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Highlights: Michael Cohen testifies in Trump hush money trial

Cohen, the former president's ex-lawyer, has been critical of Trump and his lawyers.
Former President Donald Trump, and lawyer Todd Blanche.
Former President Donald Trump, with lawyer Todd Blanche, arrives at court today. Michael M. Santiago / Pool via AFP - Getty Images

What to know about the trial today

  • Star witness Michael Cohen resumed his testimony today about making a $130,000 hush money payment to adult film actor Stormy Daniels to suppress her story about an alleged affair with Donald Trump.
  • Trump lawyer Todd Blanche began cross-examination after lunch. He is expected to paint Cohen, Trump's former lawyer and fixer, as a perjurer and convicted felon; Cohen pleaded guilty to several crimes in 2018, including tax fraud and lying to Congress about plans to build a Trump Tower in Moscow.
  • House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., and several potential vice presidential contenders for Trump appeared in court today.
  • Trump faces 34 counts of falsifying business records to hide the reimbursement to Cohen for the payment he made to Daniels. Trump has denied the charges.

'Stupid porn trials': Republican senator says she won't be joining Trump in court

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said today she will not go to Manhattan for Trump's hush money trial, like several other Republican lawmakers have done over the past week.

“Don’t we have something to do around here other than watch stupid porn trials?” said Murkowski, a notable Trump critic.

Judge admonished Trump lawyer after first cross-examination question

Ginger GibsonSenior Washington Editor

Reporting from Washington, D.C.

Moments after Todd Blanche's first question to Cohen, the prosecution objected and Judge Juan Merchan called the lawyers to his bench.

“Mr. Cohen, my name is Todd Blanche,” Blanche had said to Cohen and then added, “You went on TikTok and called me a ‘crying little s---.’”

Merchan started the meeting, known as a sidebar that is recorded by the court reporter and included in the transcript but not audible to the rest of the courtroom, by asking Blanche, “Why are you making this about yourself?”

Blanche tried to argue he was attempting to show Cohen was biased.

“It doesn’t matter if he has bias towards you; it doesn’t matter," Merchan said. "The issue is whether he has bias towards the defendant."

He added, "Just don’t make it about yourself."

Trump: 'I think it was a very, very good day'

Rebecca Shabadis in Washington, D.C.

Speaking to cameras outside the courtroom after the trial wrapped for the day, Trump expressed deep frustration again about the judge's gag order, saying, "I think it's totally unconstitutional."

A state appeals court earlier in the day declined to take up his continued effort to fight the gag order, saying it had been properly administered. Trump has been found in violation 10 times.

"This should never happen to another candidate or another person," Trump said. "Today I think we had a very good day in court. ... I think it was a very, very good day."

Trump said the trial is going well and it's not affecting the presidential election because he said he's still leading in the polls.

"Can you believe I've been here for five weeks instead of campaigning?" Trump said. "They want to keep me in here as long as possible."

He reiterated that this is "all election interference by Biden" and he also attacked special counsel Jack Smith, calling him "deranged."

Confusion abounds

Reporting from Manhattan Criminal Court

"I’m sorry, I am confused by your questions,” Cohen just said to Blanche, following questions about having to turn over his phones to the government in January 2023.

Cohen is not the only one.

Because Blanche keeps jumping from topic to topic, the time periods at issue keep changing too, and Cohen, like many reporters and members of the public, is having trouble identifying which years Blanche is referring to and when.

Blanche brings up former Manhattan assistant DA

Blanche asked Cohen to confirm whether he recalled someone in the Manhattan district attorney's office named Mark Pomerantz. Cohen said yes. But before Blanche could proceed with a line of questioning about Pomerantz, Hoffinger objected and approached Merchan for a bench conference. Blanche then seemed to drop the subject of Pomerantz.

Pomerantz is a former Manhattan assistant DA who resigned in 2022. He once led the DA office's investigation of Trump's finances.

Sprawling cross-examination aims to paint Cohen as untrustworthy

Kyla Guilfoil

Laura Jarrett and Kyla Guilfoil

Reporting from Manhattan Criminal Court

Today's highly anticipated cross-examination has been challenging to follow, even for close observers of the case.

Questioning of Cohen has jumped around between lies, casting Cohen as jilted, as motivated to provide dirt to Trump to get out of prison early, and his podcast attacks. It's all an effort to say he can't be trusted, but it's a sprawling effort.

Trump defense attorney makes Cohen listen to his own podcast

Trump attorney Todd Blanche directed Cohen to put on headphones and listen to portions of his “Mea Culpa” podcast.

“I believe you have headphones right to your right ... and I would like to play a portion of the 'Mea Culpa' podcast from Oct. 23,” Blanche said.

Cohen had difficulty adjusting the headphones, but eventually got them on, adjusted the volume and began listening. The jury and others in the courtroom were not able to hear the clip.

