Wednesday June 19th, 2024 1:32AM

The Latest | Cohen returns to the stand for more testimony at Trump's hush money trial

By The Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) — Donald Trump’s fixer-turned-foe returned to the witness stand and could face a bruising round of questioning from the former president’s lawyers as soon as Tuesday.

Michael Cohen 's testimony on Monday linked Trump to all aspects of a hush money scheme that prosecutors say was aimed at stifling stories that threatened his 2016 campaign. He's the prosecution’s star witness.

Trump’s lawyers will get their chance to begin questioning Cohen as early as Tuesday.

Cohen placed Trump at the center of the hush money scheme, saying he had promised to reimburse money the lawyer had fronted for the payments and was constantly apprised of the behind-the-scenes efforts to bury stories feared to be harmful to the campaign.

Text messages, audio recordings, notes and more have all been introduced or shown to jurors in recent weeks to illustrate what prosecutors say was a scheme to illegally influence the election that year. And sometimes dramatic testimony from witnesses that included former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker, ex-Trump staffers and porn actor Stormy Daniels added to the intrigue.

The trial is in its 17th day.

Trump has pleaded not guilty to 34 felony counts.

The case is the first-ever criminal trial of a former U.S. president and the first of four prosecutions of Trump to reach a jury.

Currently:

— Michael Cohen: A challenging star witness in Trump’s hush money trial

— What to know about Cohen’s pivotal testimony

— Trump’s GOP allies show up in force as Cohen takes the stand

— Trump hush money trial: A timeline of key events in the case

— Key players: Who’s who at Trump’s hush money criminal trial

Here's the latest:

TRUMP SIGNED THE CHECKS, COHEN TESTIFIES

Prosecutor Susan Hoffinger talked Donald Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen through the reimbursement process in the former president's hush money trial Tuesday.

Her method was an attempt to show jurors what prosecutors say was a month-by-month deception to mask the true purpose of the payments.

Cohen repeatedly read through the description on each check stub, and Hoffinger repeatedly asked him if the description on the check was false, which he affirmed. She then asked him if he recognized the thick, slashing signature on the check.

“Whose signature is it?” Hoffinger asked repeatedly.

“Donald J. Trump,” Cohen said each time.

As Cohen testified, Trump leaned back in his chair with his eyes closed, sitting extremely still.

COHEN SAYS AN INVOICE WAS FALSE

Donald Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen testified Tuesday in the ex-president's hush money trial that an invoice for “services rendered” was a false record.

Jurors were shown 2017 correspondence between Cohen and Jeffrey McConney, the Trump Organization controller at the time who testified earlier in the trial as a prosecution witness.

In one email, dated Feb. 14, 2017, with the subject line “$$,” Cohen asked McConney to have monthly checks for January and February made payable to him. McConney then asked for invoices so he could have the checks cut.

The invoices said for “services rendered” for January and February, but Cohen said that it was not a truthful statement that there had been “services rendered” for those months or that he had been working on a retainer fee.

“Was this invoice a false record?” asked prosecutor Susan Hoffinger.

“Yes, ma’am,” Cohen responded.

COHEN DESCRIBES OVAL OFFICE DISCUSSION

Returning to the witness stand Tuesday, Michael Cohen testified that he discussed the hush money repayment plan with Donald Trump in the Oval Office when he visited the White House in February 2017.

“I was sitting with President Trump and he asked me if I was OK,” Cohen told jurors. “He asked me if I needed money, and I said, ‘All good,’ because I can get a check.”

Cohen testified that Trump then told him, “OK, make sure you deal with Allen,” a reference to then-Trump Organization Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg, and that a check for his January and February payments was forthcoming.

Under Cohen’s reimbursement arrangement, he was paid $35,000 per month for 12 months, for a total of $420,000.

During the same White House visit, Cohen posed for a picture at the lectern in the press briefing room. The photo, extracted by prosecutors from Cohen’s iPhone, was shown in court.

