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Michael Cohen testifies in Trump hush money trial

What we covered here

Our live coverage has wrapped up, but we'll be back Tuesday morning. Scroll through the posts below to read more about what happened in court today.
7:00 p.m. ET, May 13, 2024

Key takeaways from Michael Cohen's first day of testimony

Michael Cohen implicated his former boss Donald Trump in the hush money scheme to pay Stormy Daniels just days before the 2016 election, saying he doled out $130,000 at Trump’s direction and was promised reimbursement.

Cohen’s testimony ties together the prosecution’s allegations that Trump broke the law by falsifying business records to reimburse Cohen and conceal the hush money payment that Cohen said he made at Trump’s direction. Trump has pleaded not guilty and denies having an affair with Daniels.

Here are some of the key takeaways from Cohen's first day on the stand:
  • Cohen ties Trump to the Daniels hush money payment: Through roughly five hours of testimony Monday, Cohen walked jurors through how he worked with former National Enquirer editor David Pecker on Trump’s behalf during the 2016 campaign to kill negative stories; how he kept Trump apprised of his hush money negotiations with Keith Davidson, the attorney for Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal; and how Trump approved and was aware of how Cohen would be falsely repaid in 2017 for the Daniels payment as legal services.
  • Cohen ties the hush money reimbursement to Trump, too: Trump is charged with 34 counts of falsifying business records – 11 invoices, 12 vouchers and 11 checks – records that prosecutors say stem from the monthly reimbursements Cohen received in 2017 for the hush money payment he made to Daniels. On Monday, jurors heard through Cohen for the first-time evidence directly connecting Trump to those reimbursements.
  • Cohen describes being Trump’s protector: As Cohen described each media story he killed and nondisclosure agreement he locked down ahead of the 2016 election, it was always in the name of protecting Trump. When it came to the settlement agreement with Daniels, Cohen said he kept control of a document revealing the identities of “David Dennison” and “Peggy Peterson” so that he could protect Trump. And he testified that he used the Essential Consultants LLC to facilitate the payment to Daniels “to protect him and to isolate him from the transaction.” Hoffinger asked Cohen whether he would sometimes bully people. Cohen confirmed he would.
6:02 p.m. ET, May 13, 2024

Michael Cohen took the stand as a key witness in Donald Trump's hush money trial. Here's what he said

Michael Cohen answers questions from prosecutor Susan Hoffinger on Monday. Jane Rosenberg

Michael Cohen took the stand on Monday in Donald Trump’s hush money trial in New York.

When he was Trump’s personal attorney, Cohen made the $130,000 payment to adult film actress Stormy Daniels before the 2016 election. He landed in federal prison over that transaction for breaking campaign finance laws. 
Through previous witnesses’ testimony, jurors have already heard plenty about Cohen. They have painted an unflattering portrait of an aggressive, impulsive and unlikeable attorney. The former “fixer,” now a critical witness, testified about the payment and Trump’s alleged involvement.
Here’s a look at what Cohen said on the stand today:
  • Relationship with Trump: Cohen said he worked directly for Trump, not the general counsel's office at the Trump Organization. He said working with the press was a “portion” of his job and would sometimes call news outlets and ask them to redact or take articles down. Cohen testified that it was required for him to keep Trump updated about his work.
  • On the presidential run: Cohen said Trump was worried about stories about his personal life coming out as he weighed a run for president, with Trump saying, “Just be prepared there’s going to be a lot of women coming forward,” according to Cohen. He testified that he didn’t have a formal role in the 2016 campaign, but he used his press contacts to be a surrogate.
  • The doorman story: Cohen said he learned about the doorman story circulating about Trump having fathered "a love child” and testified Trump told him to “handle it.” He confirmed that the strategy was to take the story “off the market” for $30,000, and Trump was grateful it wouldn’t be published. Cohen said he went to Trump to tell him the agreement was completed, as well as to get credit for executing it. 
  • Karen McDougal: He said Trump told him to make sure the story about former Playboy model Karen McDougal didn’t get released, which he believed meant acquiring it. Cohen recounted a call with Pecker and Trump about the story. When Cohen told Trump the cost of controlling the McDougal story, Cohen testified Trump said, “No problem, I’ll take care of it.” Later, David Pecker, former CEO of the National Enquirer’s parent company, spoke to Cohen and insisted on being reimbursed.
  • "Access Hollywood" tape: When he learned about the video, released by the Washington Post, Cohen said he wanted to "ensure" things were being taken care of properly and that Trump would be protected. He testified that it was Melania Trump’s idea to say the language in the video “was locker room talk.” Cohen recalled thinking the tape would impact women voters.
  • Stormy Daniels: When he initially told Trump about the Stormy Daniels story, Cohen testified that Trump said, “Women are going to hate me” and that it would be “a disaster for the campaign.” Cohen said his former boss told him to work with Pecker to “take care of it.” As the agreement unfolded, Cohen said he kept Trump informed on the deal with Daniels.
  • Timing of Daniel’s payment: Trump wanted the situation with Daniels to be under wraps until after the election “because if I win, it will have no relevance because I'm president. And if I lose, I don't even care,” Trump said, according to Cohen.
  • Making the payment: Cohen said he spoke with Trump twice to get his sign-off before making the payment to Daniels using a company he created, Essential Consultants LLC. He said he would have never gone forward to the bank without Trump’s approval. He testified he also let Trump know he signed the agreement with Daniels.
  • Repayment to Cohen: Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg told Cohen he would be paid $420,000 for Daniel’s payment over 12 months. He testified that the payment series set up for future legal services was actually a reimbursement.
5:01 p.m. ET, May 13, 2024

