Michael Cohen says Trump directed hush money payments during 2016 presidential campaign

FILE-A side-by-side photo of Donald Trump and Michael Cohen. (Getty Images)

Key things to know:

  • The fourth week of witness testimony in Donald Trump's hush money trial starts Monday, with his former lawyer and personal fixer Michael Cohen taking the stand.
  • The former president is accused of falsifying internal business records to cover up hush money payments by logging them as legal expenses. He has pleaded not guilty to 34 felony counts.
  • Prosecutors have spent weeks building up a case that largely hinges on record-keeping. 
FILE - Michael Cohen, former personal lawyer to US President Donald Trump, arrives at federal court in New York, on Dec. 14, 2023. Photographer: Yuki Iwamura/Bloomberg via Getty Images

FILE - Michael Cohen, former personal lawyer to US President Donald Trump, arrives at federal court in New York, on Dec. 14, 2023. Photographer: Yuki Iwamura/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Donald Trump's hush money trial reached a pivotal moment Monday when Trump's onetime loyal attorney and fixer, Michael Cohen, took the witness stand to testify against his former boss.

Cohen is providing jurors with an insider's account of hush money payments at the center of the trial — payments he says were directed by Trump to fend off damage to his 2016 White House bid, the Associated Press reported. 

Cohen is expected be on the stand for several days and face intense cross-examination by Trump's attorneys, who have characterized him as a liar who's trying to take down the presumptive Republican presidential nominee. Trump has denied any wrongdoing in the case.

The former president is accused of falsifying internal business records to cover up hush money payments that Cohen made as part of efforts to buy and bury stories that might hurt the former president's 2016 campaign.

RELATED: Could Trump really go to jail? Does he expect to?

Prosecutors have spent weeks building up a case that largely hinges on record-keeping. Witnesses, text messages, notes and audio recordings have taken center stage to illustrate what prosecutors have said was a scheme to illegally influence the 2016 presidential election by buying and burying negative stories that might hurt Trump's campaign, according to the Associated Press. 

The prosecution could wrap up its case this week after telling the judge on Friday that they expected to call just two more witnesses.

The trial is in its 16th day.

Here is a recap of Monday's testimony:

4:50 p.m. ET: Trump speaks after court

After court wrapped, Donald Trump approached reporters in the hallway and read out quotes from pundits critical of the case, as he has done some prior days.

Among those he quoted was Sen. JD Vance of Ohio, who was among the Republican officials who came to support him at the courthouse earlier in the day.

4:45 p.m. ET: Court has adjourned for the day

Michael Cohen will return to the witness stand on Tuesday.

4:30 p.m. ET: A hands-on boss

Michael Cohen portrayed Trump as deeply involved in the details and decisions of his company, the Trump Organization.

Prosecutors throughout the trial have been trying to elicit such testimony to support the idea that Trump would have known about the payment to Daniels and subsequent reimbursement to Cohen.

Cohen testified that Trump wanted to be updated immediately about any developments regarding the tasks he assigned. Cohen said Trump had an "open-door policy" so executives could meet him in his office, without appointment, and keep him apprised of developments.

"When he would task you with something, he would then say, ‘Keep me informed,’ ‘Let me know what’s going on,’" Cohen testified. That was especially true "if there was a matter that was troubling to him."

If Trump "learned of it in another manner, that wouldn’t go over well for you," Cohen testified.

4:15 p.m. ET: Michael Cohen met with Allen Weisselberg to discuss his reimbursement

As Michael Cohen seethed over his slashed bonus and not being repaid for the $130,000 he shelled out to Stormy Daniels, he said Trump called him and assured him he’d "take care of it."

Cohen recalled Trump calling him while he was on a holiday vacation in December 2016. He said the then president-elect told him: "Don’t worry about that other thing, I’m going to take care of it when you get back."

Cohen said he then met with the Trump Organization’s longtime CFO Allen Weisselberg to discuss getting paid back for the Daniels payment, the Associated Press reported. 

"I, of course, brought it up to Mr. Weisselberg to ask, ‘When am I getting the money back?’" Cohen testified. "He said, ‘Let’s sit down, let’s meet, let’s do it.’"

Cohen said Weisselberg asked him to provide a copy of the bank statement showing the $130,000 transfer to Daniels’ lawyer.

Cohen said Weisselberg then wrote out various amounts on the statement, including the $130,000 reimbursement, $50,000 for another expense he said he incurred for technology services, plus a $60,000 bonus.

Cohen said Weisselberg suggested he take the money as income rather than a tax-free reimbursement and added additional funds — know as grossing up — to cover his tax bill.

Looking at the note in court Cohen testified, "I recognize his handwriting but I was also in the room when he was writing it."

