Ex-lawyer Michael Cohen says he paid hush money at Trump’s direction

Donald Trump
(Image: Reuters)

Donald Trump “wasn’t thinking about (his wife) Melania” when he paid off a former porn star, his former lawyer has testified.

Michael Cohen told a court Trump personally approved $130,000 in hush money to Stormy Daniels over an alleged 2006 sexual encounter.

The payout isn’t illegal, but Trump is accused of falsifying records to hide it – a claim he denies.

On Monday, his trial in New York heard from Mr Cohen, once a lawyer and self-described “fixer” for the ex-president.

Trump’s lawyers have painted the hush money as an attempt to protect his wife from rumours and upset.

Michael Cohen leaving his Manhattan home to testify. Pic: Reuters
Image:Michael Cohen has himself been jailed over the payment to Daniels. Pic: Reuters

However, Mr Cohen said his boss was purely concerned with keeping the claims quiet as he ran for the presidency.

“He wasn’t thinking about Melania. This was all about the campaign,” he said, prompting Trump to shake his head in response.

Mr Cohen told the court he’d heard Daniels was considering selling her story and he told his boss swift action was required.

The witness claimed Trump was angry when he learned about the porn star’s story and said to him: “I thought you took care of this.”

Stormy Daniels, seen here in January, received a $130,000 payment from Trump's lawyer Pic: AP/DeeCee Carter/MediaPunch /IPX
Image:Stormy Daniels, pictured in January. Pic: AP

He said Trump told him: “This is a disaster, total disaster. Women are going to hate me. Women will hate me. Guys, they think it’s cool, but this is going to be a disaster for the campaign.”

Cohen said he asked Trump how the story might impact his marriage to Melania, with Trump allegedly responding: “Don’t worry… how long do you think I’ll be on the market for? Not long.”

Cohen said that comment led him to conclude that “this was all about the campaign.”

Trump denies the affair and his lawyers say Mr Cohen acted on his own – a claim he denied in court.

He told jurors in Manhattan that “everything required Trump’s sign-off” and he was ordered to “just do it”.

Mr Cohen said he stumped up the $130,000 himself after Trump told him he would pay him back.

He said he set up a shell company – listed as a “real estate consulting company” – to make the payment.

Prosecutors say Trump later paid the money back and covered it up by recording it as a legal retainer fee.

He faces 34 counts of falsifying business records over the claims.

Read more:
Porn stars, sex scandals and zzzs: A to Z of Trump trial

The court also heard a recording of a conversation between Trump and Mr Cohen over hush money said to have been paid to another woman, former Playboy model Karen McDougal, who he also allegedly had an affair with.

Mr Cohen suggests in the recording setting up another company to repay David Pecker – who said he provided the $150,000 to cover up the story.

The former National Enquirer boss previously testified he bought the story to keep it hidden and eventually decided against seeking reimbursement.

Later in the recording, Trump can be heard suggesting the $150,000 might be better off being paid in cash.

Mr Cohen told the court this was to “avoid any type of paper transaction”.

The 57-year-old – who once said he would take a bullet for Trump – worked for him for nearly a decade.

He pleaded guilty to violating campaign finance law in 2018 over the Stormy Daniels payment and was jailed, but at the time prosecutors did not bring charges against Trump.

Mr Cohen’s credibility is in the sights of defence lawyers as he has previously admitted lying under oath.

Trump – who will take on Joe Biden in his bid to become president again in November – is unlikely to face a custodial sentence if found guilty.

His other cases are potentially more damaging but mired in delays.

They concern allegations of keeping stacks of secret documents after leaving office and trying to overturn his 2020 election defeat. He denies the claims.

Source:  Sky News news.sky.com

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