Former Trump attorney Michael Cohen’s testimony on Monday in former President Donald Trump’s “hush money” trial provided crucial insider insights and grievances as prosecutors aim to bolster their case.

Describing his decade-long “amazing experience” with Mr. Trump, Mr. Cohen portrayed an environment where praise from the former president drove him to do whatever he felt necessary, including lying, bullying, and threatening legal action. His testimony shed light on his role in managing President Trump’s affairs, which he has previously dubbed as that of a “pitbull” and “fixer.”

While testifying, Mr. Cohen said he spoke directly with President Trump, revealing that the former president “never had an email address” and confirming, when asked, his self-proclaimed status as President Trump’s personal “fixer.” Hope Hicks, a former aide, had testified earlier in May that Mr. Cohen “used to like to call himself ‘Mr. Fix It,’ but it was only because he first broke it.”

Mr. Cohen detailed his involvement in buying tabloid stories, which led to the 34 counts of falsifying business records at the core of the trial.

In a courtroom revelation, prosecutors played a secret recording where President Trump discussed a $150,000 payment, suggesting reimbursement for buying up a story that could harm his campaign.

Other witnesses who have testified have described these same events as unpleasant due to Mr. Cohen’s involvement.

Mr. Cohen said that President Trump was aware and approved of monthly repayments orchestrated by former Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg for the “hush money.” These would be made in monthly installments “as like, a legal service rendered.” That came out to $35,000 a month.

“I was being given the title of personal attorney to the president,” Mr. Cohen said, adding when asked that President Trump had “approved it.”

Mr. Cohen described a tradition where year-end bonuses were distributed via Christmas cards signed by President Trump and others. He recounted his disappointment upon opening his 2016 bonus, expressing anger at its reduction by two-thirds.

He said that he was “beyond angry” and felt personally hurt and insulted that he had paid $130,000 and not been reimbursed.

“I was truly insulted, personally hurt, didn’t understand it, made no sense,” he said. “After all that I had gone through in terms of the campaign as well as things the Trump Organization was laying out, $130,000 to protect him, it was insulting that the gratitude shown back to me was to cut my bonus by two thirds.”

Mr. Cohen is the most direct link prosecutors have to President Trump’s personal involvement or knowledge of a deal they allege was made to influence the 2016 elections.

‘Threat to Democracy’: Trump

After the court adjourned, President Trump decried the trial’s implications, labeling it a “threat to democracy” and accusing Justice Merchan of political bias.
“What’s going on in that courtroom is a threat to democracy and we cannot have a country where we get to prosecute your political opponents, instead of persuading voters,” he said.

He claimed the timing of the case was suspect, lamenting its impact on his campaign.

“They’ve kept me here for three and a half, four weeks, instead of campaigning. Yet we still have the best poll numbers,” he said.

The former president cannot publicly respond to Mr. Cohen’s remarks in the trial due to a gag order that was imposed on him in March by Judge Juan Merchan. His attorneys have attempted to fight the gag order but to no avail, with the judge late last week denying an attempt to allow President Trump to respond to another witness in the trial, Stormy Daniels.

Last week, Judge Merchan told prosecutors that they needed to inform Mr. Cohen not to make any more public comments about the trial. It came after a Trump attorney asked the judge to stop Mr. Cohen from making public comments on the case, coming after he was seen in a TikTok video wearing a shirt that featured a cartoon depicting President Trump in jail.

“I will direct the People to communicate to Mr. Cohen that the judge is asking him to refrain from making any more statements about this case. That comes from the bench and you are communicating that on behalf of the bench,” the judge said, according to court reporters.

Mr. Cohen, who is considered a pivotal witness for prosecutors, faces scrutiny from defense attorneys aiming to discredit him, citing his past lies while under oath.

During cross-examination by defense attorneys, Mr. Cohen’s credibility as a witness may be challenged due to his history of lying under oath before judges and Congress.

During the defense’s opening statement, they argued that Mr. Cohen has built his career around criticizing President Trump. They claimed that he is currently on a “revenge” campaign against his former boss because he did not receive a White House position.

Prosecutors could conclude their presentation of evidence by the end of the week.

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