Donald Trump’s former fixer Michael Cohen will continue giving evidence at his fraud trial today after a combative day in which the disgraced lawyer alleged the former president instructed him and other executives to inflate his apparent fortune.
On Tuesday, Cohen described how Trump would select an “arbitrary” number – $6bn, rather than $4.5bn, for example – and instruct his executives to increase the value of his assets to reach it. Trump sat in court throughout the hearing, often shaking his head seemingly in exasperation.
Cohen’s testimony is at the heart of the prosecutors’ case against Trump, who has repeatedly and vehemently protested his innocence, claiming that the case against him amounts to a “fraud” and a political witch-hunt.
Judge Arthur Engoron has already ruled that the former president and his family business committed fraud. This trial, which is focused on the remaining claims of conspiracy, insurance fraud and falsifying business records, will settle the punishment.
Until yesterday, Trump and Cohen had not been in the same room since the latter turned on his boss five years ago. Cohen, Trump’s personal attorney for more than a decade, pleaded guilty in 2018 to felony charges, including tax evasion and lying to Congress during an investigation of Trump’s ties with Russia.
Trump has sought to discredit Cohen, whom he described as “a proven liar” on his way into court on Tuesday. “Heck of a reunion,” Cohen, 57, told reporters during a break in proceedings.
Cross-examination commenced shortly before the New York state court in Manhattan closed for the day. When an attorney for Trump who had met Cohen several times asked whether she should refer to him as “Mr Cohen” or “Michael,” he replied: “I think Mr Cohen for the day.”
Trump lawyer Alina Habba repeatedly pressed Cohen on whether he had lied in previous statements and under oath. When Cohen objected to Habba’s line of questioning, she shot back: “You can’t object, that’s not how this works! If you still had your law license you could do that.”
Cohen’s congressional testimony in 2019 – during which he alleged that Trump “inflated his assets when it served his purposes” – led the office of the New York attorney general, Letitia James, to pursue its fraud case against the former president.