4:05 p.m. ET: ‘You know Mr. Trump loves you. We’re going to do right by you’

Michael Cohen testified that he did a double take when Trump’s longtime executive assistant Rhona Graff handed him a Christmas card containing that year’s bonus check — as was tradition at the Trump Organization — and saw his usual amount had been cut by two-thirds, despite all he had done and the $130,000 payment.

"I couldn’t believe it," he said describing himself as "pissed off," "beyond angry" and "personally insulted."

"I was truly insulted. Personally hurt by it. Didn’t understand it. Made no sense," he said. "It was insulting that the gratitude shown back to me was to cut the bonus by two-thirds."

Cohen said he took the issue to company CFO Allen Weisselberg. laying into him with "quite a few expletives."

Weisselberg, he said, advised him to calm down and said he’d take care of it.

"Take it easy. You know Mr. Trump loves you. We’re going to do right by you," he recalled Weisselberg saying.

4:00 p.m. ET: Trump won election, Michael Cohen lost his job

After Donald Trump won the election, Cohen knew his role as Trump’s personal fixer wasn’t going to last. But given his unique relationship to the president-elect, Cohen figured he might be considered for one of the most prestigious jobs in the White House: chief of staff.

"I just wanted my name to have been included," Cohen testified, even as he acknowledged he was likely not "competent" enough for the role. "It was more about my ego than anything."

Instead, Cohen was offered a position as assistant chief counsel, which he turned down.

He then pitched Trump on the role of being his "personal attorney," compiling a memo on his credentials and bringing in another attorney well-versed in presidential history to highlight the importance of the job.

3:50 p.m. ET: Michael Cohen said he spoke to Trump before The Wall Street Journal published its story

Before the break, Michael Cohen testified about a conversation he had with Trump before The Wall Street Journal’s hush money article was published. He said he spoke to Trump via his bodyguard’s phone, the Associated Press reported. 

"This was a real serious — again — problem," he said in court of the situation.

Cohen said that he relayed to Trump that everyone would be on board to deny the story and protect him.

But Trump, Cohen said, was nonetheless upset "because there was a negative story" that could damage the campaign.

3:30 p.m. ET: Before the Karen McDougal story was released, Michael Cohen spearheaded a preemptive damage control operation

When Michael Cohen found out the Wall Street Journal would be publishing a story days before the election about the National Enquirer’s catch-and-kill efforts, he said he held a series of calls to coordinate strategy and figure out how to "change the narrative" and deal with the fallout, the Associated Press reported. 

Among the people he spoke with, he said, were Trump’s campaign communications director Hope Hicks, then-National Enquirer publisher David Pecker and Keith Davidson, a lawyer who represented Karen McDougal and Stormy Daniels in their hush money deals.

Hicks sent Cohen a series of four different response options in an email shown in court that the campaign was considering releasing to reporters. The proposed responses, which were shown in court, included painting it as an "attempt by the liberal elite to disparage Donald Trump."

Cohen said he contacted Davidson to make sure that "Ms. Daniels did not go rogue."

The Wall Street Journal article published on Nov. 4, 2016, just four days before Election Day. The newspaper reported that the National Enquirer had paid Karen McDougal $150,000 to bury her claim of an affair with Trump.

3:10 p.m. ET: Michael Cohen wanted credit for completing his job

On Oct. 27, 2016, less than two weeks before the 2016 election, Michael Cohen finalized the payments to buy Stormy Daniels’ story.

Immediately, he went to Trump to inform him the deal was done.

"The task he gave to me was finished, accomplished and done," Cohen testified, before pointing to a second reason for updating his boss: "to take credit for myself so that he knew I had done it and finished it, because this was important."

2:45 p.m. ET: Michael Cohen’s testimony ties together the prosecutor’s web of evidence

Michael Cohen is testifying to the significance of the many phone logs, text messages and emails that have been shown to jurors throughout the trial, according to the Associated Press. 

Among them: a call just after 8 p.m. on Oct. 24, 2016, from Cohen to Trump’s bodyguard, Keith Schiller.

Asked to explain, Cohen testified that he needed to speak with Trump "to discuss the Stormy Daniels matter and the resolution of it" and he knew that Schiller would be with him.

Another call from Cohen to then-Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg was logged in a cell carrier’s records as at 7:25 p.m. on Oct. 25, 2016. Cohen said that call also "had to do with the Stormy Daniels matter."

Asked by a prosecutor if there was any urgency, given that the call happened after normal business hours, Cohen responded: "significant urgency."

That same day, a prosecutor noted, Cohen had a flurry of calls with then-National Enquirer publisher David Pecker on the encrypted messaging app Signal.

