Michael Cohen's Testimony Links Trump to Hush Money Payments in Manhattan Trial

Michael Cohen's Testimony Links Trump to Hush Money Payments in Manhattan Trial
Timothy A. Clary/Pool Photo via AP

During a crucial point in the initial criminal trial of a former U.S. president, Donald Trump's ex-lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen, directly linked the former president to a plan to make secret payments to prevent the spread of stories about purported sexual encounters that might have negatively impacted Trump's 2016 White House bid.

Taking the stand in a Manhattan courtroom on Monday, Cohen testified that Trump approved substantial payouts to prevent the public release of claims by a Trump Tower doorman alleging he had fathered a child out-of-wedlock, and by former Playboy model Karen McDougal alleging an affair with Trump.

According to Cohen, when told of the doorman's claim, Trump instructed him "You handle it." The doorman was paid $30,000, though the claim was later deemed unfounded. Similarly, when Cohen informed Trump that McDougal was alleging an affair, Trump allegedly told him "Make sure it doesn't get released." McDougal received $150,000 in hush money after "a complete and total update" to Trump.

"What I was doing was at the direction of and benefit of Mr. Trump," Cohen stated in his bombshell testimony.

As Trump's former confidant and fixer, Cohen is the prosecution's star witness. However, his credibility could be undermined by his own criminal past - he previously pleaded guilty to federal charges related to the hush money payments.

The explosive testimony directly tying Trump to the payments ramps up legal risks for the former president, now a leading Republican presidential candidate for 2024. But Trump's camp may attempt to spin it as politically motivated prosecution.

Cohen's testimony is crucial for prosecutors due to his close dealings with Trump on suppressing the embarrassing personal stories that threatened his campaign.

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