Is this the moment that will acquit Donald Trump in hush money case?


Donald Trump's defense lawyer accused star witness Michael Cohen of lying about a crucial phone that tied the former president to a cover-up around hush money payments to [adult entertainment] star Stormy Daniels in a dramatic exchange Thursday. Defense lawyer Todd Blanche delivered his blow just before the lunch break, offering evidence that the key conversation was actually about a prank caller and not, as Cohen claimed three days earlier, about a $130,000 payment for Daniels' silence.

Donald Trump’s defense lawyer accused star witness Michael Cohen of lying about a crucial phone that tied the former president to a cover-up around hush money payments to [adult entertainment] star Stormy Daniels in a dramatic exchange Thursday. Defense lawyer Todd Blanche delivered his blow just before the lunch break, offering evidence that the key conversation was actually about a prank caller and not, as Cohen claimed three days earlier, about a $130,000 payment for Daniels’ silence.

It created an 'aha' moment just as the case barrels towards its conclusion; the sort of pin-drop shock common to courtroom TV dramas but rare in real life. And it undermined Cohen's testimony that he personally talked to Trump about plans to hide the hush money, a claim that is central to the case. Having reminded the 12 members of the jury that Cohen had a history of lying to courts and laying the foundations of the idea that he was an unreliable witness, Trump's lawyer Todd Blanche took the court in an unexpected direction. He brought up text messages and call logs to show that Cohen had been plagued by nuisance calls in October 2016. The prankster was unmasked when they forgot to hide their caller I.D.

It created an ‘aha’ moment just as the case barrels towards its conclusion; the sort of pin-drop shock common to courtroom TV dramas but rare in real life. And it undermined Cohen’s testimony that he personally talked to Trump about plans to hide the hush money, a claim that is central to the case. Having reminded the 12 members of the jury that Cohen had a history of lying to courts and laying the foundations of the idea that he was an unreliable witness, Trump’s lawyer Todd Blanche took the court in an unexpected direction. He brought up text messages and call logs to show that Cohen had been plagued by nuisance calls in October 2016. The prankster was unmasked when they forgot to hide their caller I.D.

Cohen told them they would have to explain themselves to the Secret Service. The caller responded by saying they were only 14 years old. Cohen then messaged Trump's bodyman, Keith Schiller, shortly before 8pm on Oct. 24 to ask who he could talk to about the prankster and how to handle the matter, according to a message read to the court. Schiller was always at Trump's side and was often the conduit for phone calls to the boss. Call logs show that Cohen made a call at 8:02pm that lasted only 96 seconds¿which meant it could not have been about Daniels, said Blanche.

Cohen told them they would have to explain themselves to the Secret Service. The caller responded by saying they were only 14 years old. Cohen then messaged Trump’s bodyman, Keith Schiller, shortly before 8pm on Oct. 24 to ask who he could talk to about the prankster and how to handle the matter, according to a message read to the court. Schiller was always at Trump’s side and was often the conduit for phone calls to the boss. Call logs show that Cohen made a call at 8:02pm that lasted only 96 seconds—which meant it could not have been about Daniels, said Blanche. 

¿That was a lie. Because you were actually talking to Mr. Schiller about ... you were getting harassing phone calls from a 14-year-old,¿ he said in the most dramatic moment of the case so far. Cohen, who has adopted a meek, hangdog air throughout, protested. He said the Daniels update was only brief. 'I always ran everything by the boss immediately, and in this case it would have been saying, 'Everything been taken care of ¿ it's been resolved,

‘That was a lie. Because you were actually talking to Mr. Schiller about … you were getting harassing phone calls from a 14-year-old,’ he said in the most dramatic moment of the case so far. Cohen, who has adopted a meek, hangdog air throughout, protested. He said the Daniels update was only brief. ‘I always ran everything by the boss immediately, and in this case it would have been saying, ‘Everything been taken care of — it’s been resolved,”‘ he said. ‘That is a lie,’ Blanche said, raising his voice in front of the goggle-eyed jury, who had sat through a morning of incremental claims and counter-claims about what White House jobs Cohen may or may not have been offered. ‘You can admit it.’ ‘No sir I can’t, because I am not certain that is accurate,’ he said. He added that he believed he had spoken about both matters. ‘We are not asking for your belief,’ said Blanche, his voice rising again, before he was cut off by a defense objection.

It was a killer moment after weeks of grumbles from the Trump camp that Blanche had not been aggressive enough with witnesses. This was the win they wanted. Son Eric Trump , seated in the front row of courtroom 1530, delivered a one-word verdict on X: 'Wow' (followed by a string of fire emojis.) His father walked from the court with a swagger, winking at a reporter in the back row.

It was a killer moment after weeks of grumbles from the Trump camp that Blanche had not been aggressive enough with witnesses. This was the win they wanted. Son Eric Trump , seated in the front row of courtroom 1530, delivered a one-word verdict on X: ‘Wow’ (followed by a string of fire emojis.) His father walked from the court with a swagger, winking at a reporter in the back row.

Trump denies 34 counts of falsifying business records, doctoring invoices, ledger entries and checks to suggest Cohen had been paid for his legal services, rather than to reimburse him for silencing Daniels. The court has heard days and days of dry evidence about how payments were processed and checks cut by Trump Organization staff. It also heard the salacious details of Daniels' story, of how she met and slept with Trump in 2006. But it was not until Cohen took the stand that a direct line was drawn from Trump to money paid to his former lawyer and fixer.

