The eagerly awaited cross-examination of the ex-president’s former personal lawyer has begun in the hush money trial against Donald Trump. Trump defense attorney Todd Blanche began questioning Michael Cohen in court in New York. As journalists in the courtroom consistently reported, Blanche started with aggressive questions that led to a tense exchange. Among other things, Blanche cited a number of comments Cohen made toward Trump and the trial that were intended to show his antipathy toward his former boss. During his questioning by the prosecution, key witness Cohen had previously established a direct connection between Trump and payments to porn star Stormy Daniels. Prosecutors allege Trump wanted to improve his chances of winning the 2016 presidential election by paying the porn actress $130,000. The transaction itself was not illegal. The now 77-year-old is said to have manipulated documents when reimbursing the amount to Cohen in order to hide the real reason. This made the payments illegal campaign financing.

Cohen is considered a problematic witness because of his past as a convicted liar. Trump’s lawyers had already portrayed Cohen in their opening statement as driven by a desire for revenge and emphasized that he had told untruths under oath. Cohen became known as Trump’s legal “cleaner” or “pit bull” with a close relationship and direct access to his boss – he once said he would take a bullet for Trump.

The now 57-year-old had already pleaded guilty in 2018 for his role in the hush money payments to Stormy Daniels – and served a prison sentence for, among other things, making false statements. In 2018, Trump was still US President and was not prosecuted by prosecutors.