“Did you hear that?” Blanche asked. “I heard that, yes,” Cohen replied.

The unusual exchange prompted a bench meeting called by the prosecution.

Cohen indicates he likely said he was screwed over by the system

Blanche asked Cohen if he said he was screwed over by the system. Cohen said he doesn't know if that was the language he used, but added that it sounds correct.

The question seemed to be invoking the kind of arguments Trump has made — that he's being targeted by the system.

Court is back in session after short break

The jurors are filing in.

Cross-examination meanders into dead ends

Ginger GibsonSenior Washington Editor

At times, the questions from Trump's lawyer Blanche have appeared to wind up, but with little delivery.

For example, Blanche just asked Cohen if Anthony Scaramucci visited him in prison. Scaramucci was a very short-lived White House aide. This was the first time he was mentioned during the trial.

But Blanche didn't take it anywhere.

If the defense was preparing to call a roster of witnesses, one might speculate that he was setting up a question for later in the trial. But Blanche has already said it's possible the defense doesn't call any witnesses at all — and Cohen is the last prosecution witness. So why leave that one reference hanging there? We may never know.

Blanche tries to get Cohen to concede he lied during Mueller probe

Blanche aggressively pushed Cohen to admit under oath that he lied during conversations with investigators involved in Robert Mueller's probe of Trump's links to Russia.

Blanche pressed Cohen to say that he "lied to them" about the Trump Organization's proposal to build a Trump-branded skyscraper in Moscow. Cohen replied: "Yes, the information I gave was not accurate."

Trump's lawyer kept pressing: "Was it a lie?"

"I don't know if I would characterize it as a lie," Cohen replied. "It was inaccurate."

Blanche did not relent: "Was it a lie?"

Cohen: "It wasn’t a lie. It wasn’t truthful. If you want to call it a lie, we can call it a lie. I believe the information I gave them is inaccurate."

Blanche: "But you are not testifying it’s a lie?"

Cohen: "Sure, I’ll say it’s a lie."

Cohen says he was told to no longer talk to Trump — but he was allowed to talk to Trump's kids

Adam Reiss

Adam Reiss and Adam Edelman

Following Cohen’s testimony in the Russia investigation, there was a “separation” from Trump, Cohen explained, under questioning from Blanche, but Cohen disputed that he could no longer communicate with Trump’s children.

“You told Hope Hicks you missed him,” Blanche said, prompting Cohen to say, “Yes, I did.”

“There was an ongoing investigation going on and there was a separation?” asked Blanche. Cohen replied, “Yes, there was a separation.”

“You were told to stay away and not communicate with him and his family?” Blanche said.

“I was told not to speak to President Trump but not his family,” Cohen clarified. “Not that I couldn’t see his kids, I just didn’t.”

Cohen testified he lied — but don't call him a liar

Cohen has testified for hours at this point — repeatedly admitting to have lied in a variety of forms and forums.

But on cross-examination, he is resistant to being called a liar.

“If you want to call it a lie, you can,” Cohen says, after first saying the information he gave to the special counsel’s office about the Trump Moscow project was “inaccurate.”

“Sure. I’ll say it was a lie,” Cohen concedes.

The Cohen who distinguished between lies and inaccuracies is reminiscent of a Michael Cohen we have seen many times before — and who has generally been absent from this trial.

Trump lawyer's cross-examination seems to be all over the place

Trump attorney Todd Blanche asked Cohen if he has said that his life was turned upside down since the release of the Steele dossier and that he'd never been to Prague.

Cohen said he's never been to Prague.

Blanche said to Cohen that he's never aided the Russians in hacking anything. Cohen said he never did.

Cohen continues to keep his cool

Blanche keeps trying to impeach Cohen with other people’s records of Cohen’s purported statements, as with notes taken by the DA’s office or media articles relying on anonymous, quoted sources.

Cohen has distanced himself successfully from most of these statements — and yet, Blanche is doing it again, focusing on notes from one of Cohen’s meetings with the special counsel’s office.

Blanche hasn't left a mark so far

We are now an hour into Cohen’s cross, and Blanche has meandered from Cohen’s stubborn media appearances to his wealth to his “obsession” with Trump but without much depth — or dents.

Cohen says he was 'knee-deep into the cult of Donald Trump' in 2015

Under questioning from Blanche, Cohen admitted that he had previously “admired” Trump “tremendously.”

“You were actually obsessed with President Trump, weren’t you?” Blanche asked.

“I don’t know if I would characterize the word obsessed. I admired him tremendously,” Cohen replied.

Asked by Blanche whether he meant his 2015 comments that Trump was a good person who wanted “to make this country great again,” Cohen replied, “Yes.”

“At the time you weren’t lying,” Blanche asked.

“At the time, I was knee-deep into the cult of Donald Trump, yes,” Cohen replied.

Cohen says 'Art of the Deal' was an 'excellent' book

Blanche is hammering on the fact that Cohen used to admire Trump, his employer for many years.

