Trump trial: Michael Cohen 'worried a lot of women would come forward'

The key witness of the prosecutions case, Donald Trump's former fixer Michael Cohen, took the stand on Monday.

Former fixer Michael Cohen revealed he warned Donald Trump “there’s going to be a lot of women coming forward” when he announced his presidential bid while giving testimony during the former president’s hush-money trial.

Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer, is by far the most important witness in the case and his appearance signals that the trial is entering its final stretch.

Prosecutors say they may wrap up their presentation of evidence by the end of the week.

Much of Cohen’s testimony centred on his time fixing problems for Trump and how this elevated to another level when he entered the 2016 presidential race.

Focusing on his fears of bad press, Cohen said he warned Trump after he entered the race “just be prepared – there’s going to be a lot of women coming forward.”

If the prosecution gets enough credible testimony out of Cohen to convince the jury to find Trump guilty, then the Republican presidential nominee could face serious legal consequences.

Michael Cohen arriving at court. / Credit: AP

Politically it’s a different story with the prosecution’s reliance on a witness with such a checkered past – Cohen pleaded guilty to federal charges related to the payments and to lying to Congress – could be a boon for Trump with his base.

Cohen is expected to testify about his role in arranging hush money payments on Trump’s behalf during his first presidential campaign.

This includes porn actor Stormy Daniels, who told jurors last week that the $130,000 (£103,500) that she received in 2016 was meant to prevent her from going public about a sexual encounter she says she had with Trump in a hotel suite a decade earlier.

Cohen’s testimony also matters because the reimbursements he received form the basis of the charges against Trump – 34 felony counts of falsifying business records.

Trump has denied all allegations.

Prosecutors say the reimbursements were logged as legal expenses to conceal the payments’ true purpose in what they allege was an effort to illegally interfere in the 2016 presidential election.

Trump did not appear to make eye contact with Cohen as the lawyer began his testimony by recounting his upbringing on Long Island as the son of a Holocaust survivor and his career experience with Trump.

In his early testimony, Cohen explained that part of his job included reaching out to reporters whose stories had angered Trump, asking them to make changes or take them down — and sometimes threatening legal action.

Asked if he had done so in a “strong and threatening manner,” Cohen, who was notorious for threatening reporters, answered in the affirmative.

“I would say so,” he said.

Defence lawyers have teed up a bruising cross-examination of Cohen, telling jurors during opening statements that the fixer-turned-foe is an “admitted liar” with an “obsession to get President Trump.”

Cohen’s role as star prosecution witness further cements the disintegration of a mutually beneficial relationship that was once so close that the attorney famously said he would “take a bullet for Trump.”

Describing his relationship with Trump during his employment Cohen described it as “fantastic” adding “there were great times. There were also several less than great times.”

After Cohen’s home and office were raided by the FBI in 2018, Trump showered him with affection on social media, praising him as a “fine person with a wonderful family” and predicting – incorrectly – that Cohen would not “flip.”

Months later, Cohen did exactly that, pleading guilty that August to federal campaign finance charges in which he implicated Trump.

Cohen later admitted lying to Congress about a Moscow real estate project that he had pursued on Trump’s behalf during the heat of the 2016 Republican campaign. He said he lied to be consistent with Trump’s “political messaging.”

Donald Trump with Michael Cohen in 2011. / Credit: AP

Since their fallout, Cohen has emerged as a relentless and sometimes crude critic of Trump, appearing as recently as last week in a live TikTok wearing a shirt featuring a figure resembling Trump with his hands cuffed, behind bars.

The judge on Friday urged prosecutors to tell him to refrain from making any more statements about the case or Trump.

“He has talked extensively about his desire to see President Trump go to prison,” Trump attorney Todd Blanche said during opening statements.

“He has talked extensively about his desire to see President Trump’s family go to prison. He has talked extensively about President Trump getting convicted in this case.”

Other witnesses, including former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker and former Trump adviser Hope Hicks, have testified at length about the role Cohen played in arranging to stifle stories that were feared to be harmful to Trump’s 2016 candidacy.

Jurors also heard an audio recording of Trump and Cohen discussing a plan to purchase the rights to a story of a Playboy model, Karen McDougal, who has said she had an affair with Trump.

During a massive rally on Saturday in the southern New Jersey resort town of Wildwood, Trump revived his criticism of the case, wrongly blaming President Joe Biden for orchestrating the New York charges, calling the case a “Biden show trial.”

That argument ignores the reality that the hush money case was filed by local prosecutors in Manhattan who do not work for the Justice Department or any other White House office.

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