NEW YORK (AP) — Michael Cohen returned to the witness stand Wednesday in his ex-boss Donald Trump’s civil business fraud trial as the former president’s defense team tried to undermine the credibility of his onetime personal attorney turned adversary.
During his first day of testimony Tuesday, Cohen said he and key executives at Trump’s company worked to inflate the estimated values of their employer’s holdings so documents given to banks and others would match a net worth that Trump had set “arbitrarily.”
Trump watched as his lawyer Alina Habba then cross-examined Cohen, emphasizing Cohen’s federal criminal convictions and working to portray him as a liar, especially after he said Tuesday he had lied when he pleaded guilty in 2018 to tax evasion and lying on a bank loan application. Cohen now maintains he did not really commit those crimes and on Tuesday he sought to portray his conduct as a matter of omissions and failure to correct paperwork.
Habba returned to those themes Wednesday, underscoring that Cohen had admitted in open court to lying under oath in a courthouse next door.
Cohen is a key witness in New York Attorney General Letitia James’ civil case against Trump. James alleges that Trump habitually exaggerated the value of his real estate holdings on financial documents that helped him get loans and insurance and make deals.
Trump denies any wrongdoing and says James, a Democrat, is targeting the leading Republican presidential candidate in 2024 for partisan reasons. Outside court, Trump said the trial was “very unfair” and a “pure political witch hunt.” Nonetheless, he said, “We’re happy with the way it’s going.”
“We have the facts on our side,” said Trump, who is expected to testify later in the trial. In the meantime, he has voluntarily attended several days of the proceedings.
Cohen worked as Trump’s lawyer and fixer for many years, before Cohen’s 2018 prosecution, guilty pleas and prison term for offenses that also included lying to Congress and making illegal contributions to Trump’s campaign, in the form of payouts to women who said they had extramarital sexual encounters with Trump.
Trump said the women’s stories were false. Cohen has said he orchestrated payments to the women at Trump’s direction.
Since his legal problems started in 2018, Cohen has been a Trump foe. The two men had not been in a room together in five years until Tuesday.
Cohen called it a “heck of a reunion.”
After Tuesday’s court session, Trump dismissed Cohen as a “disgraced felon.”
Cohen is also expected to be an important prosecution witness in a criminal trial scheduled for next spring in which Trump is accused of falsifying business records. That case is one of four criminal prosecutions Trump faces in New York, Florida, Georgia and Washington.
Associated Press writer Jill Colvin contributed to this report.
Jennifer Peltz And Jake Offenhartz, The Associated Press