperation in prosecutors’ Trump probe leading to the case on trial.

Cohen, who’s known for having a notoriously short fuse, has yet to lose his cool on the stand and gave mild, one-word replies to the grilling.

The defense has claimed that Cohen’s payment to Daniels was an example of him going rogue and showed an unhealthy obsession with his boss. Cohen on Tuesday rejected that framing.

Asked about past praise Cohen gave of Trump — calling him “a good man” in 2015 and saying that he “cares deeply about his country” and “he’s a man who tells it straight” — Cohen said he believed his remarks at the time.

“At that time, I was knee-deep into the cult of Donald Trump,” he explained.

It emerged in court Tuesday that Cohen was the prosecution’s last scheduled witness. Trump’s lawyers said they were yet to decide whether their client, the presumptive GOP nominee in this year’s presidential election, will take the stand.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here