Pivotal moment in Trump hush money trial as star witness Cohen takes the stand

The fifth week of court proceedings in Donald Trump’s hush money trial kicked off with the prosecution’s star witness taking the stand. Michael Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer and personal fixer, is by far the Manhattan district attorney’s most important witness in the case, and his testimony could help shape the outcome of the first criminal case against an American president. Cohen’s appearance also signals that the trial is entering its final stretch and prosecutors say they may wrap up their presentation of evidence by the end of the week.

Cohen is expected to testify about his role in arranging hush money payments on Trump’s behalf during his first presidential campaign. Prosecutors allege that Trump falsified business records to cover up his $130,000 reimbursement to Cohen for paying off adult film star Stormy Daniels. Daniels told jurors last week that the $130,000 that she received in 2016 was meant to prevent her from going public about a sexual encounter she says she had with Trump in a hotel suite a decade earlier. Trump has denied the affair and pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Cohen’s testimony is also extremely crucial as a witness with intimate knowledge of Trump’s activities. This could heighten the legal exposure of the presumptive Republican presidential nominee if jurors deem Cohen sufficiently credible. Politically, the prosecutors’ reliance on a witness with such a checkered past could be a boon for Trump as he fundraises off his legal woes and paints the case as the product of a tainted criminal justice system.

Either way, his role as star prosecution witness further cements the disintegration of a mutually beneficial relationship. The two were once so close that Cohen famously said he’d “take a bullet for Trump”, only to later flip on him by pleading guilty to federal campaign finance charges in which he implicated Trump.

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