Michael Cohen, corroborating others, says Trump wanted to silence Stormy because of the election

If Michael Cohen’s testimony yesterday had a familiar ring, that’s because his main role at the outset was to confirm the account of the National Enquirer’s publisher.

While there were bits and pieces of news, prosecutors walked through meetings, phone calls, e-mails and texts with Donald Trump and others as he vouched for just about everything David Pecker had told the jury.

But if there’s one line that jumped out at me, it was this: When Trump confided he would soon launch his first campaign in 2015, Cohen says his boss told him: “There’s going to be a lot of women coming forward.” That would prove to be prescient.

And the following year, when Cohen warned Trump that former Playboy Playmate Karen McDougal was alleging an affair, the future president’s response was: “She’s very beautiful.”

STORMY ALLEGES ONE-NIGHT STAND WITH TRUMP, AGREED TO LIE FOR HER $130,000 PAYOFF

Cohen’s credibility as Trump’s “fixer” – prosecutors raised the word, knowing the defense would – will come under fierce attack. He is a convicted liar who has served time in prison. That may well be the ballgame. The trial could easily turn on whether the Manhattan jury believes he is telling the truth now.

There is little question about Cohen’s motivation. He has been on a crusade against the man he served for 10 years ever since their public break. In fact, Judge Juan Merchan told the prosecution on Friday to warn Cohen to make no further comments, given Trump’s complaints that he was being attacked but under the gag order could not respond.

This came after Cohen posted a TikTok picture of himself wearing a T-shirt showing an orange head behind bars. No, not much mystery there.

One interesting tidbit came up as Cohen described being “on top of the world” during the decade he worked for Trump. He had billed $100,000 worth of work for a Trump entertainment unit. The real estate developer then offered him a job, then said, perhaps half-jokingly, that he’d be fired the first day if he brought up the unpaid bill. Cohen’s job was then to pressure law firms into lowering their bills.

During this time, D.A. Alvin Bragg’s prosecutor asked, would Cohen lie for Trump? “Yes ma’am.” Would he bully for Trump? “Yes ma’am.”

Cohen’s description of a summer 2015 meeting with Trump and Pecker matched the publisher’s account. The Enquirer would run positive stories about Trump, negative stories on some of his opponents, and Pecker would warn the “Apprentice” star if someone else had a negative story and try to suppress it.

Cohen would preview articles and covers in advance, as Pecker had said – such as a false allegation that Hillary Clinton had a brain injury – and would tell Trump, in part, to get credit.

The first test came when the Trump Tower doorman who the Enquirer paid $30,000 for what proved to be an utterly bogus story about what tabloids always call a love child. Cohen advised they add a $1 million penalty if the man violated the agreement.

NY V. TRUMP: COHEN TESTIFIES TO PAYING STORMY DANIELS FROM HIS OWN POCKET

Next up was Karen McDougal, who the prosecution has decided not to call as a witness, perhaps to avoid giving Trump a point on which to appeal.

The catch-and-kill payment would cost the Enquirer $150,000. Trump approved, and in the call that Cohen taped, suggested they pay in cash, but his lawyer said a check would make the transaction look legitimate.

Meanwhile, Pecker was “angry’ and “upset,” saying that was too much money for him to hide from the CEO of his parent company.

Meanwhile, McDougal and her lawyer rejected the deal, Cohen feared she was talking to ABC, but then they accepted the agreement.

Pecker wound up telling Cohen to forget the reimbursement. The reason? A cover shoot with McDaniel for Men’s Health – which along with fitness columns was the cover for the deal – sold better than expected, and they were planning a second one. That was worth at least $150K, Cohen was told.

The other extremely important answer from Michael Cohen involved the payment to Stormy Daniels, whose demand he regarded as “catastrophic” after the “Access Hollywood” tape. Cohen asked Trump about his wife. 

According to his testimony, Trump said just get it past the election. If he won, the Stormy Daniels business would become irrelevant, and if he lost, no one would care.

Cohen declared: “He wasn’t thinking about Melania. This was all about the campaign.”

KENNEDY COVER-UP: FAILING TO DISCLOSE A BRAIN-EATING WORM AND OTHER PROBLEMS

This is a crucial distinction. For Trump to be worried about protecting his wife and family – as former aide Hope Hicks, not a hostile witness, contended – was legitimate. Doing it for campaign reasons opens the door to a political manipulation and ultimately the falsification of records charge.

The rest of the story predictably plays out. Cohen stalled on providing the money. Daniels canceled the deal, her lawyer telling Cohen she was going with the Daily Mail instead. Trump was mad, telling Cohen he thought this had been taken care of. Then the deal was back on. 

After speaking to Trump, Cohen went to the bank on Oct. 16, 2016 and transferred the money from his home equity line of credit, buying the life rights to Stormy’s tale. Cohen testified that he would not have done this without the approval of Trump, who said, “Don’t worry, you’ll get your money back.” (And he eventually did.)

A last scare: When the Wall Street Journal reported on Nov. 4, just before the election, on the Enquirer’s deal with McDougal, Cohen consulted several times with Hicks on the best spin for the press. He had Stormy’s denial but sat on it after concluding the story wasn’t getting much attention.

Cohen was relaxed during the testimony, say reporters in the courtroom, but to me the most salient point is this:

What alternative version of events can Trump’s attorneys possibly offer to Cohen’s testimony? His account is backed up by emails, texts, call records, encrypted Signal messages, bank transfers and one audiotape. Those are beyond question. Can the defense argue that Cohen, David Pecker and Keith Davidson, the lawyer for both Daniels and McDougal, are all lying?

They can challenge Cohen’s motivation, but not the well-documented sequence of events.

The Trump team will obviously say that Cohen lied many, many other times. That he got involved in the dirty taxi medallion business. That he spent time in prison. That he’s made money by turning on Trump, that he’s become a national figure and cable pundit by turning on Trump. All true, and perhaps that will be enough to discredit him.

The rest of the day was spent inoculating Cohen against the eventual cross-examination. Cohen said he was “beyond angry…truly insulted, personally hurt” when Trump cut his 2016 bonus by two-thirds.

Cohen wanted to be mentioned for White House chief of staff, though it wasn’t a good fit, because of ego. He wanted to be Trump’s personal lawyer for no fee, which Trump granted at the last minute, meaning Cohen could charge companies big bucks as someone with access to the new president. And he was reimbursed for the $130,000 hush money payment, plus a bonus, at Trump’s direction.

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Look, sleeping with a porn star or Playboy model is not a crime. Signing an NDA is not a crime. 

But if all 12 jurors agree that Michael Cohen was telling the truth on the stand, the former fixer may get his fix after all.