Blanche went further, bringing up one of the former president's most famous books: "You read 'Art of the Deal' twice and called it a masterpiece?"

Cohen's reply: "It was an excellent book."

Trump lawyer tries to establish Cohen is and was wealthy before entering Trump's orbit

Trump lawyer Todd Blanche is trying to establish that Cohen is and was wealthy well before he entered Trump’s orbit.

Cohen purchased his apartment in Trump World Tower, where his parents and in-laws also live, for $5 million and purchased it around 2000. Cohen said he still lives in the building and rents his apartment out for $15,000 a month.

Cohen also confirmed that in addition to his work as a lawyer, he made millions in taxi medallions.

Blanche admits his first exhibit to the jury

Kyla Guilfoil

Lisa Rubin and Kyla Guilfoil

After showing a series of exhibits only to Cohen, Judge Merchan and the legal parties, Blanche has admitted his first exhibit to the jury.

The exhibit is a picture of a T-shirt which Cohen sells that depicts Trump behind bars. 

Blanche pins Cohen on whether he wants to see Trump convicted

Blanche is trying to pin Cohen to say whether he wants to see Trump convicted.

“Have you regularly commented on your podcasts that you want President Trump convicted in this case?” Blanche asked.

“Yes, probably,” Cohen replied.

“I would like to see accountability,” Cohen added after being asked whether he had “any doubt.” “It’s not for me, it’s for the jury and this case,” Cohen said.

Blanche then retorted, “I’m just asking you to say yes or no. Do you want to see President Trump convicted in this case?”

“Sure,” Cohen said.

Trump lawyer presses Cohen about his media engagements

Adam Reiss

Rebecca Shabadis in Washington, D.C.

Adam Reiss and Rebecca Shabad

Trump lawyer Todd Blanche asked Cohen on how many occasions over the last year had he been told not to speak to the media.

Cohen said he can't recall. Asked if it's true that he hasn't followed those requests, Cohen said that's correct and he's responding to criticism of him.

Blanche then asked if he's responded during the course of this case on TV several dozen times. Cohen said he doesn't know about several dozen, but stated that he has gone on TV.

Blanche asked if Cohen has done hundreds of episodes of his podcast. Cohen said yes, four podcasts a week all year. Asked if it's fair to say he's done hundreds of episodes since Trump was charged in the case, Cohen said he doesn't know about hundreds.

Blanche then did the math: If there are 16 a month for 10 months, that's 160. Cohen said then it would be 160. But then Blanche and Cohen agreed that it's probably more than 200 because the investigation didn't start just a year ago.

In response to Blanche, Cohen said he's spoken about Trump in every episode: "I would say he's mentioned in every one, yes."

Cohen stays calm while Blanche starts to raise his voice

Kyla Guilfoil

Lisa Rubin and Kyla Guilfoil

Cohen is staying calm while Blanche questions him on whether he was the one who leaked to CNN that the district attorney's office already had the information from Cohen's phones in 2021.

Blanche is seemingly starting to get frustrated, raising his voice slightly as he expresses incredulity that Cohen has a clear recollection of calls with Trump in 2016 but has no memory of making a promise to the district attorney's office in March 2023.

Nonetheless, Cohen is continuing to hold his ground, even as Blanche presses him to remember conversations in which the district attorney’s office told him he was “unwittingly helping” Trump by going on TV. Cohen said he does not recall those conversations.

Blanche presses Cohen on DA's attempts to have him stop talking about case

Blanche is pressing Cohen on how the district attorney has tried to get Cohen to stop talking to the media.

“Over the past several years, back to 2021, the government has repeatedly asked you to stop talking publicly about this case?” Blanche said.

“They might have, yes,” Cohen replied.

During the exchange the eyes of the jurors are intently going from Blanche and then to Cohen and then back to Blanche.

“Prosecutors from the Manhattan DA have repeatedly asked you to stop talking,” Blanche said.

“Yes,” Cohen replied.

Blanche is showing Cohen a lot of exhibits, but the jury can't see them

Kyla Guilfoil

Gary Grumbach and Kyla Guilfoil

As Trump's lawyer, Todd Blanche, continues with his cross-examination of Cohen, he is utilizing several exhibits to prompt Cohen's testimony.

While Blanche seems set on incorporating several exhibits into his technique, he is also keeping them out of the jury's sight. The exhibits are purely for use in Cohen's testimony, as well as for the judge and the legal parties. If they're entered as evidence, only then can the jury see them.

Blanche is still looking for a rhythm

The pace of this cross — and how dependent it is on Blanche’s trying to refresh Cohen's recollection with notes of prior meetings — is unusual. There is no rhythm yet.

Blanche continues to press Cohen on Trump insults

Adam Reiss

Adam Reiss and Daniel Arkin

Blanche grilled Cohen on some of the incendiary language the ex-fixer has used to describe his former boss.

