Michael Cohen’s testimony unveils Trump’s dark secrets: Timothy L. O’Brien

In the ongoing New York trial, Michael Cohen, former fixer for Donald Trump, is set to expose the darker sides of Trump’s business and political dealings. As a key witness, Cohen’s testimony promises a revealing glimpse into Trump’s questionable actions, including hush-money payments and electoral fraud allegations. Timothy L. O’Brien, says this trial serves as a stark reminder of the importance of integrity and truth in leadership, urging voters to remain vigilant against distortions and make informed choices come election time.

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By Timothy L. O’Brien

Michael Cohen — fixer, confidant and pit bull — is expected to take the witness stand on Monday in the criminal fraud trial of his former taskmaster, Donald Trump.

Cohen will be the jury’s latest tour guide through the seedier reaches of the business and political territories the former president inhabited. Stormy Daniels, a porn actress; David Pecker, a former scandal monger; and Hope Hicks, a spin doctor, have all reminisced about well-documented sexual liaisons Trump allegedly pursued and then masked to protect his 2016 presidential candidacy. Trump has denied all of it.

Cohen comes to the New York courthouse with Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s prosecution nearing its end. As the broker negotiating with Trump (whom Cohen secretly recorded), various Trump Organization employees, Pecker, Hicks, a lawyer representing Daniels and another woman who allegedly had a tryst with Trump, Cohen is one of the few witnesses at the center of the accounting and electoral fraud tragicomedy.

It is uncertain whether a jury will decide that Trump’s machinations amounted to election interference and, even if it does, how severe the penalty will be. But the impact of the New York trial was always going to be measured more by the effect that all of the unsavory testimony may have on moderate and independent voters in this year’s presidential election than on the eventual verdict. The case offers a stark reminder that Trump has the judgment and sexual appetites of a juvenile delinquent and the business acumen of a grifter.

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The New York case is also the least muscular and existentially threatening of the four criminal prosecutions Trump faces. Yet it appears to be the only one that will be tried before Election Day. Judicial ineptitude and bias, a politicized and partisan Supreme Courthorrendous prosecutorial judgment and raw luck have played outsized roles in slowing down the two federal cases (involving the misappropriation of classified documents and the Jan. 6 insurrection) and a state case (for electoral fraud in Georgia).

Judge Aileen Cannon, a Trump appointee, is overseeing the classified documents case in Florida and has routinely appeared to be both out of her depth and determined to impose procedural rulings that largely benefit Trump. The Jan. 6 case found its way to the Supreme Court — and a series of delays — when it agreed to rule on Trump’s expansive claim for presidential immunity from most crimes (including killing a political rival). Although the court has moved with alacrity in the past (see Bush v. Gore) to resolve cases with imminent and significant political implications, it is handling the immunity claim with a troubling lack of urgency and precision. And in Georgia, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis has watched her case get repeatedly delayed after she made the unforced error of pursuing a romantic relationship with a lawyer she hired to prosecute Trump.

So it has come to pass that all of the legal action is now in New York State Supreme Court, with prosecutors passing the narrative baton today to Cohen, someone who could have been drawn from an amusing, disarming episode of The Sopranos.

Cohen, a lawyer, didn’t work for Trump because he was a deft attorney, a skillful accountant or a brilliant money manager. He worked for him because he knew just enough about the law, accounting and greed to help Trump engineer end runs and cover-ups. “I know where the skeletons are buried because I was the one who buried them,” Cohen wrote in Disloyal, a memoir of his Trump years. “I wasn’t just a witness to the President’s rise — I was an active and eager participant.”

“Apart from his wife and children, I knew Trump better than anyone else did,” Cohen wrote. “In some ways, I knew him better than even his family did, because I bore witness to the real man, in strip clubs, shady business meetings, and in the unguarded moments when he revealed who he really was: a cheat, a liar, a fraud, a bully, a racist, a predator, a con man.”

I don’t know. Trump’s universe is full of people — employees, acquaintances, hangers-on, family members and reporters, for example — who all claim to have the most intimate understanding of what makes him tick. Having said that, I have spent more than 30 years covering Trump and spending lots of time with him as a reporter and biographer. I would also describe him as a cheat, a liar, a fraud, a bully, a racist, a predator, and a con man.

Read more: Stormy Daniels rocks Trump trial: Key witness or Achilles heel?

Trump’s attorneys will attack Cohen’s credibility. But pivotal elements of his likely testimony â€” including Trump’s payments to Daniels — have already been corroborated by othersincluding Trump himself. And there are those recordings, some of which also feature Trump. Moreover, everyone involved in the hush-money episode is either disreputable or tainted in some fashion because that’s what the inside of Trumplandia usually looks like. I don’t see jurors caring all that much about the reputational issues that Trump’s lawyers will want to emphasize, but we’ll find out, regardless.

Cohen was certainly deeply involved in papering over Trump’s messier problems. He was also the conduit for payments to paramours that amounted to much more than the comically inexact “legal expenses” Trump has described them to be. There was also chatter from people in Trump’s orbit other than Cohen that the money was meant to forestall an embarrassment that might upend Trump’s 2016 campaign. None of it is very complicated to understand.

All of it, however, was corrosive.

“Trump would say so many things that were illogical or just plain bulls**t, as we consciously would know, but we would stay on his message, even though we knew it was nonsense,” Cohen wrote in Disloyal. “We would repeat what he said, as if it were true, and then we’d repeat the message to one another so often that we would actually begin to believe the distortions ourselves.”

There it is, one elementary lesson Trump’s New York trial has for voters: Don’t let Trump’s distortions ultimately uproot your own values and choices, too. And bear that in mind when visiting the polling booth in November.

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