Cohen said he was speaking with Pecker about the Daniels deal — and even made a failed, last-ditch effort to get the publisher to foot the hush-money bill. As for the volume of calls, Cohen explained: "Signal is terrible with keeping phone calls. They drop all the time."

Two days later, Cohen made the hush money payment through the bank account of the company he created, wiring $130,000 to Daniels’ lawyer, Keith Davidson.

2:40 p.m. ET: Michael Cohen hid payments from his wife, aka the ‘CEO of the household’

After Michael Cohen agreed to front the money to keep the story from coming out, he still had one more bit of deception: making sure his wife, whom he called the "CEO of the household," didn’t find out.

To do so, he took out a home equity line of credit, in part because the bank would send him updates electronically, rather than to his home, keeping his wife out of the loop.

"I clearly could not tell her and that would’ve been a problem for me" if she found out, he said. He figured he could easily return the money once Trump paid him back. "Nobody would be the wiser," he added.

2:30 p.m. ET: ‘Everything required Mr. Trump’s sign off’

Michael Cohen said that before he went to First Republic Bank to open up the account that would be used to pay Daniels, he had one last conversation with Trump in which he informed the candidate of what he was doing.

"Everything required Mr. Trump’s sign off," Cohen testified, adding that. "On top of that, I wanted the money back."

2:25 p.m. ET: With the story about to come out, Michael Cohen said Trump finally told him to pay up

"He expressed to me: Just do it," Michael Cohen testified, saying Trump advised him to meet with CFO Allen Weisselberg and figure it out.

Cohen said that he suggested Weisselberg offer up the money, given his seven-figure salary. But Weisselberg, Cohen recounted, "said that he wasn’t in the financial position to do," with obligations to pay for his grandkids’ summer camps and private schools, the Associated Press reported. 

So Cohen made a decision.

"I ultimately said, ‘OK, I’ll pay it.’"

2:20 p.m. ET: Trump’s desire to delay paying Stormy Daniels put him at risk of ‘losing control of the story’

Stormy Daniels’ then-lawyer, Keith Davidson, emailed Cohen on Oct. 17, 2016, saying that Daniels was canceling the deal because she hadn’t been paid. There were also indications Daniels was looking to tell her story to another news outlet.

Shortly thereafter, phone records show, Cohen called Trump, though the call lasted only eight seconds. Cohen said the call went to voicemail and he left a message for Trump.

Cohen testified that he called "in order to advise him of this situation."

"Because I didn’t forward the funds, she has now declared the agreement void and we would not be in a position to delay it post-election, like he had wanted to do."

That same day, Cohen said then-National Enquirer editor Dylan Howard told him in a text message that Daniels may have been shopping her story to another news outlet. The text message was shown in court.

The next day, Cohen testified, he received a text message from Trump’s wife, Melania, asking him to call Trump.

"Good morning Michael, can u pls call DT on his cell. Thanks," the message shown in court said.

2:10 p.m. ET: Michael Cohen admits to misleading the bank

Michael Cohen said he knew that he’d have to mask the true purpose of the bank account that he opened to pay the money to Stormy Daniels.

"I’m not sure they would’ve opened it," he continued, "if it stated: to pay off an adult film star for a nondisclosure agreement."

Indeed, earlier in the trial, an employee at First Republic Bank testified that they had specific rules about becoming involved with people in certain industries, including porn.

So, Cohen initially said his account was for a new limited liability corporation called Resolution Consultants. But then, Cohen said, "It dawned on me. It’s the name of the company of someone I know."

Soon after, Cohen changed the name of the account to Essential Consultants.

2:00 p.m. ET: Michael Cohen used Yom Kippur as an excuse to delay payments to Stormy Daniels

Following the lunch break, Michael Cohen said he used the Jewish high holiday of Yom Kippur — the day of atonement — as one of many excuses to delay completing the $130,000 hush money deal with Stormy Daniels, the Associated Press reported. 

Cohen testified that Trump implored him to delay finalizing the transaction and paying Daniels until after election day so he wouldn’t have to pay her.

"Because after the election it wouldn’t matter," Cohen testified.

"According to who?" prosecutor Susan Hoffinger asked.

"Mr. Trump," Cohen replied.

Cohen testified that he and Daniels’ lawyer Keith Davidson had come to terms on an agreement by Oct. 11, 2016, just days after they’d started negotiating.

The next day, Davidson emailed Cohen: "We good?"

Cohen responded that since it was Yom Kippur "the office is for all purposes closed" but that he was available for the next three hours by phone if necessary.

Davidson then replied that it wasn’t necessary to speak, that they’d connect the next day, and that Cohen should have "all the executed documents."