QUESTIONING OF COHEN RESUMES

Michael Cohen went under questioning again as former President Donald Trump's hush money trial resumed Tuesday.

Prosecutor Susan Hoffinger resumed her questioning shortly after Cohen entered court. Trump didn’t appear to react to Cohen’s entrance. Instead, he focused on a piece of paper in his hand, which he raised up and showed to his attorney Todd Blanche with a scowl as Cohen walked by.

Before the jury and Cohen arrived in the courtroom, a sidebar conference was held with the judge at the request of prosecutor Joshua Steinglass. The subject was not clear.

During the sidebar, Trump had an extended conversation with his attorney Emil Bove, occasionally gesturing with his hand or thumb.

Trump, flanked by supporters including the speaker of the House and several potential vice presidential picks, railed against the trial once again before entering the courthouse.

Trump, who is barred by gag order from going after witnesses, jurors and the family members of court officials, quoted a litany of conservative commentators’ criticism of the case.

Among those in the courtroom with Trump were former presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, one of Trump's sons, Eric, and daughter-in-law Lara.

TRUMP ENTERS COURT; SPEAKER JOHNSON TO ADDRESS ‘SHAM’

Former President Donald Trump walked into court just before 9 a.m. Tuesday for another day of testimony from his fixer-turned-foe, Michael Cohen.

House Speaker Mike Johnson, second in the line of succession to the president, traveled with Trump in his motorcade in a politically stunning and significant show of Republican support.

Johnson is using his powerful pulpit to attack the U.S. judicial system, criticizing the courts as biased against the former president. The speaker claims the case is politically motivated by Democrats and insists Trump has done “nothing wrong.”

It’s a remarkable, if not unprecedented, moment in modern American politics to have the powerful House speaker, a constitutional officer, turn his political party against the U.S. system and rule of law by declaring a trial illegitimate.

Johnson's team announced he planned to address media later in the morning “outside of the ongoing sham prosecution of President Trump.”

AN ENTOURAGE OF GOP SUPPORTERS, INCLUDING THE SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE

House Speaker Mike Johnson will be traveling with Donald Trump in his motorcade to court along with North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, Florida Reps. Byron Donalds and Cory Mills, and his former GOP rival Vivek Ramaswamy.

Both Burgum and Donalds are considered potential vice presidential contenders.

On Monday, Trump was joined in court by a number of Republican supporters, including another potential running mate: Ohio Sen. JD Vance.

WITH TRUMP UNDER A GAG ORDER, HIS GOP ALLIES SPEAK UP

With Donald Trump barred from publicly attacking the key witness in his hush money trial, his campaign brought to court a band of Republican elected officials to speak for him.

Trump, who is balancing the demands of a felony trial with his third run for the White House, has been prohibited by a judge’s gag order from criticizing witnesses and already fined for violating the restrictions.

Bringing allies to court allowed Trump’s campaign to press his message without violating the gag order. It also gave those allies a high-profile platform to demonstrate loyalty to their party’s presumptive nominee and perhaps audition for higher office.

COHEN PROVIDES JURORS WITH AN INSIDER'S ACCOUNT

Once Donald Trump’s loyal attorney and fixer, Michael Cohen provided jurors with an insider’s account of payments to silence women’s claims of sexual encounters with Trump, saying the payments were directed by Trump to fend off damage to his 2016 White House bid.

While prosecutors’ most important witness, he’s also their most vulnerable to attack — having served time in federal prison and built his persona in recent years around being a thorn in Trump’s side.

Cohen is expected to be on the witness stand for several days, and face intense grilling by Trump’s attorneys, who have painted him as a liar who’s trying to take down the presumptive Republican presidential nominee.

While prosecutors’ most important witness, he’s also their most vulnerable to attack — having served time in federal prison and built his persona in recent years around being a thorn in Trump’s side.

Trump has denied any wrongdoing in the case.

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