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Trump's New York criminal trial could head to jury deliberation as soon as next week

Michael Cohen, former personal lawyer to former President Donald Trump, and attorney Danya Perry leave his apartment building on his way to Manhattan Criminal Court in New York City on Thursday.
Spencer Platt
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Michael Cohen, former personal lawyer to former President Donald Trump, and attorney Danya Perry leave his apartment building on his way to Manhattan Criminal Court in New York City on Thursday.

NEW YORK — Michael Cohen isback on the stand to testify against his former boss Donald Trump in a New York criminal trial, and he is faced with his own criminal history. Still, prosecutors, who are nearing the end of their case, allege Trump committed 34 felony counts of falsified business records — and Cohen is central to proving it.

Cohen testifiedearlier this week to his longtime relationship and falling outwith the former president. In testimony, he detailed how he negotiated a settlement with adult film star Stormy Daniels to keep quiet about an alleged affair with Trump in the months leading up to the 2016 election. A $130,000 settlement was paid for by Cohen, which he said was at the direction of Trump, and later reimbursed by Trump. Those reimbursements constitute the 34 falsified documents.

Trump lawyer Todd Blanche began cross-examination Tuesday, questioning Cohen's motivations against Trump and about his recent profiting off of merchandise promoting Trump being put in jail. Picking up on Thursday morning, Blanche walked through Cohen's history of perjury, including lying to Congress and federal investigators.

In 2018, when presented with an 80-page potential indictment that included his wife, Cohen said he decided to plead guilty to lying to banks, tax evasion and violating campaign finance laws. Cohen doubled down on Thursday that although he has taken responsibility, he does not believe he should have been charged for the tax evasion charges.

Blanche questioned Cohen about past testimonies related to that case before Congress in 2019, while under oath at the Southern District Court of New York and during Trump's civil fraud trial in the fall. In those examples, Blanche was highlighting shifting statements from Cohen.

"I accepted responsibility and I suffered the consequences," Cohen said, while also recalling that he testified in October that he falsely plead guilty to the tax evasion charges.

Prosecutors have spent weeks setting up Cohen's corroboration of Trump's knowledge of the 34 allegedly falsified documents. But they also set him up as someone bullish, unlikeable and self-interested. At the same time, the defense and Trump himself have long attacked Cohen's credibility.

The jury has so far listened to four weeks of testimony, including Daniels herself last week. Jurors have also heard from former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker, who first testified to the details of the deals made to flag potentially damaging stories to Cohen and Trump. And jurors heard from Keith Davidson, the lawyer who negotiated the nondisclosure agreements and settlement payments for Daniels and former Playboy playmate Karen McDougal. McDougal is not expected to be called to testify.

Trump has pleaded not guilty, and he has denied allegations of extramarital affairs

Several former and current Trump employees, both from his flagship company and his administration, testified to the process in which Trump received personal invoices and paid personal checks — including those used to pay Cohen back.

Trump's defense may begin their case as soon as next week.

Reps. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., Anna Paulina Luna, R-Fla., and Bob Good, R-Va., arrive on Thursday to attend Trump's criminal trial.
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Reps. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., Anna Paulina Luna, R-Fla., and Bob Good, R-Va., arrive on Thursday to attend Trump's criminal trial.

More guests come to support Trump

Trump's special guest appearances have ramped up for the week of Cohen's testimony, with groups of congressional members coming in to watch, especially those from his new home state of Florida and from the House Congressional Freedom Caucus.

On Thursday, Reps. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., Anna Paulina Luna, R-Fla., and Bob Good, R-Va., sat in the row right behind Trump as proceedings began.

Earlier in the week, House Speaker Mike Johnson, Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Fla., Rep. Cory Mills, R-Fla., North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, a vice president hopeful, and former GOP presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy flanked the former president.

Trump calls them his surrogates, and while his campaign denies inviting them, they all speak to the broader goal of electing Trump in November. He has also received support from Republican officials from Texas, Iowa and New York.
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Ximena Bustillo
Ximena Bustillo is a multi-platform reporter at NPR covering politics out of the White House and Congress on air and in print.