Trump's lawyer asked Cohen to confirm whether he once called the former president a "dictator douchebag."

Cohen replied: "Sounds like something I said."

Blanche went further, asking Cohen if he recalled saying Trump should go back to "where he belongs, in a f---ing cage, like a f---ing animal."

Cohen replied: "I recall saying that."

Trump lawyer questions Cohen about his recent comments

The prosecution began their questioning of Cohen by going back to the early 2000s. The defense began by going back weeks.

Trump lawyer Todd Blanche asked Cohen about recent statements he's made about the trial, including on TikTok.

“Do you recall saying on TikTok, on April 23, that from everything that you heard from people today, David Pecker is corroborating everything you’ve been saying for six years?" Blanche asked.

“Yes, somebody called me, told me, that Mr. Pecker had corroborated what I’ve been saying for a long time,” Cohen said.

Blanche starts by focusing on name-calling

Blanche began his cross-examination of Cohen with an unusual, expletive-laden introduction.

“Mr. Cohen, my name is Todd Blanche,” Blanche said. But, he added, “you went on TikTok and called me a ‘crying little s---.’”

“Sounds like something I would say,” Cohen said.

The prosecution immediately objected, which the judge agreed with and asked that the question be stricken.

Two jurors looked at each other and grinned.

The cross-examination of Michael Cohen is underway

Todd Blanche has started asking questions.

Blanche has been waiting for this moment

Adam Reiss

Adam Reiss and Daniel Arkin

Trump attorney Todd Blanche has been preparing to cross-examine Michael Cohen for months, according to a source with direct knowledge of the situation.

Blanche's cross-examination of Trump's former fixer is beginning now.

Court back in session

Rebecca Shabadis in Washington, D.C.

The court is back in session after a lunch break. The defense team is expected to begin the cross-examination of Cohen.

Defense may call no witnesses

Ginger GibsonSenior Washington Editor

During a morning sidebar, Trump attorney Blanche said that he could not commit to calling any witnesses. He said the defense has one expert witness who couldn’t be available until Monday — but that his testimony is contingent on a decision about how the instructions to the jury will be written.

He said he didn’t know whether Trump would testify and that the defense has decided not to call Alan Garten.

Michael Cohen will be final prosecution witness

Ginger GibsonSenior Washington Editor

During a morning sidebar, prosecutor Steinglass said Cohen will be the final witness called by the prosecution.

He said the prosecution had indicated that they would call a witness after Cohen, a publisher, but decided against it.

In conversation with Trump's attorney Blanche, they said they anticipate the prosecution could rest by the end of Thursday.

Cohen on working for Trump: 'I violated my moral compass'

Susan Hoffinger's last question to Cohen for the prosecution was if he has regrets about his past work and association with Trump.

“I regret doing things for him that I should not have," Cohen said. "Lying, bullying people to effectuate the goal. I don’t regret working for the Trump Organization; as I expressed before, some very interesting and great times. But to keep a loyalty and to do the things he asked me to do, I violated my moral compass and I suffered the penalty, as has my family.”

The court then recessed for lunch.

Courtroom sketch of Michael Cohen in court
Michael Cohen is questioned by prosecutor Susan Hoffinger before Judge Juan Merchan.Jane Rosenberg / Reuters

Cohen says he wrote a book in prison to 'pass the time'

Cohen testified that his job now is in the world of “media and entertainment” and that he has a podcast, "Mea Culpa," where he discusses “news of the day” and Trump.

He admits making money from "Mea Culpa" and another podcast published through the media arm of the liberal political action committee MeidasTouch. Cohen has also written two books — one of which, "Disloyal," he penned in prison "to pass the time."

"Time management is very important when you are in prison," Cohen said. "It helps the time go by quicker."

Cohen outlines financial, professional consequences of guilty plea

Cohen testified that he no longer holds a law license because of his felony conviction and has had to sell taxi medallions in New York and Chicago, where felons are not authorized to hold the medallions.

He has also had to sell all other real property beyond his apartment and a “secondary apartment.”

Cohen glances at jury while detailing his supervised release

Kyla Guilfoil

Vaughn Hillyard and Kyla Guilfoil

Cohen testified that even now, five years after he surrendered to prison, he continues to be on supervised release.

“Even today I’m still on supervised release,” Cohen said, keeping his head maintained in the direction of Hoffinger but giving a quick glance with his eyes over to the jury box after making the statement.

Cohen confirms that he asked for a reduction in his sentence

Cohen testified that he applied for a reduction in his sentence and asked the Manhattan district attorney's office for help on that front.

In 2021, Hoffinger said, "was your understanding that our office said we might provide you with such a letter if prosecutors would consider reducing your sentence?"

"Yes, ma'am," Cohen replied.

Cohen says he returned to prison after he refused to sign an agreement to not write a tell-all book

Adam Reiss and Summer Concepcion

Cohen said he went to the federal courthouse at 500 Pearl St. thinking he just had to fill out some paperwork and would be out of there in an hour.