1:06 p.m. ET: ‘This is a disaster’

Michael Cohen relayed Trump’s reaction to news of the Daniels accusation right on the heels of the "Access Hollywood" tape.

Trump, he said, "was really angry," telling Cohen, "I thought you had this under control. I thought you took care of this."

"He said to me, ‘This is a disaster, total disaster. Women are going to hate me. Women will hate me. Guys, they think it’s cool, but this is going to be a disaster for the campaign," Cohen testified, noting Trump was polling "very poorly with women" at the time.

Cohen said Trump advised him to work with Pecker to deal with the matter.

When asking Trump how the story would impact his wife, Melania, Cohen testified the then-candidate responded, "Don’t worry," adding: "How long do you think I’ll be on the market for? Not long."

That, he said, led him to conclude, "This was all about the campaign."

Trump did not visibly respond as Cohen spoke.

1:05 p.m. ET: Cohen advised Trump when Stormy Daniels allegations appeared in 2011

Michael Cohen testified that he first spoke with Trump about Stormy Daniels in 2011 after a gossip website published an article alleging the two had a sexual encounter.

Trump said he knew Daniels and that she was "a beautiful woman," using the same adjective he had used for McDougal. He didn’t respond when asked if he’d had sex with her, Cohen testified.

Trump said he’d met Daniels at a celebrity golf outing in 2006 and that she had taken a liking to him — even in a room full of football players like Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, among other stars.

Trump, Cohen said, told him, "She likes Mr. Trump and that women prefer Mr. Trump even over someone like Big Ben!"
Nevertheless, Cohen said Trump took him up on his offer to get the story taken down.

"Absolutely. Do it. Take care of it," Cohen recalled Trump saying.

Cohen later worked with lawyer Keith Davidson, who later represented Daniels in the 2016 hush money deal, to get the story taken down.

12:55 p.m. ET: ‘He is dying right now’

Michael Cohen testified that he thought the "Access Hollywood" tape would be damaging to the Trump campaign, especially among women.

After the tape was released, Text messages between Cohen and then-CNN anchor Chris Cuomo showed that Cuomo asked Cohen whether he intended to defend the then-candidate on TV.

Cohen wrote that he was traveling in London and had been asked to begin doing interviews when he returned to New York.

"Will be too late. He is dying right now," Cuomo responded.

12:50 p.m. ET: Trump wanted Michael Cohen to ‘get control over’ the ‘Access Hollywood’ tape

Michael Cohen said he became aware of the "Access Hollywood" tape after the campaign was contacted for comment by a Washington Post reporter.

He said he immediately reached out to Steve Bannon, who was then a senior campaign official, to see how they were handling things.

"I wanted to ensure that things were properly being taken care of to protect Mr. Trump," Cohen testified.

He said he later spoke with Trump, who advised him to try to "get control over the story" and "minimize its impact." According to Cohen, Trump wanted him to cast the story as "locker room talk" — a term he suggested might have been recommended by former first lady Melania Trump.

12:45 p.m. ET: Michael Cohen gave Trump a ‘complete and total update’ on the Karen McDougal story

Michael Cohen recounted the call as a prosecutor, Susan Hoffinger, showed jurors cell phone call records detailing a seven-minute-and-14-second call between Cohen and Trump on Sept. 29, 2016, according to the Associated Press. 

That was the day before Cohen was to sign an agreement to acquire the rights.

Cohen said he spoke to Trump "in order to let him know that it was being taken care of … and that it was being resolved."

Cohen testified that he personally had no interest in acquiring the rights to McDougal’s story, telling jurors: "What I was doing was at the direction of and benefit of Mr. Trump."

Ultimately, then-National Enquirer publisher David Pecker backed out of the deal, Cohen said.

Cohen recalled Pecker telling him it was no longer necessary for Trump to reimburse American Media Inc. for the cost because an issue of Men’s Health magazine — one of the company’s other publications — that featured McDougal on the cover had sold far better than the company had anticipated.

"He felt it was, even for the $150,000, it was an excellent business deal," Cohen said of Pecker.

12:40 p.m. ET: Allen Weisselberg wanted a "barrier" between payments and the Trump Organization

As he worked to secure funding for the $150,000 payment, Michael Cohen said he received guidance from Allen Weisselberg, then the Trump Organization’s CFO: "Allen then said to me, if we do it from a Trump entity that kind of defeats the purpose because the point is not to have the Trump name affiliated with this at all," Cohen said he was told. He added that Weisselberg wanted to "really create a barrier."

The conversation with Weisselberg happened right after he briefed Trump about the deal to acquire McDougal’s story from the National Enquirer, Cohen testified.

