Michael Cohen Testifies in Trump's NY Civil Fraud Trial

Michael Cohen testified against Donald Trump today in the state AG civil fraud case. The complaint in the case is here.

As expected, Cohen testified Trump purposefully and arbitrarily inflated the worth of his assets. It reminds me of a "paint by numbers" art set, with Trump Org. assets as the painted objects.

“I was tasked by Mr. Trump to increase the total assets based upon a number that he arbitrarily elected,” Mr. Cohen testified, saying that it was his responsibility to “increase those assets in order to achieve the number.”


Mr. Trump, he said, would meet with Mr. Cohen and another lieutenant and direct them to “reverse engineer” the statements to reach his desired net worth — and return to him once they did. The accusation prompted Mr. Trump to toss his head in apparent disbelief. He spent much of the testimony alternately fiddling with his phone and crossing his arms.

The question is whether whether Cohen's testimony will be deemed credible. A more detailed description of his testimony and Team Trump's cross-examination from MSNBC legal analyst Jennifer Rubin, who was in the courtroom, is here.

On cross-examination by Trump attorney Alina Habba, Cohen admitted lying to the federal Judge who took his guilty pleas in 2018. He pleaded guilty to five counts of willful tax evasion; one count of making false statements to a bank; one count of causing an unlawful campaign contribution; and one count of making an excessive campaign contribution.

Today Cohen agreed with Habba that he lied when he told the Judge he was guilty on the tax evasion charges and of lying to the bank to get a home equity line of credit.

Why? He's already done the time. Is the civil division of the IRS coming after him for the taxes he evaded? Is he protecting his father-in-law or others for loans or income related to the disposition of his taxi medallions or real estate investments?

There's a reason the Government refused to give Michael Cohen a "cooperation reduction" at sentencing. It was because he would only discuss the crimes he was charged with, and refused to answer questions about other criminal acts he committed or who he committed them with.

Cohen was well aware of the standard debriefing process in which cooperators in this District regularly participate, and declined to participate. While he answered questions about the charged conduct, he refused to discuss other uncharged criminal conduct, if any, in which he may have participated. This precludes him from being given credit for “substantial assistance” and obtaining a 5K1.1 letter. The Court should not sentence Cohen as if he has one. That is, the credit given to Cohen should not approximate the credit that a witness with a cooperation agreement and a 5K1.1 letter would merit.

On the tax evasion counts, the Government wrote (link above):

For at least half a decade, Cohen willfully evaded paying taxes. Cohen, who himself studied tax in law school and displayed an awareness of complicated tax laws in real estate transactions, took purposeful steps to avoid paying taxes on millions of dollars in income over a five-year period. He made private loans at double-digit interest rates and did not report the millions of dollars in income it generated. The fact that these loans were cash generators was not lost on Cohen: At one point, he offered to sell the loans to other investors. Cohen also failed to report hundreds of thousands of dollars in consulting income and legal work, and underreported payments he received from his ownership of taxi medallions.

...the nature of Cohen’s criminal conduct is apparent from the manner in which he dealt with his own accountant: Cohen provided incomplete information to his accountant, lied about the existence or value of certain assets and income sources, and rebuffed questions that would have revealed income he deliberately concealed.

On the false statements to banks:

To secure loans, Cohen falsely understated the amount of debt he was carrying, and omitted information from his personal financial statements, to induce a bank to lend based on incomplete information. To explain why he submitted a false statement to a bank that failed to disclose more than $20 million in liabilities as well as tens of thousands in monthly expenses, Cohen notes that it was his private banker who provided Cohen with an inaccurate application, which Cohen failed to correct. But this was no mere error of omission: As noted above, Cohen was specifically asked about the omission, and covered it up by misleadingly telling Bank-3 that the liabilities had been expunged, when in fact they had been re-established at another bank.

According to the Government, the Judge had to pull teeth to get Cohen's to admit to the false bank statements.

One of Cohen's arguments at sentencing parallels one Trump has been making in the very civil lawsuit Cohen testified in today -- that no banks lost money, so no harm, no foul. The Government swiftly decimated that argument in a footnote:

In a further attempt at undermining the seriousness of this offense, Cohen observes that there has been no monetary loss to any bank. (Def. Mem. at 18.) Financial loss, however, should not be the only measure of the seriousness of the offense. Cohen’s argument fails to recognize the important federal interest at stake, which is reflected in the purpose and history of 18 U.S.C. § 1014.

