Cohen to Testify Before Trump “Hush Money” Grand Jury

March 13, 2023

Former President Trump’s ex-attorney and so-called “fixer” Michael Cohen is set to testify Monday before the Manhattan grand jury that’s investigating Trump’s role in paying hush money to the adult film actress known as “Stormy Daniels.”

“This is not revenge,” Cohen told reporters upon arriving at the courthouse alongside his attorneys. Dismissing a suggestion from reporters that he might be motivated by a desire to see Trump behind bars, he added, “This is all about accountability. He needs to be held accountable for his dirty deeds.”

He further asserted that his “goal” is “to tell the truth.”

Cohen’s grand jury testimony comes after he has met with prosecutors in the Manhattan District Attorney’s office at least 19 times.

Cohen pleaded guilty in federal court in 2018 for arranging a nondisclosure agreement for which he paid Daniels $130,000, a campaign contribution violation during the 2016 election cycle since the payment was made in service of the Trump campaign and exceeded the federal limit.

The former Trump fixer has asserted that he paid the hush money out of his own personal funds, then was reimbursed by the Trump Organization and also paid extra bonuses for a total that eventually rose to $420,000.

On January 30, it was reported that D.A. Alvin Bragg’s office would begin presenting evidence to the grand jury. This past Friday, Trump attorney Joseph Tacopina confirmed that the former President had been invited to testify before that grand jury, leading to suspicions that Bragg is seeking an indictment; potential defendants have the right to answer questions in the grand jury before they are indicted, although they rarely testify.

Trump has not been subpoenaed, and on Monday Tacopina said on ABC, “We have no plans on participating in this proceeding.” Then he added, “It’s a decision that needs to be made still. There’s been no deadline set, so we’ll wait and see.”

It’s also not clear what charges prosecutors might be exploring, but legal experts have surmised that one potential crime could be the way the payments to Cohen were structured and falsely classified internally as being for a legal retainer. New York has a law against falsifying business records, but it’s a misdemeanor—unless the falsifying of records is done in conjunction with a more serious felony.

Cohen is not the only former high-profile Trump staffer who’s been questioned by D.A. Alvin Bragg’s office. Trump’s 2016 campaign press secretary and White House communications director Hope Hicks met with Manhattan prosecutors last Monday. And former Trump White House adviser KellyAnne Conway met with Manhattan prosecutors last Wednesday. 

Trump, who has announced he’s running for reelection in 2024, has long asserted that Manhattan prosecutors are engaged in a “witch hunt.” He has also called Bragg, who is Black, a politically motivated “racist.” On his Truth Social social media site Thursday Trump denied having an affair with Daniels, and characterized Bragg’s investigation as part of a wider conspiracy to bring him down.

PHOTO credit:  “The Circus,” SHOWTIME

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