12:35 p.m. ET: Michael Cohen testifies secret recording is real and unaltered

In response to two questions by the prosecutor, Michael Cohen affirmed that the recording he’d secretly made of Trump was not altered and sounded exactly the same as the day it was recorded. The questions were meant to elicit a response to an argument previously raised by the defense, accusing Cohen of altering the tape.

Earlier in the trial, Trump’s attorneys pressed a technical witness about the "gaps" in the handling of the phone after Cohen made the recording, along with the abrupt cut-off at the end of the tape — which Cohen said was the result of an incoming call from a bank official.

12:30 p.m. ET: Michael Cohen’s recorded conversation with Trump

Michael Cohen testified that the recorded conversation played in court was the only one he had ever made between him and Trump.

Cohen said he made the recording "so I could show it to David Pecker and that way he would hear the conversation and he would know that we’re going to be paying him back, that Mr. Trump was going to be paying him back."

Cohen testified that the recording abruptly cut off because he was receiving an incoming call to his phone, a claim substantiated by cell phone carrier records shown in court. Referencing his contact list, Cohen said the number listed in the carrier records belonged to a bank official who was trying to get ahold of him.

Cohen testified Monday that he didn’t feel he needed to record any more of the conversation, anyway.

"I didn’t want to record more," Cohen testified. "I already had enough to show David Pecker as to convince him that he was going to receive the $150,000 back."

Cohen testified that after the recording cut off, he told Trump that he was going to go to Weisselberg’s office to discuss the plan further and that he would get back to Trump with an update.

12:20 p.m. ET: Michael Cohen sought ‘separation’ between Trump and the McDougal deal

Jurors heard for the second time an audio recording Cohen surreptitiously made of himself briefing Trump in September 2016 about a plan to buy the rights to McDougal’s story from the National Enquirer, according to the Associated Press. 

This time, they had Cohen on the witness stand narrating and annotating the recording as it was being played.

After playing the nearly three-minute recording all the way through, Assistant District Attorney Susan Hoffinger stopped the tape at certain intervals for Cohen to describe what was happening and who he was talking about.

"I need to open up a company for the transfer of all of that info regarding our friend, David," Cohen is heard saying in the recording, which he said he made using the Voice Memos app on his iPhone.

Cohen testified that he wanted to set up a company for the transaction "in order to have separation" between Trump and the deal. He said "all of that info" included not just McDougal’s story, but anything else about Trump that might have been in American Media Inc.’s files.

As the recording continued, Cohen is heard telling Trump, "I’ve spoken to Allen Weisselberg about how to set the whole thing up."

Trump replies, "So, what do we got to pay for this? One-fifty?"

Weisselberg was the Trump Organization’s longtime chief financial officer. "Every penny that came in or out went through Allen’s office," Cohen testified.

Cohen is then heard talking about financing the deal, which on Monday he noted was an error and that what he really meant was funding. Trump is then heard talking about paying in cash, or "green" as Cohen described it on the witness stand — which he testified would have been another way to avoid a paper trail.

When the recording was first played in full, before he was asked for his insights, Cohen shook his head and pulled his glasses off as the September 2016 audio recording played and a transcript was shown on a monitor in front of him. He then took a swig of water and put his fingers to his lips as Trump’s recorded voice was heard booming in the courtroom.

12:10 p.m. ET: Files related to Trump were in a ‘file drawer or a locked drawer’

After the National Enquirer shelled out $150,000 to suppress Karen McDougal’s story about Donadl Trump, Michael Cohen testified that the tabloid’s publisher was hounding him to get Trump to reimburse him for the cost, the Associated Press reported. 

"It was too much money for him to hide from the CEO of the parent company" and he’d already laid out $30,000 for the doorman story, Cohen testified. He recounted meeting Pecker at his favorite Italian restaurant and the publisher being upset about not being repaid.

Cohen said at some point Pecker had also expressed to him that his company, American Media Inc., had a "file drawer or a locked drawer as he described it, where files related to Mr. Trump were located."

Cohen said he was concerned because Pecker’s relationship with Trump went back years and that Pecker was in the running to head another media company. Cohen feared what would happen to the files if Pecker left.

He said Trump also shared those concerns.

12:00 p.m. ET: Everyone has everything under control

Michael Cohen recounted a conversation he heard between Trump and Pecker as the McDougal negotiations progressed.

Cohen testified that he was with Trump as the then-presidential candidate spoke to Pecker on speakerphone in his Trump Tower office.

"He asked him how things were going with the matter, and David said, ‘We have this under control and we’ll take care of this,’" Cohen testified.

Answering a prosecutor’s follow-up question, Cohen said Trump and Pecker also discussed how much it would cost to suppress McDougal’s story.

"David stated it would cost $150,000 to control the story," Cohen said. He said Trump then told the publisher: "No problem. I’ll take care of it."

