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Michael Cohen testifies about how Trump turned his life ‘upside down’

Written by on May 15, 2024

(NEW YORK) — In emotional testimony on Tuesday, Michael Cohen spoke about how his loyalty to former president Donald Trump turned his life “upside down.”

During his second day on the stand in Trump’s hush money trial, where he testified under direct examination by the prosecution, Cohen recounted the day in April 2018 when the FBI raided his home in connection to a federal investigation into his conduct related to the 2016 election.

“At 7 o’clock in the morning, there was a knock on the door, and I looked through the peephole, and I saw a ton of people out in the hallway,” Cohen said. “I saw a badge … they identified themselves at the FBI.”

The FBI raided his apartment, law office and bank safety deposit box, Cohen testified, seizing two phones, a series of tax books and other records.

Cohen said he was “distraught” over the raid, but felt reassured after a phone call with Trump.

“He said to me, ‘Don’t worry, I’m the president of the United States — there’s nothing here, everything’s going to be OK,” Cohen testified.

Cohen said Trump’s statements at the time “reinforced my loyalty and my intention to stay in the fold.” At the time, the Trump Organization was paying his legal fees.

But that was the last time he spoke to Trump directly, Cohen said. In a tweet days later, Trump floated the idea that Cohen might “flip,” turning on him under pressure from the government’s investigation.

Cohen’s understanding, he testified, was that those tweets were directed “to me,” with Trump sending the message, “stay in fold, stay loyal, I have you … don’t flip.”

“Mr. Trump did not want me to cooperate with the government, certainly not to provide information or flip,” Cohen said.

What followed, Cohen testified, was a “pressure campaign” carried out through attorney, Robert Costello, who was “incredibly close to Rudy Giuliani.” Cohen said he “didn’t trust” Costello, describing him as “sketchy.”

“I believed, based upon all of our conversations, that he would immediately run back to Mr. Giuliani and that communication would be divulged to Mr. Trump,” he said.

Costello, who the DA brought in as an exculpatory witness during the grand jury probe, previously told reporters Cohen is an unreliable witness, describing his potential testimony as “not solid evidence.” Trump has denied the allegations laid out in the charges against him, and his defense attorneys have accused Cohen of having a record of lying.

Despite pressure Cohen said Costello put on him not to “cave,” Cohen’s family eventually convinced him to cooperate with the investigation.

“My family — my wife, my daughter, my son — all said to me, ‘Why are you holding on to this loyalty? What are you doing? We are supposed to be your first loyalty,” Cohen testified.

“So what decision did you make?” asked prosecutor Susan Hoffinger.

“That it was about time to listen to them,” Cohen said. “To my wife, my son, my daughter, to the country.”

In what he described as the “worst day of my life” in August 2018, Cohen pleaded guilty to federal charges for campaign finance violations related to the payments to adult film actress Stormy Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, as well as tax evasion charges.

“I would not lie for President Trump any longer,” Cohen said.

Before he reported to federal prison on May 6, 2019, Cohen testified before Congress.

“I apologized to Congress, I apologized to the country, I apologized to my family,” Cohen said because “the citizenry had a right to know in order to make a determination about the individual who was seeking the highest office in the land.”

Cohen told the jury the actions he took to “protect” Trump and his campaign.

“I regret doing things for him that I should not have. Lying. Bullying people in order to effectuate a goal,” Cohen said. “I don’t regret working with the Trump Organization, as I expressed before some very interesting great times.”

“But to keep the loyalty and do things that he had asked me to do,” Cohen continued, “I violated my moral compass, and I suffered the penalty, as has my family.”

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