EW YORK (AP) — Michael Cohen returned to the witness stand Wednesday in his ex-boss Donald Trump’s civil business fraud trial as the former president’s defense team tried to undermine the credibility and question the motives of his onetime personal attorney turned adversary.
With Trump in court, his lawyer Alina Habba confronted Cohen with comments he had made on social media, in interviews and during congressional testimony praising Trump, before turning on him, when Cohen’s legal problems started in 2018.
She tried to suggest that Cohen had angled unsuccessfully for a job in Trump’s White House — Cohen insisted he never sought one — and asked whether he had “significant animosity” toward Trump.
“Do I have animosity toward him? Yes I do,” Cohen replied.
“You have made a career out of publicly attacking President Trump, haven’t you?” Habba asked.
After a long pause, Cohen said, “Yes.”
Cohen worked as Trump’s lawyer and fixer for many years, before Cohen’s 2018 federal prosecution, guilty pleas and prison sentence for tax evasion, making false statements on a bank loan application, lying to Congress and making illegal contributions to Trump’s campaign, in the form of payouts to women who said they had extramarital sexual encounters with Trump. Trump said the women’s stories were false.
Cohen is now an outspoken Trump foe.
During his first day of testimony Tuesday, Cohen said he and key executives at Trump’s company worked to inflate the estimated values of their employer’s holdings so documents given to banks and others would match a net worth that Trump had set “arbitrarily.”
In cross-examining Cohen, Habba emphasized his federal criminal convictions and worked to portray him as a liar, especially after he said Tuesday he had lied when he pleaded guilty to tax evasion and loan application lies. Cohen asserted that he did not really commit those crimes and he sought to portray his conduct as a matter of omissions and failure to correct paperwork.
Habba returned to those themes Wednesday, underscoring that Cohen had admitted in open court to lying under oath in a federal courthouse next door.
Cohen is a key witness in New York Attorney General Letitia James’ civil case against Trump. James alleges that Trump habitually exaggerated the value of his real estate holdings on financial documents that helped him get loans and insurance and make deals.
Trump denies any wrongdoing and says James, a Democrat, is targeting the leading Republican presidential candidate in 2024 for partisan reasons. Outside court, Trump said the trial was “very unfair” and a “pure political witch hunt.” Nonetheless, he said, “We’re happy with the way it’s going.”
“We have the facts on our side,” said Trump, later adding that Cohen is “proven to be a liar.”
Trump is expected to testify later in the trial. In the meantime, he has voluntarily attended several days of the proceedings.
Cohen is also expected to be an important prosecution witness in a criminal trial scheduled for next spring in which Trump is accused of falsifying business records. That case is one of four criminal prosecutions Trump faces in New York, Florida, Georgia and Washington.
Associated Press writer Jill Colvin contributed to this report.