Section 1014 was designed to “protect federally insured institutions from losses stemming from false statements or misrepresentations that mislead the institutions into making financial commitments, advances, or loans,” and thereby to “protect the integrity of the system of credit generated and maintained by federally insured banks.” United States v. Zahavi, No. 12 Cr. 288 (JPO), 2012 WL 5288743, at *2 (S.D.N.Y. Oct. 26, 2012).

If borrowers obtain loans based on false information, and cannot fulfill their obligations, that can have tremendous negative effects on lenders and the banking system as a whole.

Similarly, just as Cohen blamed his accountant for his crimes, saying the accountant only asked for expenditures, not income or assets, Trump has blamed his accountants. They had his bank statements -- it was their job, not his, to value his assets.

There is no jury in this case. The judge has already determined that the Trump Org and Donald (and his three eenie-meenie-mighty-mos) commmited fraud by inflating his assets to get favorable treatment from banks and on insurance company premiums. He entered an order barring Trump. Org. from doing further business in New York. (That decision is stayed pending appeal). The question now is supposedly the penalty to be imposed on Trump Org. The AG alleges Trump made over $100 million by lying about the value of his assets.

Attorney General Letitia James is seeking at least $250 million in fines, a permanent ban against Trump and his sons Donald Jr and Eric from running businesses in New York and a five-year commercial real estate ban against Trump and the Trump Organization.

So, is Michael Cohen any more than icing on the cake? He returns to the stand on Wednesday.

< Republicans Nominate Steve Scalise for House Speaker | Trump Former Legal Advisor Jenna Ellis Pleads to Felony in GA Case >
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  • Display: Sort:
    So does Donald! (none / 0) (#1)
    by CaptHowdy on Wed Oct 25, 2023 at 02:14:23 PM EST

    Trump Takes the Witness Stand in Fraud Trial
    October 25, 2023 at 3:01 pm EDT By Taegan Goddard 18 Comments

    "Donald Trump has been fined $10,000 for violating a gag order that prevented him from speaking about those overseeing his civil fraud trial in New York," The Hill reports.

    "In an unexpected twist, Trump was sworn in as a witness to respond to allegations he violated the gag order against him in his fraud case by commenting about a court secretary."

    New York Times: "From the stand, Mr. Trump said that he had not been referring to the clerk, Allison Greenfield... After Mr. Trump left the stand, having testified for about three minutes, the judge, Arthur Engoron, said that he had not found the former president credible and levied the fine."

    You know (5.00 / 4) (#2)
    by Ga6thDem on Wed Oct 25, 2023 at 03:38:26 PM EST
    he has one job and that's to keep his mouth shut. He can't even do that.

    I'm imagining an agitated Emu (none / 0) (#3)
    by CaptHowdy on Wed Oct 25, 2023 at 03:53:20 PM EST
    lots of flapping and squawking

    Trump Storms Out of the Courtroom
    October 25, 2023 at 4:25 pm EDT By Taegan Goddard 82 Comments

    Donald Trump stormed out of the courtroom during testimony from his former attorney and fixer Michael Cohen in a New York civil fraud trial.

    Said Trump: "The witness just admitted that we won the trial. And the judge should end this trial immediately."

    NBC News reports his Secret Service agents were caught off-guard and chased after him as he abruptly left the room.

    Even the (5.00 / 1) (#5)
    by Ga6thDem on Wed Oct 25, 2023 at 07:17:35 PM EST
    criminal indictments didn't get him this flapped but then his whole identity is wrapped up in his net worth and when it's found that his organization is basically vaporware, there's no telling what he might do.

    He is (none / 0) (#4)
    by CaptHowdy on Wed Oct 25, 2023 at 03:53:57 PM EST
    I unraveling

    A reporter (none / 0) (#6)
    by Ga6thDem on Wed Oct 25, 2023 at 08:22:52 PM EST
    asked Cohen what he saw and he said a broken man.

    Trump is too stupid to realize that the mob boss doesn't get into a fight with the consigliere.