Michael Cohen expected to begin testimony Monday in Trump’s hush money trial

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Donald Trump’s former lawyer and “fixer” Michael Cohen – who is now a central witness in his New York hush money case – is expected to begin his hotly-anticipated testimony in the trial on Monday, according to sources.

The former attorney is a key part of the prosecution’s case against the former president, who is on trial charged with 34 counts of falsifying business records in order to cover up hush money payments to Stormy Daniels in a bid to influence the 2016 presidential election.

According to prosecutors, Cohen paid Ms Daniels $130,000 to prevent her from going public with a potentially damaging story about an alleged affair she had with Mr Trump back in 2006. The bid to silence her was part of a larger catch-and-kill scheme that Cohen has admitted to participating in with Mr Trump and former tabloid publisher David Pecker in order to improve Mr Trump’s image in the lead-up to the 2016 election.

Mr Trump later repaid Cohen for the hush-money payment but allegedly misrepresented those payments as part of his attorney retainer.

Mr Trump denies having an affair with Ms Daniels and maintains that the payments to Cohen were for legal services.

Cohen is a central figure in the prosecution’s case and his testimony is likely to last several days given Mr Pecker – another prominent witness – testified across four days in the case.

Michael Cohen, a former lawyer for Donald Trump, in court at the former president’s civil fraud trial in October. He is expected to testify in the New York criminal trial next week (Getty Images)

As Mr Trump’s former lawyer and fixer, Cohen was one of the closest people to the situation at the heart of the case and was in the rare position of being a confidante to the former president for seven years.

His testimony is expected to shine a light on Mr Trump’s intentions in concealing the hush money payments as part of his non-existent retainer. Cohen gave similar testimony before Congress in 2019.

But whether or not the jury finds Cohen credible is likely to be a key question in the case.

Under cross-examination, the former president’s defense team is expected to hound Cohen about his history of lying – likely pointing to the former lawyer pleading guilty to lying to Congress about a Trump Tower project in Russia, his disbarment and the time he spent in prison for tax evasion.

The defence team may also point to Cohen’s recent social media tirade against the former president to paint the former lawyer as a scorned ex-employee.

Former US president Donald Trump watches as Stormy Daniels is questioned by defense attorney Susan Necheles (REUTERS)

So far the jury has heard from other key witnesses who have testified about Cohen’s role in the case.

Former National Enquirer boss Mr Pecker admitted to participating in the catch-and-kill scheme with Mr Trump and Cohen in order to suppress negative stories that could hurt the then-presidential candidate’s reputation.

Former Trump aide Hope Hicks also testified to the behind-the-scenes chaos that occurred when Mr Trump’s shocking comments about women in an Access Hollywood tape were made public days before the election.

Rhona Graff, a former assistant to Mr Trump, testified to seeing Ms Daniels in Trump Tower while a former managing director at First Republic Bank testified to working with Cohen about opening two limited liability companies – one that eventually would be used to pay Ms Daniels the $130,000 payment.

This week, Ms Daniels took the stand and offered detailed testimony about her alleged sexual encounter with the former president and accepting the $130,000 payment from Cohen years later.

Though she faced a grilling from Mr Trump’s defense team under cross-examination, Ms Daniels remained controlled and stood by her account on the stand.

Now, Cohen will likely be one of the final witnesses for the prosecution before Mr Trump’s defence begins its case.

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