Trump, Cohen to come face to face in New York fraud trial

Former President Donald Trump is set to confront one of his most prominent accusers Tuesday, when his former attorney Michael Cohen takes the stand in Trump’s New York fraud trial.

Cohen, who was Trump’s “fixer” for years, is a key witness against Trump in the New York civil case, as well as a separate Manhattan criminal case. In the civil case, Cohen is expected to testify about alleged communications with Trump and others about so-called statements of financial conditions.

New York Attorney General Letitia James has accused Trump, his adult sons and their company of using the statements to falsify the values of Trump properties, and ultimately Trump’s overall wealth, in order to gain undeserved loan terms that in fact did increase Trump’s wealth by hundreds of millions.

The state is demanding $250 million from the Trumps and their company — a clawback of what it calls “ill-gotten gains” — and asking a judge to order sanctions designed to limit their ability to do business in the state. Judge Arthur Engoron has already found Trump and his co-defendants liable for fraud. The trial is continuing over other allegations, including falsification of records, conspiracy and insurance fraud.

Cohen was originally expected to take the stand on Oct. 17, but his testimony was delayed due to illness. Trump, who is not required to attend the trial, did so that day and mocked Cohen, telling reporters Cohen “didn’t have the guts” to face him.

Cohen shot back at Trump in a text message to CBS News that day.

“If I was afraid of Donald, I wouldn’t have written 2 NYT bestsellers, testified before the Mueller team, seven congressional committees, 23 appearances before the Manhattan DA, and provided information to the NYAG that is the basis of this trial. Looking forward to seeing you in court very soon!” Cohen said.

Cohen testified to Congress in 2019 that Trump artificially inflated his wealth. The testimony spurred both this civil investigation and a criminal investigation led by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg.

The criminal probe resulted in the first indictment of a former president in American history. Trump entered a not guilty plea in April in that case, in which he’s charged with 34 felony counts of falsification of business records. 

Trump has denied wrongdoing in both cases, as well as three others in which he is charged, claiming a coordinated effort by prosecutors aligned with his political foes to prevent him from being president again. Trump is seeking a return to the White House in the 2024 election.

Trump and attorneys for him and his co-defendants, who all deny wrongdoing in the case, have derided Cohen as a flawed witness, who shouldn’t be trusted, due to his criminal history. Cohen entered a guilty plea in 2018 to federal campaign finance violations and tax evasion.

For years, prior to that case, Cohen was among Trump’s most trusted employees and advisers — a “fixer” relied on to solve pressing issues both in and out of the public eye.

Cohen is now a fierce adversary of Trump. He hosts a podcast that frequently focuses on Trump’s legal troubles, laced with biting, derogatory criticism of the former president. 

On Tuesday, he’ll be asked by lawyers for the state whether he has personal knowledge of Trump’s alleged involvement with fraud.

Cohen has for years said yes. 

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