Trump lawyer hammers Michael Cohen on 'lie' over Stormy Daniels payment, pardon request at hush money trial

NEW YORK — Michael Cohen, Donald Trump’s longtime fixer-turned-foe, faced a contentious cross-examination Thursday as the former president’s legal team sought to undermine his credibility and motives as the historic hush money trial centered on an alleged payment to porn star Stormy Daniels nears its conclusion.

After a meandering line of questioning all morning, Todd Blanche’s cross picked up the pace just before the lunch hour when he grilled Cohen about his previous testimony that he reached out to Trump’s bodyguard, Keith Schiller, to speak with Trump to tell him about payment to Stormy Daniels.

But Blanche said phone records showed Cohen wanted to reach Schiller about pestering calls he was receiving from a 14-year-old.

“That. Was. A. Lie,” Blanche addressed Cohen, raising his voice to a shriek. “You can admit it.”

“No sir, I can’t,” Cohen said, claiming he also discussed Daniels. “Because I’m not certain that’s accurate.”

Blanche continued by further accusing Cohen of lying, saying he wouldn’t have had enough time to tell him about both during the minute-and-a-half-long call.

Exiting the courtroom on a break, Trump responded to a question from the Daily News about how Blanche was doing with a thumbs-up.

Earlier, Blanche repeatedly questioned Cohen about his 2018 conviction, specifically the tax evasion count — related to taxi medallions, not hush money — and public complaints about the case. Cohen said that he committed the crimes he pleaded guilty to, but his criticism was that he didn’t think his prosecution was fair.

Blanche sought to frame that as perjury.

“I never denied the underlying facts. I just did not believe that I should have been criminally charged,” Cohen said, basing his feeling on him having been a first-time tax evader and historically filing his taxes on time.

Blanche challenged Cohen’s previous claims that he never asked for or would accept a pardon from Trump, asking, “That was a lie, wasn’t it?” Blanche said representations his attorneys made behind closed doors refuted that.

“At the time, it was accurate,” Cohen said of his public statements on the matter.

Blanche, who’s sought to portray Cohen as vengeful, pressed him repeatedly about his desires to come with Trump to the White House and whether he really wanted the job he got as personal attorney to the president.

He repeated his previous testimony that he wanted to be Trump’s chief of staff for ego-driven reasons.

“I may have expressed frustration” at not being considered for the top job, Cohen conceded at one point, acknowledging he told his daughter he was disappointed.

Trump, the presumed GOP nominee in this year’s election, 77, has pleaded not guilty to 34 felonies that allege he covered up hush money reimbursement to Cohen — masking it as payment for legal fees — to disguise an underlying scheme to hide information from the voting public.

GOP friends in tow

Earlier Thursday, Trump arrived around 9:20 a.m. with another entourage of Republican supporters. He strolled into Judge Juan Merchan’s courtroom with Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz, Colorado Rep. Lauren Boebert, his son, Eric Trump, and an army of lawyers.

“In fact, a lead person from the DOJ is running this trial,” he said before entering the courtroom for the day — possibly treading into dangerous territory in violation of a gag order with a reference to prosecutor Matthew Colangelo, formerly a senior official at the U.S. Department of Justice. “So Biden’s office is running this trial.”

During more than nine hours in the witness box on Monday and Tuesday, Cohen, 57, told jurors he hadn’t spoken to Trump since the feds raided his residences in 2018, leading to his conviction for violating campaign laws when he paid off porn star Stormy Daniels and cementing their bitter feud.

From the day of his 2007 hiring at the Trump Organization until the feds closed in, Cohen said he answered to one person: Trump. He told the court he lied, bullied, or threatened anyone who got in the way of the task at hand to make his micromanager boss happy and acted as a campaign “surrogate” when Trump announced his first presidential run.

Trump faces three other criminal cases in Florida, Washington, D.C., and Georgia, but the Manhattan case is the only one expected to be resolved before the election.

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Cohen said he felt abandoned once Trump won the White House, expecting to get a top role in his administration but instead receiving an empty one as personal attorney to the president.

The former Trump lawyer said he worked all of 10 hours in that position in 2017 and that monthly checks he received for $35,000 were instead reimbursement for paying Daniels into silence 11 days before the 2016 election about her alleged claims of an extramarital tryst with Trump.

Cohen said the payment came more than a year after he, Trump and former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker devised a scheme to identify and bury any negative information that could come to light about Trump, buttressing Pecker’s testimony earlier in the trial.

The former fixer alleged the reimbursement plan was orchestrated by Trump’s convicted former finance chief Allen Weisselberg, now serving jail time for perjury, and got the green light from Trump at a January 2017 Trump Tower meeting. He said Trump confirmed he was getting paid back weeks later during a conversation inside the Oval Office.

Trump lawyer Blanche, who began his cross-examination late Tuesday, hammered the loyal one-time lawyer with questions about his public jabs at Trump, including “dictator douchebag,” “boorish cartoon misogynist,” and “Cheeto-dusted cartoon villain,” and suggested he was motivated by money and getting revenge against Trump.

Trump’s lawyers, who have sought to paint Cohen as a liar whose role as fixer was to fix problems he made, have claimed Cohen went rogue in paying off Daniels and that Trump believed he was paying him for legitimate lawyering.

Prosecutors must prove Trump aided or caused his company honchos to reimburse Cohen for the hush money payoff to secure a conviction.

When they begin their deliberations, the jury will have copies of invoices, checks, and ledger entries documenting the reimbursement to Cohen and a bank statement reflecting the hush money transaction to Daniels with handwritten notes by Trump’s finance chief calculating how much Cohen was owed.