‘Yes, Sir:’ Michael Cohen Admits He ‘Stole from the Trump Organization’

Former President Donald Trump’s former attorney, Michael Cohen, admitted Monday to jurors in the GOP’s legal expense trial that he stole tens of thousands of dollars from Trump’s company as lawyers for the defense seized on the misdeeds of the star witness to attack his credibility. 

The landmark legal trial kicked off again with the defense’s cross-examination of Cohen, whose crucial testimony last week tied Trump directly to alleged reimbursement of Michael Cohen’s payment to catch and kill allegations of an affair. 

Defense attorneys have already queried Cohen for hours about his past lies and criminal history to paint him as a serial fabricator who is on a campaign of revenge aimed at taking Trump down.

While being pressured by Todd Blanche, the defense attorney, Cohen admitted he pocketed funds that were supposed to be reimbursed for a $50,000 payment Trump’s former lawyer claimed he made to a technology firm. However, he said Cohen gave the tech firm only $20,000.

“So, you stole from the Trump Organization,” asked Blanche.

Cohen replied, “Yes, sir.”

Trump’s former lawyer said he never paid the Trump Organization back. Cohen hasn’t ever been charged with stealing from Trump’s company.

Michael Cohen is the prosecution’s last witness, and it’s unclear whether Trump’s attorneys will call any witnesses, let alone Trump, to the stand. 

After over four weeks of testimony about money, sex, tabloid deception, and details of the recordkeeping of Trump’s company, jurors could start deliberating as soon as next week to decide if Trump is guilty of 34 felony counts of the falsification of business records in the first criminal trial of a former president of the United States.

The charges stem from internal records of the Trump Organization where payments to Cohen were marked as legal expenses when prosecutors say they were actually reimbursements for the silence of Daniels as Democrats sought to sully Trump as a presidential candidate. 

Trump has pleaded not guilty. His attorneys say nothing wasn’t anything criminal about the deal with Daniels or how Cohen was paid.

“There’s no crime,” said Trump to reporters after arriving at the courthouse Monday. “We paid a legal expense. You know what it’s marked down as? A legal expense.”

Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg’s office is expected to rest its case once Michael Cohen is off the stand, but prosecutors would have a chance to call rebuttal witnesses if Trump’s attorneys put on witnesses of their own.

Citing scheduling issues, Judge Juan Merchan says closing arguments will be on May 28, the Tuesday after Memorial Day. 

The defense lawyers have yet to decide if Trump will testify. Trump didn’t respond to reporters shouting questions about whether his lawyers have advised him not to take the stand.

Defense attorneys are generally reluctant to put their clients on the witness stand and leave them open to harsh questioning by prosecutors, as it often does more negative than positive.

Cohen is the most crucial witness for the prosecution. However, he is also vulnerable to attack. 

The attorney — now disbarred — has admitted on the witness stand to lying previously under oath, along with other falsehoods — many of which he claims were meant to protect Trump. 

Michael Cohen served prison time after pleading guilty to numerous federal charges, including lying to a bank and Congress and engaging in campaign finance violations related to paying to possibly stop Democrats from weaponizing negative information against Trump during the presidential election in 2016.

Michael Cohen has made millions on books critical of the former president

Cohen has made millions of dollars in books critical of the former president, whom he slams regularly on social media, often using profane terms.

Michael Cohen now alleges the former president was involved intimately in the scheme to pay off Daniels to block her from going public late in his 2016 presidential campaign with claims of a 2006 sexual encounter with Trump. Donald Trump has continuously asserted nothing sexual happened between them.

Cohen informed jurors about conversations and meetings with Trump, including one in 2017 during which Cohen says he, then-Trump Organization finance chief Allen Weisselberg, and Trump discussed how Cohen would recoup his disbursement for the Daniels payment and how the reimbursement would be charged as “legal services.”

Known for having a short fuse, Cohen has remained mostly calm on the witness stand despite occasional heated interrogation by the defense about the allegations in the case and his misdeeds. 

On Thursday, in a critical moment, Blanche accused Cohen of lying about the purpose of a phone call to Trump’s bodyguard days before Cohen wired Daniels’ attorney $130,000.

Michael Cohen told jurors he spoke to Trump on that call about the payment to block Daniels’ story. Blanche challenged Cohen with text messages to prove his claims false. Cohen had been talking to Trump’s bodyguard about a teenage prankster’s harassing calls.

“That was a lie. You did not talk to President Trump on that night…You can admit it?” asked Blanche. “No, sir, I can’t,” replied Cohen, saying he believed he had also spoken to Trump about the Daniels deal.

Attorneys for Trump have said they may call Bradley A. Smith, a GOP law professor who was appointed by former President Bill Clinton to the Federal Election Commission (FEC), to refute the prosecution’s contention that the payments amounted to campaign finance violations.

The judge has limited what Smith can address, but the defense could decide not to call him after all.

There are frequently guardrails around expert testimony on legal matters, based on the principle that it is up to Democrat Judge Merchan, not an expert hired by either side, to instruct jurors on laws applicable in a case.

Merchan has ruled that Smith can give general background information on the FEC, what laws it enforces, and the definitions of terms like “campaign contribution.” 

However, he can’t interpret how federal campaign finance laws apply to the Trump case’s facts or speculate on whether the former president’s alleged actions violate those laws.