Trump denies 34 counts of falsifying business records, doctoring invoices, ledger entries and checks to suggest Cohen had been paid for his legal services, rather than to reimburse him for silencing Daniels. The court has heard days and days of dry evidence about how payments were processed and checks cut by Trump Organization staff. It also heard the salacious details of Daniels’ story, of how she met and slept with Trump in 2006. But it was not until Cohen took the stand that a direct line was drawn from Trump to money paid to his former lawyer and fixer.

Cohen is a problematic witness, having served time in prison for crimes including tax fraud and lying to Congress. The defense sought to make the most of that on Thursday morning, using Cohen's own words against him to show that he was intent on putting Trump behind bars. Trump had allies in court, including Freedom Caucus members Reps. Matt Gaetz, Lauren Boebert and Michael Waltz, to watch the fireworks. They included hearing his on-air persona, as the court heard a clip from one of his podcasts, including very uncourt-like language.

Cohen is a problematic witness, having served time in prison for crimes including tax fraud and lying to Congress. The defense sought to make the most of that on Thursday morning, using Cohen’s own words against him to show that he was intent on putting Trump behind bars. Trump had allies in court, including Freedom Caucus members Reps. Matt Gaetz, Lauren Boebert and Michael Waltz, to watch the fireworks. They included hearing his on-air persona, as the court heard a clip from one of his podcasts, including very uncourt-like language.

'In one podcast statement, Cohen says 'I truly [Expletive] hope that this man ends up in prison,' he said about Trump at one point. In another clip he made clear that he would enjoy Trump's downfall. 'It won¿t bring back the year that I lost or the damage done to my family. But revenge is a dish best served cold,' Cohen could be heard to say. 'You better believe that I want this man to go down.' The defense offered a motive for Cohen: He was bitter after passed over for any of the top jobs at the White House when Trump took power. 'The truth is, Mr. Cohen, you really wanted to work in the White House, correct?' asked Blanche.

‘In one podcast statement, Cohen says ‘I truly [Expletive] hope that this man ends up in prison,’ he said about Trump at one point. In another clip he made clear that he would enjoy Trump’s downfall. ‘It won’t bring back the year that I lost or the damage done to my family. But revenge is a dish best served cold,’ Cohen could be heard to say. ‘You better believe that I want this man to go down.’ The defense offered a motive for Cohen: He was bitter after passed over for any of the top jobs at the White House when Trump took power. ‘The truth is, Mr. Cohen, you really wanted to work in the White House, correct?’ asked Blanche.

Not true said Cohen, before he was confronted with a series of messages in which he talked with friends and relatives about the possibility of being appointed chief of staff. One read in court even suggested he was tapping up a friend to become his assistant if he landed the post. Cohen said he simply wanted to be considered, for 'ego purposes.' But there were other embarrassing questions for Trump's former lawyer, including about how he secretly recorded hundreds of phone conversations and had used nonexistent, AI-generated legal cases to support an application last year to end his post-prison court supervision early.

Not true said Cohen, before he was confronted with a series of messages in which he talked with friends and relatives about the possibility of being appointed chief of staff. One read in court even suggested he was tapping up a friend to become his assistant if he landed the post. Cohen said he simply wanted to be considered, for ‘ego purposes.’ But there were other embarrassing questions for Trump’s former lawyer, including about how he secretly recorded hundreds of phone conversations and had used nonexistent, AI-generated legal cases to support an application last year to end his post-prison court supervision early.

Cohen responded as he has done throughout his testimony, calmly, patiently and with the lawyerly air of a professional hair-splitter. Trump is barred by a court order from discussing witnesses. But his allies are not. During the morning recess, eight members of Congress trooped across the street to deliver their verdict to waiting TV cameras. Pictured: Michael Cohen arrives arrives with daughter Samantha Blake Cohen and wife Laura Shusterman (R) at U.S. Federal Court in New York on December 12, 2018.

Cohen responded as he has done throughout his testimony, calmly, patiently and with the lawyerly air of a professional hair-splitter. Trump is barred by a court order from discussing witnesses. But his allies are not. During the morning recess, eight members of Congress trooped across the street to deliver their verdict to waiting TV cameras. Pictured: Michael Cohen arrives arrives with daughter Samantha Blake Cohen and wife Laura Shusterman (R) at U.S. Federal Court in New York on December 12, 2018.

Rep. Matt Gaetz called Cohen a liar who 'committed these lies for his own benefit' before calling the case, the 'Mr. Potato Head of crimes, where they had to stick together a bunch of things that did not belong together.' Cohen will return to the stand Monday when the case resumes, and the judge signaled Thursday that he hopes to get to closing arguments a day later. There is no decision yet whether Trump himself will testify, according to his legal team.

Rep. Matt Gaetz called Cohen a liar who ‘committed these lies for his own benefit’ before calling the case, the ‘Mr. Potato Head of crimes, where they had to stick together a bunch of things that did not belong together.’ Cohen will return to the stand Monday when the case resumes, and the judge signaled Thursday that he hopes to get to closing arguments a day later. There is no decision yet whether Trump himself will testify, according to his legal team.

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