But several hours later, his attorney came out holding his belt and jacket. Cohen was taken back into custody at the Federal Correctional Facility in Otisville because he would not sign an agreement that says he could not write a tell-all book.

Cohen recounts going to prison

Kyla Guilfoil

Jillian Frankel and Kyla Guilfoil

Cohen testified about going to prison, detailing how he served 13 months in a federal correctional facility in Otisville, New York.

Cohen said he pleaded guilty to separate charges in August and November of 2018 before surrendering to jail on May 6, 2019. He testified that he was sentenced to 36 months in jail, followed by 36 months of supervised release based upon over $1.3 million in taxes he had not paid from 2012 to 2016.

Cohen testified that he was allowed to leave after 13 months in prison and serve the remainder of his sentence in home confinement.

'Angst and anxiety': Cohen describes reaction to Trump tweets after guilty plea

The day after Cohen pleaded guilty to federal crimes, Trump took to Twitter. Cohen interpreted two tweets as addressed to him, illustrations that “I am no longer important to the fold,” he testified.

“If anyone is looking for a good lawyer," Trump wrote in one post, "I would strongly suggest that you don’t retain the services of Michael Cohen!”

In another tweet, Trump wrote: “I feel very badly for Paul Manafort and his wonderful family. 'Justice' took a 12 year old tax case, among other things, applied tremendous pressure on him and, unlike Michael Cohen, he refused to 'break' — make up stories in order to get a 'deal.' Such respect for a brave man!”

Manafort, a former Trump campaign aide, was convicted on charges related to tax evasion and sentenced to prison, until Trump pardoned him in the final days of his administration.

Hoffinger asked Cohen what it was like to see these tweets from the president of the United States the day after pleading guilty. Cohen's response: "It caused a lot of angst and anxiety."


Cohen recounts pleading guilty to charges: 'Worst day of my life'

Cohen testified about how he had pleaded guilty to five counts of tax evasion and one count of making a false statement to a financial institution.

Asked if they were related to Trump, Cohen said they weren't.

Prosecutor Susan Hoffinger asked what that day was like for him, pleading guilty to all of those crimes.

"Worst day of my life," Cohen said.

Trump allies come to his defense after attending today's court proceedings

In remarks outside of the courthouse, several Trump allies who attended today’s court proceedings expressed their support of the former president and echoed Trump's criticism of the trial and people connected to it — which he has been barred from expressing himself because of a gag order.

Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Fla., denied that Trump committed any wrongdoing and echoed his attacks on Judge Merchan and his daughter, who has worked for a digital advertising and fundraising firm that often works with Democratic politicians.

“This is a travesty of justice. This is a misuse of the justice system,” Donalds said.

Rep. Cory Mills, R-Fla., slammed the hush money case as a “sham indictment” against Trump, claiming that the trial is part of efforts by Democrats to keep him off of the campaign trail and arguing that Cohen’s testimony has “no credibility, no integrity.”

Vivek Ramaswamy, a former Republican presidential primary candidate who endorsed Trump after dropping out of the race, similarly blasted the trial as “politicized persecution” and accused Democrats of unlawfully seeking to influence the election by impeding on Trump’s ability to campaign in the months leading up to the November election.

“It is one of the most depressing places I have been in my life, but it is fitting because the only thing more depressing than the environment of that courtroom is what’s actually happening in there,” Ramaswamy said. “It’s straight out of a Kafka novel.”

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, who also challenged Trump in the Republican presidential primary but later endorsed him, ripped the trial as a “circus.”

“Everything that these gentlemen said here today about the trial is absolutely true,” Burgum said. “But it is sad that we’re here today and not out talking to American people about the issues that matter to them the most.”

They did not take questions after the conclusion of their statements. But when asked by NBC News if they'd support Trump if he was found guilty, Ramaswamy said, "Yes."

Cohen says under oath that Trump directed him to pay off Daniels

Adam Reiss

Adam Reiss and Daniel Arkin

Hoffinger asked Cohen to state why he paid $130,000 to Stormy Daniels. Cohen's reply: "To ensure that the story would not come out, would not affect Mr. Trump's chances of becoming president of the United States."

The prosecutor then asked the ex-fixer to state at whose direction he paid Daniels. "Trump's," he replied.

These questions are at the heart of the state's case against Trump.

Cohen says conversations about family, loyalty prompted him to turn on Trump

Cohen is describing how after the raid he didn’t know what the Southern District “was looking at.”

Asked to describe conversations with his family from that period, Cohen said that they were about “what to do.”

“We’re in this unique situation. Never experienced. And my family, my wife, my daughter, my son, all said to me, 'Why are you holding on to this loyalty? What are you doing? We’re supposed to be your first loyalty,'” Cohen recalled.

Asked what he decided to do after those conversations, Cohen said, “That it was about time to listen to them.”

