Michael Cohen's Testimony May Exonerate Trump, Says Jonathan Turley

 May 14, 2024

In a gripping turn of events, former attorney Michael Cohen's testimony in the case against former President Donald Trump has raised significant questions about the prosecution's approach.

Cohen's recounting of a $130,000 payout to adult film star Stormy Daniels has painted a picture of Trump following his lawyer's directives, which some argue could undermine the case against him, the Daily Caller reported

Michael Cohen, once a close confidant and attorney for Trump, testified before the prosecution to detail the controversial payment made to Stormy Daniels. This payment, timed before the 2016 presidential election, has been at the heart of much legal and public scrutiny.

Cohen's history with the courts, however, is fraught with issues. He pled guilty to charges of lying to Congress in 2018 and has since been accused of perjury as recently as March 2023. Such a backdrop has led to divided opinions regarding the integrity and impact of his testimony against Trump.

Turley's Perspective on Cohen's Actions

Law professor Jonathan Turley has been particularly vocal about ethical concerns surrounding Cohen's conduct. Turley criticized Cohen for taping a conversation with Trump without his client’s knowledge or consent. He emphasized the violation of professional conduct that such an act represents.

"The most important thing about the audiotape is that there was an audiotape," said Turley. "For most lawyers, watching... listening to this tape is, is really an appalling moment. The very idea that an attorney would tape a client without their knowledge or consent just shatters every aspect of professional conduct, but the tape really doesn’t offer much."

According to Turley, this tape is critical because it showcases Trump apparently adhering to Cohen's guidance. This dynamic complicates the prosecution’s narrative that Trump was the orchestrating force behind the payment to Daniels.

Evaluating the Legitimacy of Cohen's Testimony

In his detailed testimony, Cohen outlined how he arranged the payments to Daniels and assured Trump that the matter would be handled discreetly. "Like much else in Cohen’s testimony, he gives these details of how he goes to his client and says, I fixed the problem. I arranged for payments. I’m, you know, this is not, this story is going to go away, at least before the election and Trump is saying things like ‘good, good.’"

Turley underscored this portrayal as indicative of a client simply following his attorney's advice. "Well, that sounds a lot like a client following the directions of his lawyer. But now the lawyer is telling the jury I think you should send my client to prison for doing what I suggested for him to do."

Questioning the Prosecutors’ Approach

Turley further argued that the prosecution has yet to present a clear crime based on Cohen’s descriptions. He remarked, "There is nothing illegal here, what Cohen was describing is not a crime. The prosecutors are making great fanfare over proving non-criminal acts and non-contested allegations." He continued to note that non-disclosure agreements and monetary settlements are not uncommon, emphasizing the peculiar nature of the trial’s focal point.

This perspective brings forth a critical question about the crux of the charges against Trump: are they built on solid legal grounds or merely sensational elements?

Cohen’s Legal Troubles and Their Implications

Cohen's credibility is further strained by his own legal history. Apart from his 2018 guilty plea for lying to Congress, Cohen was sentenced to 36 months in prison on tax evasion charges and subsequently disbarred. In December 2023, he was accused of submitting fabricated cases generated by Google Bard to a federal judge.

Additionally, Cohen testified before the grand jury which led to Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg securing an indictment on 34 felony counts of falsifying business records against Trump in March 2023. These counts tie back to the payment to Daniels, forming the basis of the ongoing legal battle.

Turley also pointed out public and media reactions to Cohen’s testimony. He found it amusing how some experts praised Cohen’s composure under questioning, despite his questionable past. "The really funny thing is, I was watching this clip on Fox, they played, from one of the other networks where all of these experts were praising Cohen and saying he’s not lost his cool, he’s really remained in control and very buttoned down," Turley noted.

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