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That’s the question Jonathan Turley asks — and answers — as he observes the trial of Donald Trump in Manhattan. After several hours of direct testimony spread over two days in Alvin Bragg’s peculiar falsified-records prosecution, Trump’s attorney finally got a chance to cross-examine Michael Cohen. That cross-examination will continue today, but questions are already being raised about whether the convicted perjurer might be up to his old tricks.


The Wall Street Journal reports that the questioning focused on Cohen’s “past inconsistencies,” without going into too much detail:

Donald Trump’s lawyer on Tuesday painted Michael Cohen, the star witness of the former president’s hush-money trial, as an opportunist who had moved from being obsessed with serving his boss to actively working to put him in jail. …

Trump’s lawyers have seized on Cohen’s frequent media appearances, his past inconsistencies and his nearly constant social-media posts to paint him as vengeful and unreliable. Their cross-examination is expected to continue into Thursday.

Well … yeah. Cohen got convicted of perjury for false testimony before Congress, and that’s only for starters. Yesterday, the New York Times reminded its readers about the reliability of Bragg’s star witness in the Rube Goldberg-esque felony indictment of Trump:

Mr. Cohen, who is Donald J. Trump’s former fixer, pleaded guilty in August 2018 to a variety of federal crimes, including campaign finance violations for his role in two hush-money deals with women who said they had sex with Mr. Trump. He also pleaded guilty to personal financial crimes unrelated to Mr. Trump, including tax evasion.

Three months later, Mr. Cohen was back in federal court to plead guilty once again. That time, he accepted responsibility for lying to Congress about plans to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, saying he did so out of loyalty to Mr. Trump.

His loyalty faded in 2018 as the authorities closed in on Mr. Cohen, and Mr. Trump shunned him. Mr. Cohen is now the star witness in Mr. Trump’s criminal trial in Manhattan, which centers on a hush-money deal.


Cohen is as reliable a witness as Bernie Madoff was a hedge-fund manager. It’s not just that he lies, but that he’s been caught lying as often as he has. Cohen isn’t apparently smart enough to lie in degrees, but instead has a serial streak of lying to authorities under oath. Only people desperate to find ways to sink Donald Trump would ever take him at his word.

We’ll get to Turley’s observations shortly, but the WSJ focused more on the effort from Trump’s legal team in going after Cohen’s credibility from another direction:

Blanche portrayed Cohen as having built a career as a major Trump antagonist. He noted the former lawyer had made more than $3 million from writing books about Trump, and had his own podcast. …

Blanche displayed some merchandise he said Cohen was selling: a T-shirt with Trump in an orange jumpsuit behind bars and a coffee mug that said, “Send him to the big house not the White House.”

It’s not just that Cohen appears bent on revenge, but has constructed a business model for it. If Cohen can’t sink Trump in this trial, what happens to that business model? One has to imagine that Trump’s attorneys will include that point in their summation … if the case gets that far.

Turley argues that it shouldn’t. In his column for the New York Post, the Georgetown Law professor argues that “no sane prosecutor would rely on Cohen, let alone make him the entirety of their case.” Turley points out several times where Cohen has arguably perjured himself again, and wonders when Judge Juan Merchan will finally put an end to this prosecutorial clown show:


Cohen repeatedly said that he could not remember even recent calls after recounting calls from eight years ago with crystal clarity. He said that he could not remember if he leaked information in the case to CNN. However, these paled in comparison to other glaring moments.

Take, for example, his testimony on his unethical decision to secretly record a Sept. 6, 2016 telephone call with Trump.

It was a breathtaking betrayal that most lawyers would not contemplate, let alone carry out.

When asked by the prosecutors about that act, Cohen bizarrely claimed that he did so to guarantee that David Pecker, the former publisher of the National Enquirer, would “remain loyal to Mr. Trump.”

No one seriously believes that this is true. It does not even make sense. Pecker was speaking to Trump about the payments and even met with him at the White House.

Turley also drills down more into Cohen’s business model not just as a financial motive, and not just as revenge against his former boss/client, but also as another lie under oath. Cohen claimed under direct examination that he had learned his lesson about perjury and had tried to make amends by helping prosecutors hold Trump accountable. It became clear under cross-examination that personal profit was the real motive, including an attempt to sell a reality-TV show based on his exploits with Trump:


Michael Cohen will “fix your problems,” using the skills he learned working for “a notoriously bad man,” according to a promo sizzle reel for “The Fixer,” a reality-TV show concept he’s been shopping to studios.

In the unintentionally hilarious promo video, which The Post obtained exclusively, Cohen stalks the streets of Manhattan in a moody ripoff of his old boss’s mega-hit “The Apprentice.”

Clad in darks suits, the disgraced lawyer zips along Park Avenue on the Upper East Side during much of the narration, which is spliced between stock footage of cable-news reports on his scandals.

“I was the personal lawyer for a very bad man.” What happens to this pitch if the “very bad man” gets acquitted? In any other case, a witness attempting to financially benefit from his testimony before a trial would result in an exclusion, if not a mistrial or a directed verdict for acquittal in the case of a ‘star’ witness. Bragg’s entire case hinges on Cohen’s description of the transactions, and Cohen has already made his testimony transactional. Put that on top of Cohen’s multiple convictions for false testimony in multiple arenas, and this becomes a sick and sad joke told by a clown of a DA.


On his personal blog, Turley argues that Merchan has a duty to intervene and put an end to the embarrassment:

With the government resting after Cohen’s cross examination, I believe that an honest judge would have no alternative but to grant a motion for a directed verdict and end the case before it goes to a jury. Judge Juan Merchan will now have to give the full measure of his commitment to the rule of law. Given the failure to support the elements of any crime or even to establish the falsity of recording payments as legal expenses, this trial seemed to stumble through the motions of a trial. Michael Cohen was only the final proof of a raw political exercise. For critics, some of Cohen’s answers appear clearly false or misleading. Like their star witness, the prosecutors have shown that they simply do not take the law very seriously when there is an advantage to be taken.

Perhaps Merchan will act, but probably not until after Cohen’s testimony finishes. The cross-examination will conclude today, apparently, and Bragg’s team may need re-direct to fix any holes the defense created, which would allow a re-cross, and so on. The best time to move for a directed verdict would be when the government rests its case, when the defense can argue that Bragg’s office failed to prove a crime was committed — and Turley argues that there’s a gaping hole there too, as Bragg still has not explained the relevant crime that transformed one misdemeanor business-records charge into 34 felonies. 


Since the government will rest its case after Cohen leaves the stand, Merchan will have to decide very quickly whether to step up to his responsibilities … or join the clown show.