That's why he decided to plead guilty to a “number of federal crimes,” he said.

Cohen said he “made a decision based on conversation with my family, I would not lie for President Trump any longer.”

Prosecution tries to get ahead of the defense. But is it confusing the jury?

For many reporters in the audience, characters like Bob Costello are familiar, and how he figures into the story makes sense. But is the jury following this detour right now?

Costello's testimony has nothing to do with falsification of business records. Instead, the prosecution's examination right now is meant to pre-empt certain defense lines of questioning that we've heard before about Cohen's mindset at the time and his credibility.

But that means that the first time the jury is hearing about all this will be from the prosecution instead of the defense. So, Cohen gets to tell the story on his own terms, but to what end? Will the jury get confused and lose the story in the process?

Prosecution shows emails between criminal defense lawyer Robert Costello and Cohen

In an email dated April 19, 2018, criminal defense lawyer Robert Costello told Cohen that Giuliani had just been named to Trump’s legal team and that the relationship could be very useful to Cohen.

Two days later, Costello emailed again and conveyed that Giuliani thanked him “for opening this back channel of communication and asked me to keep in touch.”

Cohen understood the back channel would be Costello to Giuliani, Giuliani to Trump.

Michael Cohen in courtroom sketch
Michael Cohen in court today.Elizabeth Williams / AP

Cohen said he didn't trust Robert Costello, who was close with Giuliani

Adam Reiss

Rebecca Shabadis in Washington, D.C.

Adam Reiss and Rebecca Shabad

Cohen said he was pressured to hire Robert Costello to represent him after the raid.

Asked if Costello told him about his ties to Rudy Giuliani, Cohen said, “As close as you can imagine … and that would be a relationship that would be very beneficial to you going forward with this matter.”

“Mr. Giuliani at the time had a very close relationship and was spending a tremendous amount of time with Mr. Trump,” Cohen testified. 

Cohen said Costello told him it would be a great way to have a back channel to the president. Cohen, however, expressed that he didn’t trust Costello and wasn’t sure he was going to hire him. “There was something really sketchy and wrong about him,” he said, adding that Costello came with a retainer agreement.

Cohen said he didn’t tell Costello the truth about Stormy Daniels and Trump. Cohen said he was concerned when Costello mentioned his close relationship with Giuliani and that anything he told him would be relayed to Giuliani. 

Cohen said he was worried “anything that I said would get back to him.”

A note on Trump calling his supporters 'surrogates' and the gag order against him

In a post on X, Joyce Alene Vance, who served as the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Alabama, noted that the gag order against Trump prohibits him from “making comments about jurors/witnesses and also from causing others to make them.”

Her post was in response to Trump’s remarks this morning outside of the courtroom, in which he referred to Republican lawmakers who accompanied him to court today as his “surrogates.”

“I do have a lot of surrogates and they are speaking very beautifully. They come from all over ... and they think this is the biggest scam they’ve ever seen,” Trump said.

Eric and Lara Trump now in courtroom

Eric and Lara Trump are now in the front row of the courtroom, seated next to Alina Habba.

Lara Trump is now the head of the RNC.

Lara Trump, center, and Eric Trump arrive at Manhattan Criminal Court on May 14, 2024.
Lara Trump and Eric Trump, right, arrive at court today.Curtis Means / Pool via Getty Images

Johnson defends Trump while attending the criminal hush money trial

House Speaker Mike Johnson spoke outside the courthouse.

Court is back in session

Trump and the lawyers on both sides of the case are back in their seats.

Court breaks for short recess

We'll be back in about 15 minutes.

After raid, Trump told Cohen: 'Don't worry, I'm the president.'

Cohen testified that after the raid, he called Trump and “left him message for him to call me to let him know what was taking place.”

“He said to me, ''Don’t worry. I’m the president of the United States. There’s nothing here. Everything’s going to be OK. Stay tough. You’re going to be OK,'” Cohen testified.

Asked whether he’d spoken directly with Trump since that time, Cohen said, “No.”

Asked whether he felt that call was “important,” Cohen replied: “Very. I wanted some reassurance that Mr. Trump had my back. Especially as this dealt with issues that related to him.”

“I felt reassured because I had the president of the United States protecting me. It’s his Justice Department, should go nowhere,” Cohen said, adding that he would stay loyal to Trump.

Cohen says he was 'despondent' after FBI raid

Adam Reiss

Adam Reiss and Daniel Arkin

Cohen is telling the jury about April 2018 raids on his New York City apartment, law office and a hotel where he was staying.

He was booked at the Loews Regency hotel in Manhattan at the time because his apartment had been flooded and construction was being done. He heard a knock on the door at 7 a.m. one day, looked through the peephole and "saw lots of people."

FBI agents asked Cohen to step into the hallway. The agents had a search warrant that gave them the right to seize Cohen's two cellphones, electronic devices, records, tax books and other documents that the fixer had at the hotel, his law office and his apartment.

