“Needed a knockout”: The defense team harmed Michael Cohen, but legal experts feel that’s insufficient

Before Thursday’s cross-examination, we had a few pieces of information about Michael Cohen. He had previously worked for Donald Trump, had a history of repeatedly lying, and made a $130,000 payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels shortly before the 2016 election while still in the employ of the former president.

During his initial interaction with Cohen, Trump attorney Todd Blanche aimed to establish the former lawyer’s current animosity towards his former boss. Blanche read out offensive and often vulgar social media posts, to which Cohen acknowledged that they “sounded like” something he would have said. Many observers considered this approach questionable, as it failed to address the specific allegations Cohen made in court. These allegations centered around the payment of a six-figure sum on behalf of Trump, with Trump’s knowledge and the understanding that the hush money would not need to be disclosed on a campaign finance report.

Blanche highlighted Cohen’s history of dishonesty, both inside and outside the courtroom. The former personal attorney of Trump confessed to tax evasion, a charge he faced alongside a campaign finance violation for the payment made to Daniels. However, he later contradicted himself by denying any intention to evade taxes. During his recent statement, he insisted that his guilty plea was solely an attempt to shield his wife from becoming involved in his legal troubles.

Blanche then raised another instance of Cohen’s deception: his false testimony before Congress. This act of dishonesty, which Cohen himself confessed to in 2018, presents a significant challenge to his credibility in the eyes of the jurors. How can one trust a man who took an oath to speak the truth but failed to do so, to be truthful now?

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The defense faces a challenge when it comes to raising that incident because Cohen was actually lying on behalf of Trump. According to court documents, Cohen intentionally tried to downplay the connection between the Moscow Project and Trump, in an attempt to create a false impression that the project ended before important political events like the Iowa caucus and the first primary. This was done in order to limit the ongoing investigations into Russia’s involvement.

During his testimony on Thursday, Cohen revealed that he had received guidance from President Trump’s legal counsel while drafting his statement to Congress. This statement had downplayed Trump’s business dealings with Russia.

“I collaborated on a joint defense agreement, where we collectively created a concise two-page document to ensure a unified message. This message was aligned with the intentions of Mr. Trump, as well as his attorney at the time,” revealed Cohen.

According to Andrew Weissmann, a former prosecutor involved in special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, the exchange did not go as planned. Weissmann stated on MSNBC that Michael Cohen, the central figure in the exchange, had no personal motivation to lie about Trump Tower. In fact, Cohen turned the tables on Blanche by disclosing that his statement was actually drafted by a joint defense committee, which included the lawyer representing the President of the United States.

According to Weissmann, the Daniels pay off is another instance where Cohen directly implicated Donald Trump in the scheme.

Can you believe him? Charles Coleman, a former Brooklyn prosecutor, believes that this may not necessarily be an issue. He points out that before the cross-examination, the prosecutors themselves acknowledged that Cohen has made false statements. Considering that Cohen worked for Trump for a decade, it is not a far-fetched idea that he would make false statements for him, according to Coleman.

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According to Coleman, the prosecution has plenty of opportunities to focus on factors other than Michael Cohen’s testimony in this case. On MSNBC, Coleman explained that witnesses like David Pecker and two Trump Organization accountants can provide valuable evidence to support the existence of a catch-and-kill scheme for negative stories about Trump. This evidence can establish Cohen’s involvement and the fact that he was reimbursed for his efforts through a legal retainer, despite the absence of any supporting documents.

Coleman emphasized that there is no need to solely rely on his words if one finds him untrustworthy or incredulous.

Thursday’s cross-examination turned out to be a significant turning point in the trial for Trump. It was a day where the prosecution’s star witness, Blanche, found himself on the defensive for several hours. The most striking moment came when Blanche passionately confronted Cohen, accusing him of lying about an October 2016 phone call. Cohen claimed that Trump personally approved the payment to Daniels during the call with his bodyguard, Keith Schiller. However, Blanche argued that the call was actually about a different matter – a series of harassing phone calls that Cohen had earlier complained about.

Norm Eisen, a legal analyst with CNN, commented that while the defense’s cross-examination had a rocky start, there were moments of exchange that were both “powerful and effective.” However, Eisen expressed doubt about whether these moments would be sufficient at this stage.

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“The defense was in need of a knockout punch,” expressed Eisen. He further added, “Unfortunately, they didn’t manage to deliver one. However, it can be considered as a closer case.”

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