In a long-awaited courtroom confrontation last week, former Donald Trump attorney Michael Cohen testified in the ex-president's civil fraud trial in New York, and his appearance provided no shortage of fireworks, at one point causing his former client to storm out of the room, as The Hill reports.
Cohen was called to provide insight into claims that Trump artificially inflated the value of assets in order to secure favorable terms from insurers and lenders over the course of many years, allegations leveled by New York Attorney General Letitia James.
Animosity was clearly running high as Cohen and Trump had their first face-to-face encounter since bitterly parting ways.
As The Hill notes, Cohen once declared his willingness to take a bullet for his high-profile client, but things between the two have changed dramatically, as was evident to everyone present in Judge Arthur Engoron's courtroom last week.
Upon Cohen's initial appearance in the courtroom, Trump defiantly looked straight ahead, careful not to lock eyes with his former counsel, and it did not take long for the atmosphere to turn extremely adversarial, however, with Trump's legal team taking every opportunity to grill Cohen on numerous inconsistencies with statements he has made in the past.
Pointing out the stark contradiction between Cohen's prior admiration and devotion to Trump and his current projection of “animosity” toward the former president was defense attorney Alina Habba.
“President Trump makes you relevant, doesn't he Mr. Cohen?” Habba asked, and with the question clearly having gotten a rise out of Cohen, the former Trump confidante replied, “I think my circumstances make me relevant.”
Habba went on to grill Cohen on whether he engaged in dishonesty toward the judge who presided over his criminal case back in 2018, and to whom the former Trump fixer pleaded guilty, a question which prompted a curt response of “asked and answered.”
Questioning ultimately turned to questions of Cohen's knowledge of the conduct that forms the crux of the state's allegations against Trump, namely, the supposed inflation of asset value and the ex-president's personal fortune.
During cross-examination, Habba elicited an acknowledgment from Cohen that he testified under oath in 2019 that Trump did not ask him to inflate financial data, and though he asserted that his statement had been a lie, Trump attorney Robert Clifford followed up and got him to backtrack.
Clifford asked, “Mr. Trump never directed you to inflate the numbers in his personal statement. Yes or no?” After Cohen attempted multiple times to evade the question, he finally replied, “Yes,” an admission that prompted Trump to throw his hands skyward, Robert to request a directed verdict, and – after Engoron's denial – the former president to storm out of the courtroom in visible exasperation.
The entire episode apparently did little to dampen Cohen's bluster, with the former Trump attorney offering his take on the day's events. “You may have seen Mr. Trump storm out. He stormed out because they wanted to make a motion to dismiss the case, to which the judge responded, 'Yeah, absolutely not.' You know why? Because he will ultimately be held accountable,” Cohen opined.
It was earlier this month that Cohen weighed in on Engoron's prior ruling that Trump indeed engaged in business fraud, as Newsweek noted, with the former president's ex-attorney predicting that the decision would be a “death blow” to his former client's business empire.
“Once he loses the license within which to operate the good standing of the certificates of incorporation that make up what's called the Trump Corporation, not only is the main company now going into the receivership, but there are hundreds of other subsidiary companies that additionally will ultimately go as part of the receivership. It is a financial catastrophe. It is the death blow to Donald,” Cohen said, but whether his prognostication has any basis in reality, only time – and further legal proceedings and possible appeals – will tell.