Hoffinger asked Cohen to describe how he felt at the time of the raids. "How to describe your life being turned upside down," he replied. "Concerned. Despondent. Angry."

Cohen was then asked whether he was frightened. "Yes, ma'am," he said.

Cohen says it was at Trump's direction to get a temporary restraining order against Stormy Daniels

+2

Rebecca Shabadis in Washington, D.C.

Adam Reiss

Lisa Rubin, Rebecca Shabad and Adam Reiss

Prosecutor Susan Hoffinger asked Cohen if he learned Stormy Daniels was going to go public about her sexual encounter as a result of him saying it was his money, and if that's why he got a temporary restraining order against her.

Cohen said that was correct and confirmed it was at Trump's direction to work with Larry Rosen, as well as with Eric Trump, to get a restraining order.

Cohen said he obtained the temporary restraining order and filed it in California and tried to serve it to Keith Davidson, Daniels' lawyer, because he didn't have her address. However, Cohen said, Davidson was no longer representing Daniels and provided the name of a second lawyer, who also said he was not representing her.

Ultimately, Cohen learned Michael Avenatti would be representing Daniels — who sued them to prevent enforcement of the NDA.

Cohen speaks directly to jury in rare moment

Kyla Guilfoil

Laura Jarrett and Kyla Guilfoil

Cohen is now speaking directly to the jury while answering about the FBI raid — something he has rarely done during his testimony under Susan Hoffinger's examination.

Cohen reinforces David Pecker's testimony about him and Trump telling Pecker not to worry

Lisa Rubin, Gary Grumbach and Kyla Guilfoil

Former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker's testimony earlier in the trial revealed that Cohen had told Pecker that he should not worry about The Wall Street Journal asking about AMI's payoff to Karen McDougal. But now, Cohen is revalidating that testimony himself.

Pecker had said Cohen told him then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions was in Trump's pocket. Now, Cohen is putting a new gloss on that conversation, telling the prosecution that he spoke to Trump before talking to Pecker and implying that Trump had him convey that Pecker should not worry.

Cohen testified that he had told Pecker that after conversations with Trump, he would assist Pecker with the matter and they "had this thing under control."

Mike Johnson and allies show up for Trump

Matthew Nighswander

Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Fla., North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum, House Speaker Mike Johnson, former presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy and Rep. Cory Mills, R-Fla., listen as former President Donald Trump speaks to reporters
Justin Lane / Pool via AFP - Getty Images

From left, Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Fla., North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, House Speaker Mike Johnson, former presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy and Rep. Cory Mills, R-Fla., listen as former President Donald Trump speaks to reporters today.

Trump's eyes are closed as Cohen continues testimony

Trump's eyes are closed and his head is tilted to the right as Cohen answers questions about how he scrambled to react to The Wall Street Journal's reporting on the Daniels story. Meanwhile, the former president's surrogates in the front row appear to be wide awake and following along with the testimony.

The jurors, for their part, seem interested. Several jurors have been taking intense notes during this exchange.

The risks of reading a limiting instruction

Merchan is instructing the jury that the FEC conducted an investigation, and that the letter and testimony about that investigation were admitted to give context and to help it assess Cohen’s credibility, but they may not be considered in determining Trump’s guilt or innocence.

Anytime a judge reads a limiting instruction, there’s a concern that it draws the jury’s attention to the evidence it just heard even more — thereby defeating its purpose. Telling the jury to use certain evidence for one purpose but not another is always challenging, but especially when the evidence in question is damning.

Cohen's buzzwords today: 'To protect Mr. Trump' and 'to stay on message'

At least five times during today's testimony, Cohen has responded to questions about his actions, and why he did them, with the same reply.

“In order to protect Mr. Trump."

At least twice, he has replied with, “To stay on message."

Cohen intended for statement about Daniels payment to be 'misleading'

Cohen also acknowledged that the 2016 statement about using his own personal funds to facilitate the payment to Stormy Daniels and not being reimbursed by two major Trump entities was “misleading.”

“Was that statement false or misleading?” prosecutors asked, referring to the statement that claimed that neither the Trump campaign nor the Trump Organization was a party to the transaction.

“Misleading,” Cohen said. 

“While crafting the statement, we elected to state neither the Trump Organization nor the Trump campaign was a party to the transaction. That’s a true statement,” he said. “But it’s misleading.”

“It was neither the Trump organization or the Trump campaign, it was Donald J. Trump himself.”

“Did you intend for it to be misleading?” Hoffinger asked.

“Yes, ma’am,” he said. “In order to protect Mr. Trump, to stay on message, to demonstrate continued loyalty.”

“Did he approve the substance of the statement?” Hoffinger asked.

“He did,” Cohen said.

Cohen says Stormy Daniels' statement is false 'because I helped him craft it'

Cohen said he continued to press Keith Davidson for another statement from Stormy Daniels denying her affair with Trump amid increased media attention around the story, despite knowing it was false.