Prior to the Trump-Pecker call, Cohen testified that he’d had his own call with the National Enquirer’s Pecker and Howard, who had just flown to Los Angeles to meet with McDougal.

"I’ll get this locked down for you and I won’t let it out of my grasp," Cohen recalled Howard telling him.

11:55 a.m. ET: Michael Cohen helped bury Trump’s alleged affair with Playboy model Karen McDougal

Michael Cohen testified that he went to Trump immediately after the National Enquirer alerted him about a story being peddled that alleged Trump had had an affair with former Playboy model Karen McDougal, the Associated Press noted. 

Cohen recalled going to Trump’s office, telling him, "Hey boss, I gotta talk to you," and asking Trump if he knew McDougal or anything about the story.

"His response to me was, ‘She’s really beautiful,’" Cohen testified.

Cohen said Trump then told him, "Make sure it doesn’t get released."

Cohen said he communicated regularly with Pecker and Howard at the National Enquirer to stop the story from getting out. He said the tabloid executives updated him regularly on their discussions and that he kept Trump apprised of developments.

Cohen said he thought the story would have a "significant" impact on Trump’s campaign if it were published.

The McDougal news came on the heels of the National Enquirer paying $30,000 to squash a doorman’s rumor about Trump, which Cohen claims he helped craft.

11:45 a.m. ET: Michael Cohen recounts the catch-and-kill operation to bury a Trump Tower doorman’s false claim

Michael Cohen testified about his role in brokering a deal to buy a potentially damaging story from a Trump Tower doorman, Dino Sajudin, in order "to take it off the market." It’s a story jurors have heard already from prior witnesses — but Cohen is speaking directly about Trump’s role in the catch-and-kill scheme, the Associated Press.

Cohen said he went to Trump immediately after learning about the story — which claimed, falsely, that Trump had a child out of wedlock. In reply, Trump told him, "You handle it," according to Cohen.

Cohen then worked with the National Enquirer’s David Pecker and Dylan Howard to pay Sajudin $30,000 for the story. Cohen said he suggested the $1 million penalty for the doorman if he broke terms.

11:30 a.m. ET: Michael Cohen’s telling of the 2015 Trump Tower meeting with David Pecker

Michael Cohen offered his side of an August 2015 meeting at Trump Tower where former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker testified he’d offered to be the "eyes and eyes" of the campaign, looking out for negative stories before they were published, the Associated Press reported. 

Cohen testified that Pecker offered to publish positive stories about Trump and negative stories about his opponents. He said the publisher also offered to "keep an eye out for anything negative about Mr. Trump and that he would be able to help us know in advance what was coming out and try and stop it from coming out."

Among the negative stories, Cohen cited: Hillary Clinton wearing very thick glasses and allegations that she had a brain condition, a photo of Sen. Ted Cruz’s father purportedly with John F. Kennedy assassin Lee Harvey Oswald, and an article alleging Marco Rubio had been involved in "a drug binge of some sort."

Cohen testified that National Enquirer owner American Media Inc. would send over covers of their tabloids and that he would show them to Trump, in part as a way of showing that Pecker was a man of his word.

Trump’s reaction to the stories: "It’s fantastic, it’s unbelievable."

Cohen said he was seeking to harness the power of the National Enquirer to Trump’s benefit, given its high visibility next to the cash registers at tens of thousands of supermarkets across the U.S.

11:15 a.m. ET: Michael Cohen says he started a diversity initiative for Trump’s presidential campaign

Though he was never an official paid member of Donald Trump’s campaign, he nonetheless had a campaign mail address, served as a Trump surrogate, often spoke to reporters and launched a diversity coalition group.

He said that he went to Trump at one point and noted that his rallies were "very white and you really need diversity. If you’re going to win, you need diversity, so I started a group called Diversity Coalition for Trump."

11:00 a.m. ET: Trump considered running for president before 2016

Michael Cohen recalled one of Trump’s early flirtations with a presidential bid in 2011. At the time, Cohen said he created a website — ShouldTrumpRun.com — that drew many visitors.

"It was further proof that his name recognition, his popularity, especially because of the hit show The Apprentice, was so strong," Cohen said.

Trump ultimately decided not to run during that cycle but "promised" that he would in the next election cycle, Cohen testified. "He said, ‘I’m doing it,’" Cohen recalled.

10:45 a.m. ET: Michael Cohen kept Trump’s contacts on his own cell phone

In order to get people on the phone for his old boss quickly, Michael Cohen said Trump’s contact list was incorporated into his own list on the two cell phones he turned over to prosecutors during the investigation that led to Trump’s indictment.

