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Manhattan DA defends potential Michael Cohen testimony at Trump’s criminal trial

"Michael Cohen is a liar," Trump's attorneys claimed last week in an effort to keep the former lawyer from testifying.

MANHATTAN (CN) — Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg on Tuesday rebuked attempts from Donald Trump’s lawyers to exclude possible testimony from Michael Cohen in the former president’s upcoming criminal trial in New York City.

“In an argument that reads more like a press release than a legal filing, defendant makes the obviously unsupportable request that the court preclude one of the people's witnesses from testifying at trial on the ground that defendant anticipates that he will disbelieve the witness's expected testimony,” wrote Matthew Colangelo, senior counsel to the district attorney, in a Tuesday court filing.

Trump is facing charges that he falsified records at the Trump Organization to cover orup money he paid to Cohen, his former lawyer and fixer, in 2017. Prosecutors claim the now-disbarred Cohen was paid for facilitating hush money payments to two women to keep them quiet about supposed extramarital sexual relationships with Trump while he was running for president.

Last week, Trump’s attorneys tried to block Cohen from testifying at the upcoming trial. In a court filing, they attacked Cohen’s credibility, calling him a “liar” and claiming that he committed perjury in Trump’s recent civil case.

“The people should be precluded from suborning Michael Cohen’s perjury,” Trump attorney Todd Blanche wrote in the document. “He recently committed perjury, on the stand and under oath, at a civil trial involving President Trump. If his public statements are any indication, he plans to do so again at this criminal trial.”

Prosecutors called this assertion “intentionally inflammatory and totally meritless” in their Tuesday filing.

“The people expect Cohen’s testimony at trial to be both true and corroborated, including by extensive documentary evidence, the testimony of other witnesses, and defendant’s own statements,” Colangelo wrote.

Cohen gave damning testimony at Trump’s civil fraud trial, where he told the court that Trump instructed him to lie on annual statements of financial condition.

Despite Cohen admitting to lying under oath in the past, a New York judge in this case determined that Cohen was telling the truth.

“Although the animosity between the witness and the defendant is palpable, providing Cohen with an incentive to lie, the court found his testimony credible,” wrote New York Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron in a February ruling, which found Trump and his co-defendants liable for fraud.

Engoron added that he doesn't believe that “pleading guilty to perjury means that you can never tell the truth.” Bragg’s office suggested the same on Tuesday.

“Among other things, Cohen will testify that he pleaded guilty to making false statements in the past in connection with unrelated matters. But a witness’s prior false statements are not a basis for precluding that witness from testifying in a new proceeding, and defendant does not cite a single case that so holds,” Colangelo wrote.

Trump’s lawyers also tried to block testimony from Stormy Daniels, the adult film star Trump is accused of paying off in the case, by claiming that she “intends to offer false, salacious, and unduly prejudicial testimony.”

“Similar to Cohen, she seeks to tell contrived stories with salacious details of events she claimed occurred nearly 20 years ago, which have no place at a trial involving the types of charges at issue,” Trump’s lawyers claimed in last week’s filing.

Bragg’s office chided that “sweeping” request, too.

“As with defendant’s baseless attempt to preclude testimony from Michael Cohen, this argument relies on improper speculation that — even under this court’s supervision — Daniels will provide nothing more than irrelevant or prejudicial trial testimony,” Colangelo added.

Justice Juan Merchan, the judge presiding over the upcoming trial, has yet to issue a ruling on Trump’s demands.

Trump has long denied the alleged affair with Daniels and pleaded not guilty to the hush money charges last April. He’s also repeatedly accused Bragg’s office of bringing the charges as a way to hurt his presidential chances come November.

“How can you run for an election when you're sitting at a courthouse in Manhattan?" Trump, the current Republican frontrunner, said outside Merchan’s courtroom last month.

The trial is set to begin on March 25 in Manhattan’s criminal courthouse. It’s the first of four criminal trials Trump is expected to face, and the first criminal trial for any former president in U.S. history.

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Categories / Criminal, Politics

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