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Michael Cohen returns to the stand for second day of testimony in Trump’s fraud trial

Michael Cohen, Donald Trump’s former lawyer and longtime “fixer,” is confronting his ex-boss face-to-face for the second time Wednesday, as he resumes testimony in the former president’s New York civil fraud trial.

Cohen testified Tuesday, with Trump watching, that Trump personally authorized fraudulent inflations of his net worth and property values.

Cohen is a former Trump Organization executive who was for years among Trump’s closest confidants. He alleged Tuesday that he and the company’s former chief financial officer “reverse engineered” Trump’s financial statements to meet valuations that Trump “arbitrarily selected.”

Trump and his co-defendants are accused of fraudulently inflating the value of assets for their own financial benefit. New York Attorney General Letitia James is seeking $250 million for the state, and is asking the court to order sanctions restricting Trump’s ability to do business in New York. The judge in the civil case has already found Trump and his co-defendants liable for fraud. The trial is proceeding on other accusations, including falsification of records, conspiracy and insurance fraud.

Cohen testified Tuesday that Trump told him to adjust statements of financial conditions — documents at the core of the fraud case — to arrive at a net worth that Trump assigned himself “arbitrarily.”

“I was tasked by Mr. Trump to increase the total assets based upon a number that he arbitrarily selected. And my responsibility along with Allen Weisselberg, predominantly, was to reverse engineer the various different asset classes, increase those assets in order to achieve the number that Mr. Trump had tasked us,” Cohen said, prompting Trump to shake his head and fold his arms across his chest.

Trump and his co-defendants have denied all wrongdoing, and Trump’s legal team has sought to portray Cohen as untrustworthy.

During cross examination by Trump attorney Alina Habba, Cohen said he lied under oath in federal court when he entered a guilty plea to tax evasion in 2018. Cohen now says he didn’t evade taxes.

Cohen and Trump had not seen each other in person since that plea, and in the years since the former friends have often sought to vilify each other.

Cohen’s testimony under cross-examination Tuesday was often combative. Cohen several times replied to Habba’s questions with the phrase, “asked and answered,” adopting an objection lawyers sometimes raise, but witnesses cannot.

The last time he did so, it prompted another Trump attorney, Christopher Kise, to jump out of his chair. He protested to the judge, saying, “this witness is out of control.”

Cohen’s testimony has attracted interest from Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office, which brought a separate criminal case against Trump earlier this year that also relies on Cohen’s testimony. Susan Hoffinger, one of the lead prosecutors in that case, was seen entering the courthouse Tuesday afternoon, and returned again on Wednesday, along with four others. Hoffinger also led a 2022 case in which two Trump companies were found guilty of 17 felonies related to fraud.

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