Trump lawyer takes aim at Cohen trying to paint him as liar

Tensions escalated amid raised voices on Thursday as Donald Trump’s lawyer hit back against prosecutors, accusing their star witness repeatedly of lying.

On the most tense day yet of cross-examination, Michael Cohen, Mr Trump’s former fixer, described talking to the former president directly about a hush-money payment to an adult-film star.

But attorney Todd Blanche all but shouted Cohen’s testimony was “a lie.”

He offered evidence he said showed they really talked about some prank calls.

Mr Blanche’s alternate theory of the phone call was designed to sow doubt on Cohen’s third day on the stand, as the jury watched the furious exchange with intense focus.

Following the heated exchange, he stormed back to the defence table and sat down next to his client. When the judge announced an afternoon recess, there was a collective exhale in the room.

Mr Trump is charged with 34 felony counts of falsifying business records, for allegedly disguising payments to Cohen as legal expenses when they were in fact reimbursements for paying off Ms Daniels, who claims she had sex with him.

Prosecutors allege Mr Trump sought to keep damaging information from the public to protect his 2016 presidential campaign. Mr Trump has pleaded not guilty to all counts and denied having sex with Ms. Daniels.

On the stand Thursday under pressure, Cohen maintained that his previous testimony was true, and that he spoke to Mr Trump about the payout to Stormy Daniels on a call in October 2016.

Earlier this week, prosecutors asked Cohen about the call to help establish Mr Trump’s alleged direct knowledge of the payoff scheme. Cohen testified that he kept his boss aware during every step of the process of paying Ms Daniels.

As the man at the centre of the payout, Cohen’s testimony is crucial for prosecutors to prove whether or not Mr Trump had knowledge of the allegedly fraudulent reimbursement plan.

But Cohen’s criminal record, history of lying to Congress, and profane public criticism of Mr Trump makes him a flawed witness.

Mr Trump’s teams seized on Cohen’s credibility issues for nearly two days and sought to paint him as a liar with a vendetta against Mr Trump.

On Thursday morning, Mr Blanche played recordings from Mr Cohen’s podcast, Mea Culpa, where the witness expressed a desire to see the former president go through the booking process and said of Mr Trump, “I want this man to go down.”

Mr Blanche also confronted Cohen with an X post where he called the former president “Dumb*** Donald.”

“Does the outcome of this trial affect you personally?” Mr Blanche asked him.

“Yes,” Cohen replied.

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