Trump ‘Looked Most Like a Criminal’ During Cohen Testimony: Legal Analyst

Donald Trump “looked most like a criminal” during the testimony of his former lawyer, Michael Cohen, in his hush money trial, according to a legal expert.

Ari Melber, an MSNBC host and legal analyst, suggested that the evidence put forward by the prosecution’s star witness during Monday’s falsifying business records proceedings was damning for the former president amid ongoing questions about the strength of the criminal case.

Trump has pleaded not guilty to 34 felony counts of falsifying business records in relation to hush money he arranged for Cohen to pay adult film star Stormy Daniels to keep an alleged affair she had with Trump a secret in the run-up to the 2016 election. The money was listed in Trump’s company records as Cohen’s legal fees, which prosecutors suggest was part of an unlawful attempt to conceal the payment in order to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential race.

While answering questions under oath, Cohen described how Trump directed him to keep negative stories from coming out that might damage his 2016 White House hopes, and that he personally approved the $130,000 payment to Daniels.

Donald Trump at Manhattan Criminal Court on May 13, 2024, in New York City. MSNBC’s Ari Melber said Trump “looked most like a criminal” during Michael Cohen’s testimony.

Mark Peterson-Pool/Getty Images

Speaking to MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, Melber said: “There have been days where defendant Trump looked unseemly, certainly did not look relatable, looked untrustworthy.

“I thought today with Michael Cohen and the way they did this testimony, this is the day that Donald Trump looked most like a criminal.

“I thought it was a very bad day for him because his own lawyer, who famously went to prison, very clearly provided the timeline of a proactive plan to allegedly commit a crime,” Melber added.

Trump’s office has been contacted for comment via email.

During Monday’s proceedings, Cohen testified that Trump told him to the delay paying Daniels “as long as you can, past the election, because if I win, I’ll be president, and if I lose, I wont really care.”

The jury members were shown handwritten bank statements detailing a $130,000 wire transfer to Cohen. The note featured then Trump Organization Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg’s handwriting showing the sum had been “grossed up” to $360,000 so Cohen would avoid federal taxes.

Former Trump Organization controller Jeffrey McConney had previously testified that he spoke with Weisselberg about “grossing up” the payment for Cohen to cover taxes.

Norm Eisen, who interviewed Cohen under his role as a special counsel to the House Judiciary Committee during Trump’s first impeachment, said Cohen managed to “exceed expectations” when he took the stand on Monday.

“Cohen was natural and credible, and he also benefited from the prosecution’s careful strategy of bolstering his claims with corroborated evidence presented to the jury today as well as in the weeks leading up to it,” Eisen told Newsweek.

“While we still have the cross-examination to go, Cohen’s testimony so far is a win for the D.A. in their attempt to tie Trump to the schemes at the center of this trial.”

The defense is expected to try and paint Cohen as an unreliable witness during cross-examination due to his history of public falsehoods, including previously pleading guilty to lying to Congress in connection with a real estate deal the former president’s company was pursuing in Russia during the 2016 campaign.

Elsewhere, Maddow asked Melber whether Cohen, who has become a vocal critic of the former president, has a “glass jaw” in relation to how easily Trump’s lawyers could break down his credibility to the jury.

“Not glass, but maybe recently smelt clay,” Melber replied. “He has some holes and I think they will get to that.

“The issue for Michael Cohen on cross will be overall credibility, because they will get into the criminal record and the story did change, and then raising doubt that he might have gone rogue.

“That ‘he went rogue’ story is far-fetched, but they don’t need to prove it. They just need to raise the doubt that it could be true.”