4 big takeaways from Day 16 of Trump’s trial over hush money

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The criminal trial involving former President Donald Trump and hush money payments reached a pivotal moment on Monday, highlighted by the testimony of Michael Cohen, Trump’s former attorney. Cohen recounted how Trump instructed him to “just take care of” a payment to silence Stormy Daniels, an adult film actress, in the closing days of the 2016 presidential campaign.
4 big takeaways from Day 16 of Trump's trial over hush money
4 big takeaways from Day 16 of Trump’s trial over hush money

According to Cohen, Trump was directly involved in approving the negotiations, final deal, and reimbursement plan shortly before his inauguration. The purpose, Cohen testified, was solely to shield Trump’s political ambitions and conceal his role in arranging the payments.

The trial centers on allegations that Trump falsified business records to hide the reimbursement of hush money paid to Daniels, aimed at bolstering Trump’s electoral prospects during the 2016 election. The payment was intended to secure Daniels’ silence regarding an alleged 2006 sexual encounter with Trump, which the former president has consistently denied.

Cohen’s testimony provided critical evidence for prosecutors, despite his controversial reputation. Unlike his typical outspoken demeanor, Cohen’s presentation to the jurors remained focused and on point.

The critical question now is whether the jurors will find this testimony credible.

Here are four key takeaways from Day 16 of Donald Trump’s hush money trial:

  1. Direct Testimony: Cohen testified that Trump instructed him to proceed with a payment to Stormy Daniels during the final days of the 2016 campaign.
  2. Involvement in “Catch-and-Kill”: This was the clearest indication jurors have heard linking Trump to the concept of suppressing unfavorable stories through payments. Cohen claimed he sought approval from Trump at every stage of the process.
  3. Trump’s Approval: Cohen emphasized that Trump’s approval was necessary for all actions related to the payments. He ensured Trump was informed and consented to the decisions made.
  4. Reluctant Approval: Trump initially hesitated but eventually agreed to the payment after consulting with “friends” who advised him to proceed.

Cohen’s detailed account sheds light on Trump’s direct involvement in orchestrating the hush money payments, highlighting the complexity and significance of the trial proceedings.

Cohen claimed that Daniels’ payment was “all about the campaign.”

 

According to Cohen’s testimony, if Stormy Daniels’ story had surfaced in the media before the 2016 election, the consequences for Trump’s campaign would have been “catastrophic.” This assessment was based on Trump’s already poor polling numbers with women and the damaging impact of the “Access Hollywood” tape.

Trump acknowledged the potential fallout, expressing concern to Cohen that “women are going to hate me” while some men might find his comments acceptable. Trump believed the situation would be a disaster for his campaign.

Despite this, when it came time to make the payment to Stormy Daniels, Trump advised Cohen to delay the action until after Election Day. Trump allegedly told Cohen, “I want you to push it out as long as you can,” indicating that the timing of the payment was strategic. Trump’s rationale was straightforward: if he won the election, the story would lose relevance, and if he lost, he would no longer be concerned about its impact.

In summary, Cohen emphasized that the entire course of action regarding Stormy Daniels was driven by campaign considerations and the desire to protect Trump’s electoral prospects.

Cohen stayed on script

Michael Cohen’s appearance as a witness was a departure from the aggressive persona described by other witnesses. Previously labeled a “jerk” and “difficult,” known for fiercely defending his former boss, Cohen presented himself differently in front of the jury—appearing sincere, somber, and notably, sticking closely to the prosecution’s script.

During Cohen’s testimony, prosecutor Susan Hoffinger meticulously supported each claim with documentary evidence or previous testimony. This approach minimized reliance on Cohen’s credibility alone, enhancing the impact of his statements.

Towards the end of a lengthy day on the stand, Cohen injected a moment of humor, possibly aiming to connect with jurors. When asked about his reaction to a significant reduction in his bonus at the Trump Organization, Cohen candidly admitted, “Even for myself, I was unusually angry,” prompting laughter from the courtroom. This lighthearted moment provided a glimpse of Cohen’s personality amid the serious proceedings.

Cohen’s testimony will continue Tuesday

Cohen is expected to resume his testimony on Tuesday morning under the continued direct examination by Prosecutor Susan Hoffinger. The prosecution aims to delve into the details of invoices and checks received by Cohen, which are pivotal to their case.

Later in the day, Cohen will face a challenging cross-examination from a member of Trump’s legal team, likely testing his composure and resolve under pressure.

The state has hinted that they might conclude their case as early as this week, positioning Cohen as one of their key final witnesses in this high-profile trial.

 

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