Asked how he knew the statement was false, Cohen said “because I helped him craft it.”

Pressed on how he knows Daniels was paid hush money, Cohen similarly commented “because I’m the one who paid it.”

Prosecutor shows Cohen texts pressuring Stormy Daniels' lawyer to have her deny Trump affair

The DA's office entered into evidence texts between Stormy Daniels’ lawyer Keith Davidson and Michael Cohen in which Cohen told Davidson to call him.

Davidson indicated that Stormy Daniels was supposed to fly to Los Angeles the next day.

"Can you call me please?" Cohen said. "Please call me."

"Anything?"

"Still trying," Davidson wrote back.

Cohen then wrote, "This is no good."

"The wise men all believe the story is dying and don't think it's smart for her to do any interviews," Cohen said. "Let her do her thing but no interviews."

"100%," Davidson texted back.

Cohen on why he lied to Congress: 'In order to protect Mr. Trump'

Adam Reiss

Adam Edelman and Adam Reiss

Cohen also admitted to lying during his fall 2017 testimony before Congress about the Russia investigation.

Cohen had been subpoenaed for testimony before the House and Senate Intelligence committees’ investigations regarding a Trump Tower Moscow deal.

Asked whether he lied during his testimony, Cohen, who was still personal counsel to Trump at that time, replied affirmatively.

“I did,” he said. 

“They dealt with the Trump Tower Moscow real estate project. Specifically the number of times that I claimed to have spoke to Mr. Trump,” Cohen explained. “I said I only spoke to President Trump about the project three times when I had really spoken about it 10 times,” he continued.

Asked why he said then that his communications with Trump stopped earlier than they had, Cohen said, “Because I was staying on Trump’s message, and there was no Russia, Russia, Russia, and that was what was preferred.”

Asked whether he continued to lie about Trump’s involvement in the Stormy Daniels payoff and pressure Keith Davidson to lie about the payoffs to Karen McDougal, Cohen replied, “yes.”

Asked why, Cohen said, “In order to protect Mr. Trump.”

New York appeals court rejects Trump's gag order appeal

Dan Mangan, CNBC

Daniel Arkin and Dan Mangan, CNBC

A New York appeals court has rejected Trump's appeal of the gag orders that were imposed in this case, according to a legal filing.

He's already been found in violation of the order 10 times.

Trump has repeatedly insisted the order is unconstitutional.

Cohen says he made $4 million based on his title under Trump

The prosecution pushed Cohen on whether having the title “personal attorney to the president” helped Cohen attract other clients, to which Cohen said he had earned about $4 million from new clients.

Because of the title and his work with Trump, he obtained five consulting or advisory clients, but he did not do legal work.

Cohen earned about $4 million from those clients; he also had an agreement with Squire Patton Boggs, a major law firm, which wanted him on its letterhead because of his title and contacts.

Cohen further testified that he formed an “of counsel” agreement with them; he received $500,000 initially, and after that his pay depended on what he brought in. During this time, Cohen continued to lie for Trump, he said, “out of loyalty and to protect him.”

Speaker Johnson calls hush money trial 'politically motivated' and 'election interference'

Speaking to reporters outside the courtroom, House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., who is in attendance for today’s court proceedings, slammed the hush money trial as a “travesty of justice" and “politically motivated,” and said that Trump’s required attendance is an intentional effort by Democrats to keep him off the campaign trail.

Johnson, without evidence, echoed Trump’s accusations that Democrats are unjustly influencing the hush money case. He referred to Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg as a “partisan Democrat,” Judge Juan Merchan as a “Biden donor judge” and accused Assistant District Attorney Susan Hoffinger of receiving thousands of dollars in payments from the Democratic National Committee.

Johnson also slammed Cohen, saying that he is a man who is clearly on "a mission for personal revenge” and that “no one should believe a word he says today.” He also criticized Merchan's “ridiculous and unprecedented” gag order on Trump.

“The judicial system in our country has been weaponized against President Trump,” Johnson said. “The system is using all the tools at its disposal right now to punish one president and provide cover for another.”

“These are politically motivated trials and they are a disgrace,” he added. It is election interference and they show how desperate the opposition that President Trump has and how desperate they truly are.”

Johnson did not respond to any shouted questions after making his statement.

As Trump's personal counsel, Cohen sought to 'lie for' and 'protect' him

Cohen said that during the 15 months he was personal counsel to Trump, his goal was to protect and lie for him.

“Did you continue to try to protect him?” prosecutor Hoffinger asked.

“Yes, ma’am,” Cohen replied

“Did you continue to lie for him?” Hoffinger asked.

“Yes,” Cohen replied.

"Why did you do that?” Hoffinger asked.

“Out of loyalty and in order to protect him,” Cohen said.

Cohen describes 'minimal work' he did for Trump in 2017