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The Hill
The Hill
17 Feb 2024
Steff Danielle Thomas


NextImg:New York judge finds Michael Cohen’s testimony ‘credible’ in Trump civil fraud trial

Judge Arthur Engoron said, despite perjury allegations, that Michael Cohen’s testimony in former President Trump’s New York civil fraud trial was “credible.”

“Michael Cohen was an important witness on behalf of the plaintiff, although hardly the linchpin that defendants have attempted to portray him to be,” Engoron wrote in his 92-page trial verdict, which ordered Trump to pay more than $355 million for conspiring to alter the value of his company to obtain tax and insurance benefits.

“His testimony was significantly compromised by his having pleaded guilty to perjury and by some seeming contradictions in what he said at trial,” he continued. “However, carefully parsed, he testified that although Donald Trump did not expressly direct him to reverse engineer financial statements, he ordered him to do so indirectly, in his ‘mob voice.”

Engoron added, “Although the animosity between the witness and the defendant is palpable, providing Cohen with an incentive to lie, the Court found his testimony credible, based on the relaxed manner in which he testified, the general plausibility of his statements, and, most importantly, the way his testimony was corroborated by other trial evidence.”

While claiming a “less-forgiving factfinder” may have thought differently, Engoron said he doesn’t believe pleading guilty to perjury means a person never tells the truth, adding that “Michael Cohen told the truth.”

Friday’s ruling came just weeks after closing arguments in the case capped a months-long trial during which Trump frequently lambasted the judge and New York Attorney General Letitia James, who brought the case against the former president and the Trump Organization, which includes his adult sons, Donald Trump, Jr. and Eric Trump.

The $355 million judgment is about $16 million less than the attorney general asked for — but it will block Trump, and others, from participating in New York business for three years.

Cohen, in an interview with MSNBC’s Alicia Menendez, called Friday’s verdict “just and fair.”

“I think the ruling was just and fair. I think Judge Engoron lays out everything in this 90-plus page decision — especially on page 41, which references me, in the fact that I told the truth,” he said, arguing Trump and his team wanted to “impugn my credibility” to avoid this ruling.

“I actually thought the amount would be, and should be, higher,” Cohen added. “But, I defer to Judge Engoron.”

When asked how he felt about Engoron’s comments, the former Trump lawyer said the two pages dedicated to his credibility were important to him. Cohen then dove into what the 2018 perjury case consisted of — lying to Congress about the Russia probe — and said he was “stupid” to do it for his former boss.

Cohen — whom Trump called James’s “star witness” in the case — testified late last year, claiming the former president “speaks like a mob boss” and can “tell you without specifically telling you” what to do. Following his comments, Trump accused his former fixer of going back on comments he’d made years before, and claimed the case was “rigged.”

On Friday, Trump lashed out at Engoron and James, reiterating his belief that the case was political, referencing his 2024 presidential campaign.

“If I weren’t running none of this stuff would have ever happened. None of these lawsuits would have ever happened,” said Trump, who also facing 91 felony charges across four separate cases. “I would have had a nice life.”