Cohen testified that Trump wanted his contacts on Cohen’s phone because they spent a considerable amount of time together and he’d say, "Michael, get me so and so on the line."

One of Cohen’s phones had more than 30,000 contacts, according to trial testimony.

Cohen gave prosecutors the phones, which he’d used through 2018, so that they could preserve evidence related to the Daniels payment.

That included voice recordings of conversations he had with Keith Davidson, a lawyer for Daniels, as well as emails and text messages.

10:35 a.m. ET: ‘Less than great times’

Despite claiming the job was overall "fantastic," Michael Cohen also acknowledged that his job required him to lie and bully on his boss’s behalf, according to the Associated Press. 

"The only thing that was on my mind was to accomplish the task and make him happy," Cohen said, referring to his former boss.

Asked if he sometimes lied for Trump, Cohen replied: "I did." Likewise, he said he acted as a bully at times.

10:30 a.m. ET: Michael Cohen says Trump rarely used email

Michael Cohen says he spoke with Trump — either in person or by phone — multiple times a day, noting that Trump was wary of using email. Other witnesses attested to the same thing.

"Mr. Trump never had an email address," Cohen said. Trump knew too many people who had "gone down" as a result of emails that prosecutors were able to use against them in legal cases, Cohen said.

10:15 a.m. ET: A ‘strong and threatening manner’

Michael Cohen explained that part of his job included reaching out to reporters whose stories had angered Trump, asking them to make changes or take them down — and sometimes threatening legal action.

Asked if he had done so in a "strong and threatening manner," Cohen, who was notorious for threatening reporters, answered in the affirmative.

"I would say so," he said.

10:06 a.m. ET: Michael Cohen testifies that he reported directly to Trump

During his decade-long tenure as Donald Trump’s executive vice president and special counsel, Michael Cohen recalled being tasked to renegotiate bills on Trump’s behalf, including a law firm invoice that Trump felt wasn’t "fair, reasonable, justified" and outstanding invoices from 50 vendors of the businessman’s failed Trump University project, the Associated Press reported. 

Cohen testified that he managed to trim most of the Trump University bills by over 80%, sparing Trump from having to cover costs behind the $2 million left in the project’s bank account.

Cohen said that when he’d accomplish a task he’d make sure Trump knew about it — both to show his then-boss that he was on task and to make sure he got credit for it.

"I would go straight into Mr. Trump’s office and advise him of the task we had accomplished," Cohen testified.

Cohen said that when he asked Trump about reducing the Trump University bills, Trump told him he thought, "It’s fantastic, it’s great." Cohen said that made him feel "like I was on top of the world."

9:50 a.m. ET: Michael Cohen takes the stand

He once said he would take a bullet for Donald Trump. Now Michael Cohen is prosecutors’ star witness in the former president’s hush money trial.

Cohen is expected to testify about his role in arranging hush money payments on Trump’s behalf during his first presidential campaign, including to porn actor Stormy Daniels, who 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.

Cohen, 57, worked for the Trump Organization from 2006 to 2017 as Trump’s lawyer and fixer. Cohen broke with Trump after the FBI raided his office, apartment and hotel room in 2018. He has been a fierce critic ever since.

Cohen first came to Trump’s attention as a condo board member who took the developer’s side in a dispute between residents and management at a Trump building where he lived in Manhattan.

9 a.m. ET: Trump arrives at the courthouse

Trump's motorcade has arrived at the criminal courthouse in Lower Manhattan for the start of the 16th day of the former president's hush money trial.

8:55 a.m. ET: Hush money trial will only meet for 3 days this week

Court proceedings in Trump's hush money trial will be held just three days this week — Monday, Tuesday and Thursday.

Wednesday is the trial's usual day off during the week and court will not be in session on Friday to allow the former president to attend his son Barron's high school graduation.

7:55 a.m. ET: Michael Cohen leaves his New York home for court

Former Trump attorney Michael Cohen (L) arrives at Manhattan Criminal Court for the trial of former US President Donald Trump for allegedly covering up hush money payments linked to extramarital affairs in New York City, on May 13, 2024. Donald Trump's criminal trial in New York was expected to hear his former lawyer turned tormentor Michael Cohen testify Monday about his role in what prosecutors say was a cover up of payments to hide an affair. (Photo by ANGELA WEISS / AFP) (Photo by ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images)

Former Trump attorney Michael Cohen (L) arrives at Manhattan Criminal Court for the trial of former US President Donald Trump for allegedly covering up hush money payments linked to extramarital affairs in New York City, on May 13, 2024. Donald Trump

Michael Cohen has left his New York home on Monday morning. 

Donald Trump’s fixer-turned-foe is expected to take the witness stand in the former president’s hush money case.

