Michael Cohen to Resume Testimony in Trump’s Secret Money Investigation
NEW YORK — Donald Trump’s former attorney and fixer, Michael Cohen, is set to resume testimony Wednesday before a Manhattan grand jury investigating silent money payments made on behalf of the former president.
A Trump loyalist turned adversary, Cohen spent about three hours answering questions in Monday’s secret process.
“Michael spent a long and productive afternoon answering all the questions, all the facts and responding fully,” Cohen’s attorney Lanny Davis said Monday.
The testimony comes at a critical time, as the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office debates whether to press charges against Trump over payments made during his 2016 campaign to two women who alleged affairs or sex with him.
Before entering the courthouse for the session, Cohen, who orchestrated those payments, said his goal was simply to “tell the truth”, dismissing a suggestion that he might be motivated by a desire to see Trump behind bars.
“It’s not revenge,” he said. “It’s about accountability. He has to be held accountable for his dirty deeds.”
Trump denies being involved with either women, porn actor Stormy Daniels and model Karen McDougal.
Cohen provided evidence to prosecutors, including voice recordings of conversations he had with an attorney for one of the women, as well as emails and text messages. He also has recordings of a conversation in which he and Trump discussed an arrangement to pay the other woman through the National Enquirer supermarket tabloid.
Prosecutors appear to be looking into whether Trump committed crimes in the way the payments were made or how they were accounted for internally at Trump’s company, the Trump Organization.
A possible charge would be falsifying business records, a misdemeanor unless prosecutors can prove it was done to cover up another crime. No former US president has ever been charged with a crime.
Appearing Monday on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” Trump’s attorney Joseph Tacopina said the former president was unlikely to accept an invitation, issued by prosecutors last week, to testify before the grand jury. .
“We do not intend to participate in this procedure,” Tacopina said. “It’s a decision that has yet to be made. There’s no set deadline, so we’ll wait and see.”
He called Trump a victim, saying he was pressured into making the payment to Daniels.
“It was a simple extortion and I don’t know since when we decided to start prosecuting victims of extortion,” Tacopina said. “He denied – vehemently denied – this matter. But he had to pay because there was going to be an allegation that was going to be publicly embarrassing to him, regardless of the campaign.”
Daniels and the attorney who helped arrange payment for her, Keith Davidson, both denied extorting anyone.
Speaking briefly to reporters in Moline, Illinois, Trump called the investigation “a big witch hunt.” When asked if he planned to testify, he replied, “I don’t know. Nobody even asked me.”
Tacopina also wrote a letter to the New York Inspector General, saying prosecutors were trying to hinder Trump’s chances in the 2024 presidential election. Tacopina asked the city’s investigative department to investigate an “obviously political pursuit”.
The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office declined to comment.
Trump’s attorneys have repeatedly tried to get judges in New York and Florida to intervene or halt investigations into Trump and the Trump Organization, arguing they were politically motivated. All these attempts failed.
Cohen served time in prison after pleading guilty in 2018 to federal charges, including campaign finance violations, for arranging payments to Daniels and McDougal to keep them from going public. He was also struck off.
Trump’s lawyers could point to these factors in an effort to undermine Cohen’s credibility, if the former president is indicted and Cohen ends up testifying at trial.
Cohen has met regularly with Manhattan prosecutors in recent weeks, including a one-day session on Friday to prepare for his grand jury appearance.
The panel has been hearing evidence since January in what Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, a Democrat, called the “next chapter” of his office’s years-long Trump investigation. But silent money payments — perhaps the most salacious of investigative leads on Trump — are familiar ground.
Federal prosecutors and Bragg’s predecessor in the prosecutor’s office, Cyrus Vance Jr., each reviewed the payments but did not indict Trump.
Cohen declined to comment to reporters as he left the meeting, saying he would “take some time now to keep quiet and allow the prosecutor to build his case.”
On Friday, Trump continued to lashed out at the investigation on social media, calling the case a “scam, injustice, mockery and full and total arming of law enforcement in order to affect a presidential election!”
Cohen paid Daniels $130,000 through his own company and was later reimbursed by Trump, whose company recorded the reimbursements as “legal fees.”
McDougal’s $150,000 payment was made through the publisher of the National Enquirer, who smothered her story in a dubious journalistic practice known as “catch-and-kill.”
According to the federal prosecutors who charged Cohen, the Trump Organization then “grossed up” Cohen’s reimbursement for paying Daniels for “tax purposes,” giving him $360,000 plus a $60,000 bonus, for a total of $420,000.