Cohen testifies before grand jury in Trump probe
NEW YORK — Donald Trump’s former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen testified Monday before a Manhattan grand jury investigating hush money payments made on the former president’s behalf.
A Trump loyalist turned adversary, Cohen spent around three hours answering questions in the secret proceeding. He is scheduled to return again for more testimony Wednesday, his lawyer said as the pair emerged from the courthouse.
“Michael has spent a long and productive afternoon answering all questions, all facts, and completely responsive,” said Cohen’s lawyer, Lanny Davis.
The testimony comes at a critical time, as the Manhattan district attorney’s office weighs whether to seek charges against Trump over payments made to two women who alleged affairs or sexual encounters with him during his 2016 campaign.
Before entering the courthouse for the session, Cohen, who orchestrated those payoffs, said his goal was simply “to tell the truth,” dismissing a suggestion that he might be motivated by a desire to see Trump behind bars.
“This is not revenge,” he said. “This is all about accountability. He needs to be held accountable for his dirty deeds.”
Trump denies being involved with either of the women, the porn actor Stormy Daniels and model Karen McDougal.
Cohen has given prosecutors evidence, including voice recordings of conversations he had with a lawyer for one of the women, as well as emails and text messages. He also has recordings of a conversation in which he and Trump spoke about an arrangement to pay the other woman through the supermarket tabloid the National Enquirer.
Prosecutors appear to be looking at whether Trump committed crimes in how the payments were made or how they were accounted for internally at Trump’s company, the Trump Organization.
One possible charge would be falsifying business records, a misdemeanor unless prosecutors could prove it was done to conceal another crime. No former U.S. president has ever been charged with a crime.
Appearing Monday on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” Trump lawyer Joseph Tacopina said it is unlikely the former president will accept an invitation, extended by prosecutors last week, to testify before the grand jury.
“We have no plans on participating in this proceeding,” Tacopina said. “It’s a decision that needs to be made still. There’s been no deadline set, so we’ll wait and see.”
He characterized Trump as a victim, saying he was pressured into making the payment to Daniels.
“This was a plain extortion and I don’t know since when we’ve decided to start prosecuting extortion victims,” Tacopina said. “He’s denied — vehemently denied — this affair.”