Trump rails against judge and says there's no crime in remarks outside of Manhattan courthouse

Former President Donald Trump speaks to the press on Monday afternoon. Seth Wenig/Pool/AFP/Getty Images

Donald Trump slammed Judge Juan Merchan and called the hush money trial a "scam" as he left the Manhattan courthouse on Monday.

“This is a scam, I think it’s it’s terrible thing that’s happening to democracy in this country,” Trump said. He then called the case a "rigged deal" and Merchan "conflicted." 

He went on to read comments made by his allies regarding the case.

“There’s no fraud here, there’s no crime here," Trump said.

4:53 p.m. ET, May 13, 2024

Trump's motorcade leaves the courthouse

Donald Trump's motorcade has left the courthouse. His car slowed down so he could wave and flash a thumbs up to supporters gathered outside.

Testimony in Trump's trial continues tomorrow.

4:35 p.m. ET, May 13, 2024

Afternoon sketches show Michael Cohen on the stand as his former boss sits nearby in court

Michael Cohen is questioned by prosecutor Susan Hoffinger on Monday as former President Donald Trump and Judge Juan Merchan look on. Jane Rosenberg

Sketch artists Christine Cornell and Jane Rosenberg have been providing us with courtroom perspectives throughout the trial as cameras are not allowed inside during proceedings.

Here are some of their latest sketches from Michael Cohen’s testimony Monday afternoon:

Prosecutors began questioning Cohen about Stormy Daniels on Monday afternoon. Jane Rosenberg

During his testimony, Cohen recounted his conversation with Trump about the Stormy Daniels story and payment that is at the center of the case. "He expressed to me, just do it," Cohen said. "Meet up with Allen Weisselberg and figure this whole thing out." Christine Cornell

Cohen was once one of Trump’s closest allies, famously pledging years ago that he would “take a bullet” for his then-boss. Jane Rosenberg
More sketches from Cohen's testimony can be seen here.

4:46 p.m. ET, May 13, 2024

The final moments today in the courtroom: Trump stacks his papers and Cohen nods toward jurors

As Judge Juan Merchan gives his daily instructions to the jury, Donald Trump is stacking up his papers and whispering with attorney Todd Blanche.

His hands are folded on the table and he then flips through the papers one more time.

Michael Cohen, for his part, pans the courtroom and then looks down at his hands as Merchan is speaking.

Cohen gives a small smile and nods toward the jurors as Merchan dismisses them for the day.

4:36 p.m. ET, May 13, 2024

The key points of Michael Cohen's testimony about how he was reimbursed for the hush money deal

Michael Cohen is questioned by prosecutor Susan Hoffinger on Monday. Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg is in the foreground. Christine Cornell

Michael Cohen finished the day’s testimony by explaining how he, former Trump Org. CFO Allen Weisselberg and Donald Trump agreed to reimburse him for the $130,000 hush money payment to Stormy Daniels.

After Trump won the election, Cohen pitched Trump on a set up in which he would serve as Trump’s personal attorney for free but would be paid by companies hoping for insights on Trump.

In early January, Cohen went to Weisselberg about being reimbursed for the $130,000 payment, and Weisselberg agreed, Cohen testified. He showed Weisselberg the wire transfer document, and Weisselberg took handwritten notes calculating what Trump owed Cohen based on their conversations.
Weisselberg suggested Cohen take the money as income rather than as untaxed reimbursements, Cohen testified. "I didn’t really think about it. I just wanted to get my money back,” he said.

According to Cohen, they agreed that Trump would pay him $420,000 in all: $130,000 to reimburse him for the payment to Daniels, $50,000 to reimburse him for unrelated tech services, $180,000 to account for estimated taxes and a $60,000 bonus. The payments would be made over 12 months “as like a legal service rendered since I was then going to be given the title of personal attorney to the president,” Cohen testified.

They presented the plan to Trump, and he approved it, Cohen said. The payments were designed to look like future legal services, but they were actually reimbursement for the Daniels’ deal, he testified.

"What (Weisselberg) stated to me is: ‘Each month just send an invoice to us. And just mark down for legal services rendered pursuant to the agreement, and we’ll get you a check out,’" Cohen testified.

Cohen never actually put together a retainer agreement for any future work he'd do for Trump, “because I knew there was going to be no compensation,” he testified.

4:29 p.m. ET, May 13, 2024

Court is breaking for the day

The court is breaking for the day and the jury is leaving the courtroom.

Donald Trump's ex-attorney Michael Cohen is expected to continue to be questioned by prosecutor Susan Hoffinger tomorrow.