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Michael Cohen says he’d ‘lie, bully’ and threaten people for Trump at hush money trial

Former Trump attorney Michael Cohen, center, arrives at Manhattan Criminal Court for the trial of former President Donald Trump for allegedly covering up hush money payments linked to extramarital affairs in New York City, on May 13, 2024. Donald Trump's criminal trial in New York was expected to hear his former lawyer turned tormentor Michael Cohen testify Monday about his role in what prosecutors say was a cover up of payments to hide an affair.    (Angela Weiss/AFP/GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/TNS)
By Molly Crane-Newman and Josephine Stratman New York Daily News

NEW YORK – More than six years after his conviction for doing Donald Trump’s dirty work – cementing a bitter rivalry with the man he once said he’d “take a bullet” for – Michael Cohen testified on Monday at the former president’s hush money trial.

Prosecutors called Trump’s former personal lawyer to the stand as the marathon Manhattan Supreme Court trial passes the monthlong mark.

‘A lot of women coming forward’

“Just be prepared, there’s gonna be a lot of women coming forward,” Cohen, then a surrogate on Trump’s campaign, said the future president warned him as he embarked on his 2016 run for the White House.

The lawyer testified about the August 2015 Trump tower meeting in which Cohen, Trump and supermarket tabloid publisher David Pecker allegedly hatched a plan to boost Trump’s candidacy by planting positive stories about Trump and repressing negative ones.

“What was discussed is the power of the National Enquirer in terms of it being located at the cash register of so many supermarkets and bodegas – that if we could place positive stories about Mr. Trump that would be beneficial, that if we could place negative stories about some of the other candidates, that would also be beneficial,” Cohen testified.

Cohen walked the rapt jury through how he allegedly carried out that scheme and how Trump told him to “handle” a story from a Trump Tower doorman that he’d had a love child, and how he believed Playboy model Karen McDougal’s story of their nearly year-long affair would have a “significant” impact on the campaign.

Cohen learned of McDougal’s claims in the summer of 2016 from American Media Inc., the Enquirer’s parent company, and told Trump.

“I went to the office, knocked on it,” Cohen recalled in court. “Boss, I gotta talk to you … went in, talked to him about what I had just learned. I asked him if he knew who Karen McDougal was …

“His response was, ‘She’s really beautiful.’ I said, ‘OK, but there’s a story that’s right now being shopped.”

Cohen testifies about his work for Trump

The former fixer, who said that label was “fair,” testified that he’d lie, bully people and sometimes take a threatening tone – all to carry out his business for Trump.

Trump offered Cohen a job as his executive vice president and special counsel in 2007, where he would “only answer to him and I [would] work on issues that were of concern to him,” he said in response to questions from prosecutor Susan Hoffinger.

They communicated every day, several times a day in person or by phone. Trump didn’t use email: “He knows too many people who have gone down as a direct result of having emails that prosecutors can use in a case,” Cohen said .

Trump’s lawyer furiously took notes on a pad of paper when Cohen testified that he sometimes lied when it seemed necessary: “I wanted to accomplish the task. The only thing that was on my mind was to accomplish a task to make him happy.”

Cohen said he felt “on top of the world” one time when Trump told him his work was “fantastic” and “great.”

“It was an amazing experience in many, many ways,” he said of working for the former president.

“There were great times; there were less than great times. But for the most part, I enjoyed the responsibility that was given to me.”

Former fixer takes the stand

Trump gave his ex-lawyer a searing look as Cohen, the son of a holocaust survivor, described his upbringing in Nassau County, his education and journey to law school and how he was first introduced to Trump.

“I wanted to go to Wall Street; my grandmother was like, that’s not going to happen,” Cohen, wearing a pink tie, said.

He worked for 10 years as Trump’s special counsel, making about $425,000 a year, until 2017.

Cohen, 57, served three years in federal custody – half of it behind bars upstate – after pleading guilty in 2018 to paying off porn star Stormy Daniels $130,000 11 days before the 2016 election at Trump’s direction in violation of campaign finance laws, lying to Congress about Trump’s business dealings with Moscow, and other crimes.

He’s expected to testify about discussing reimbursement for the hush money with Trump in the Oval Office and the eleventh-hour dash to silence Daniels about her claims of a one-night-stand as the Trump campaign sought to contain the fallout of the bombshell release of the “Access Hollywood ” tape in October 2016.

The 34 felony counts of falsification of business records facing Trump, 77, are each tied to his alleged reimbursement to Cohen in 2017, which prosecutors say came as the final stage of a scheme to influence the presidential election devised at an August 2015 meeting at Trump Tower attended by Trump, his fixer, and former tabloid publisher David Pecker.

Pecker, who testified first, told jurors he agreed to be the campaign’s “eyes and ears” – identifying negative stories that could come to light about Trump to be bought and buried and elevating hit jobs about his opponents.

Trump denies all allegations and that he ever slept with Daniels or Playboy model Karen McDougal, who Pecker’s publishing company paid $150,000. His lawyers have claimed an “obsessed” Cohen went rogue in paying Daniels and that Trump believed he was paying his lawyer for legitimate legal services.

Trump walked into the courtroom with a subdued expression around 9:20 a.m. with his son, Eric Trump, GOP Rep. Nicole Malliotakis, and an army of lawyers.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg took his seat in the courtroom’s front row shortly after Trump’s arrival.