Cohen Acknowledges Stealing from Trump at Hush Money Trial

 Michael Cohen is cross examined by defense lawyer Todd Blanche during former US President Donald Trump's criminal trial on charges that he falsified business records to conceal money paid to silence porn star Stormy Daniels in 2016, in Manhattan state court in New York City, US, May 20, 2024 in this courtroom sketch. (Reuters)
Michael Cohen is cross examined by defense lawyer Todd Blanche during former US President Donald Trump's criminal trial on charges that he falsified business records to conceal money paid to silence porn star Stormy Daniels in 2016, in Manhattan state court in New York City, US, May 20, 2024 in this courtroom sketch. (Reuters)
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Cohen Acknowledges Stealing from Trump at Hush Money Trial

 Michael Cohen is cross examined by defense lawyer Todd Blanche during former US President Donald Trump's criminal trial on charges that he falsified business records to conceal money paid to silence porn star Stormy Daniels in 2016, in Manhattan state court in New York City, US, May 20, 2024 in this courtroom sketch. (Reuters)
Michael Cohen is cross examined by defense lawyer Todd Blanche during former US President Donald Trump's criminal trial on charges that he falsified business records to conceal money paid to silence porn star Stormy Daniels in 2016, in Manhattan state court in New York City, US, May 20, 2024 in this courtroom sketch. (Reuters)

Donald Trump's former fixer Michael Cohen testified on Monday that he stole money from Trump's company, an admission that could chip away at his credibility as a star witness at the former US president's hush money trial.

Questioned by Trump's lawyer Todd Blanche, Cohen acknowledged stealing from the Trump Organization by including a reimbursement to a technology company in his bonus package and pocketing most of the money.

"So you stole from the Trump Organization, right?" Blanche asked.

"Yes sir," Cohen, 57, testified.

Cohen said he paid roughly $20,000 of the $50,000 that Trump's company owed to the tech company in cash, handing it off in a brown paper bag at his office. He said he kept the rest. He was reimbursed $100,000 total by the Trump Organization for that payment.

Cohen is the final and most important witness for New York prosecutors as they seek to convince a jury that Trump broke the law by covering up a $130,000 payment that bought the silence of porn star Stormy Daniels shortly before the 2016 election.

But as a convicted felon and admitted liar, Cohen is a problematic witness. Prosecutors have buttressed his testimony with documentary evidence, while Trump's lawyers have sought to undermine Cohen's credibility through his cross-examination.

After his testimony concludes, Trump's lawyers will have a chance to present evidence and witnesses of their own.

It was unclear whether Trump would take the witness stand. Defense lawyers often opt not to call witnesses or present their own evidence when they believe prosecutors have failed to make their case.

Though Trump said before the trial began that he planned to testify, Blanche told the judge last week that it was no longer certain. Outside the courtroom on Monday, Trump did not tell reporters whether he would testify or not.

CLOSING ARGUMENTS NEXT WEEK

At the outset of Monday's session, Justice Juan Merchan said he expected the prosecution and the defense to wrap up their presentations this week and make their closing arguments next week.

The first former president to face a criminal trial has pleaded not guilty to 34 counts of falsifying business records to cover up the payment to Daniels, who had threatened to go public with her account of an alleged 2006 sexual encounter - a liaison Trump denies.

Outside the courtroom, Trump, 77, has blasted the trial as a politically motivated effort to hobble his attempt to take back the White House from Democratic President Joe Biden in the Nov. 5 election.

Inside the courtroom, Trump has sat at the defendant's table listening to Daniels tell her account of their time together in lurid detail. Other witnesses, including Cohen, have discussed efforts to bury unflattering stories at a time Trump faced multiple accusations of sexual misbehavior.

Trump's lawyers said last week they did not think they would need much time unless Trump opted to testify.

"That's another decision that we need to think through," Blanche said on Thursday, the last day the trial convened.

If he chooses to testify, Trump will have the opportunity to convince jurors that he was not responsible for the paperwork at the heart of the case, and rebut Daniels' detailed account of their meeting in Lake Tahoe, Nevada.

He would not be restrained by a gag order that bars him in other settings from criticizing witnesses, jurors and relatives of the judge and prosecutors.

However, he would face cross-examination by prosecutors, who could try to expose inconsistencies in his story. Any lies told under oath could expose him to further criminal perjury charges.

Trump last appeared as a witness in a civil business-fraud trial last year, delivering defiant and rambling testimony that aggravated Justice Arthur Engoron, who was overseeing the case. Engoron would go on to order him to pay $355 million in penalties after finding he fraudulently overstated his net worth to dupe lenders.

The hush money trial is widely seen as the least consequential of the four criminal prosecutions Trump faces, but it is likely the only one to go to trial before the election. Trump faces charges in Washington and Georgia of trying to overturn his 2020 loss to Biden and charges in Florida of mishandling classified documents after leaving the White House in 2021. He has pleaded not guilty in all three cases.



US, Ukraine Ink 10-year Defense Agreement

US President Joe Biden attends a flags ceremony with paratroopers at Borgo Egnazia Golf Club San Domenico during the G7 Summit hosted by Italy in Apulia region, on June 13, 2024 in Savelletri. (Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP)
US President Joe Biden attends a flags ceremony with paratroopers at Borgo Egnazia Golf Club San Domenico during the G7 Summit hosted by Italy in Apulia region, on June 13, 2024 in Savelletri. (Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP)
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US, Ukraine Ink 10-year Defense Agreement

US President Joe Biden attends a flags ceremony with paratroopers at Borgo Egnazia Golf Club San Domenico during the G7 Summit hosted by Italy in Apulia region, on June 13, 2024 in Savelletri. (Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP)
US President Joe Biden attends a flags ceremony with paratroopers at Borgo Egnazia Golf Club San Domenico during the G7 Summit hosted by Italy in Apulia region, on June 13, 2024 in Savelletri. (Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP)

US President Joe Biden and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy signed a 10-year bilateral security agreement on Thursday aimed at bolstering Ukraine's defense against Russian invaders.

The agreement, signed on the sidelines of the G7 summit in Italy, is meant to be a step towards Ukraine's eventual NATO membership, according to the text of the deal.

"The parties recognize this agreement as supporting a bridge to Ukraine’s eventual membership in the NATO alliance," the text says, according to Reuters.

Zelenskiy has long sought NATO membership but the allies have stopped short of taking that step. The Western alliance regards any attack launched on one of its 32 members as an attack on all under its Article Five clause.

In the event of an armed attack or threat of such against Ukraine, top US and Ukrainian officials will meet within 24 hours to consult on a response and determine what additional defense needs are required for Ukraine, the agreement says.

Under the agreement, the United States restates its support for Ukraine's defense of its sovereignty and territorial integrity, amid a renewed push by Russia on Ukraine's eastern front.

"To ensure Ukraine’s security, both sides recognize Ukraine needs a significant military force, robust capabilities, and sustained investments in its defense industrial base that are consistent with North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)standards," the text says.

"The United States intends to provide long-term materiel, training and advising, sustainment, intelligence, security, defense industrial, institutional, and other support to develop Ukrainian security and defense forces that are capable of defending a sovereign, independent, democratic Ukraine and deterring future aggression," it says.