In criminal trials, many witnesses come to the stand with their own criminal records, relationships with defendants, prior contradictory statements or something else that could affect their credibility.

Cohen has a particular set of baggage.

In testimony, he will need to explain his prior disavowals of key aspects of the hush money arrangements and to convince jurors that this time he is telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

7:40 a.m. ET: Witness testimony in Trump's hush money trial enters 4th week  

Donald Trump is due back in court on Monday morning as witness testimony in his criminal trial enters its fourth week.

Michael Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer and personal fixer, is the star prosecution witness in Trump’s hush money trial. Cohen is set to take the stand Monday and is by far the Manhattan district attorney’s most important witness in the case.

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, including to porn actor Stormy Daniels, who 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.

Defense lawyers have teed up a bruising cross-examination of Cohen, telling jurors during opening statements that the fixer-turned-foe is an "admitted liar" with an "obsession to get President Trump."

Trump's hush money case

The indictment against Trump centers on payoffs allegedly made to two women, porn star Stormy Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal.

Trump’s former lawyer and "fixer," Michael Cohen, paid Daniels $130,000 and arranged for the publisher of the National Enquirer supermarket tabloid to pay McDougal $150,000.

Trump's company, the Trump Organization, then reimbursed Cohen and paid him bonuses and extra payments – all of which, prosecutors say, were falsely logged as legal expenses in company records. Over several months, Cohen said the company paid him $420,000.

Payments were also allegedly made to a Trump Tower doorman who claimed to have a story about a child he alleged Trump had out of wedlock.

The indictment, brought by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, made Trump the first ex-president ever to face criminal charges.

Trump has denied the accusations.

Who are the jurors?

After being forced to release a seated juror, the judge ordered the media not to report on where potential jurors have worked – even when stated in open court – and to be careful about revealing information about those who would sit in judgment of the former president. Here's what we can report.

Juror 1 and foreperson: A man who lives in New York City and has no children. Loves the outdoors and gets his news from The New York Times, Daily Mail, Fox News and MSNBC. 

When asked by Trump defense attorney Todd Blanche if he was aware Trump is charged in other cases and jurisdictions, and how that affects him, the man said, "I don’t have an opinion." 

Juror 2: A man who said he follows Trump’s former lawyer, Cohen, on "X," formerly known as Twitter. He also revealed he follows other right-wing accounts including Trump’s former adviser, Kellyanne Conway. 

He has said he would unfollow Cohen as he may be a witness in the trial. 

Juror 3: A middle-aged man who lives in Manhattan. He grew up in Oregon. He gets his news from The New York Times and Google. 

Juror 4: A man who lived in New York City for 15 years. He is originally from California. He is married with three children and a wife who is a teacher. He has served on a jury before – both on a grand jury and a jury in a criminal trial. 

The juror said he gets his news from "a smattering" of sources and does not use social media. 

Juror 5: A young woman who is a New York native. 

She gets most of her news from Google and Tiktok. 

Juror 6: A young woman who lives in Manhattan and likes to dance. 

Juror 7: A man who is married with two children. 

He gets most of his news from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, the New York Post and The Washington Post. The man has said he is aware there are other lawsuits but said, "I’m not sure that I know anyone’s character." 

Juror 8: No information has been released about this juror. 

Juror 9: A woman who lives in Manhattan. She is not married and has no children. 

She has never served on a jury before and does not watch the news. However, she said she does have email subscriptions to CNN and The New York Times. She follows social media accounts and listens to podcasts. She also enjoys watching reality TV. 

Juror 10: A man who lives in Manhattan. He is not married and has no children. He does have a roommate who works in accounting. He rarely follows the news but he does listen to podcasts on behavioral psychology. 

Juror 11: No information has been released about this juror. 

Juror 12: No information has been released about this juror. 

How long will the trial last? 

The trial is expected to last anywhere from six to eight weeks. Trump is expected to attend court each day.

How can I watch the Trump trial?

The trial is not being televised. Instead, news reporters and producers will have the ability to sit inside the courtroom and deliver information to the public.

How many court cases is Trump involved in?

As of this report, Trump is currently involved in four criminal cases, which includes the hush money case. 

A second case out of Fulton County, Georgia, has charged Trump, as well as 18 others, with participating in a scheme to illegally attempt to overturn the former president’s loss to President Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election. 

Trump is also involved in a third criminal case in Washington, D.C., which charged him with allegedly conspiring to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election in the run-up to the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol. 

And his fourth case involves classified documents that Trump illegally retained at his Mar-a-Lago estate after he left the White House. 

RELATED: A guide to Trump’s court cases

The Associated Press, FOX News, FOX 5 NY and Catherine Stoddard contributed to this report.