Wednesday Briefing

Donald Trump’s attorneys attempted to portray Michael Cohen as an opportunist.Credit…Seth Wenig/Associated Press

Michael Cohen described a hush-money deal

Michael Cohen, Donald Trump’s former fixer, returned to the stand yesterday to face lawyers for the Manhattan district attorney’s office, as well as Donald Trump’s legal team, in the case against the former president.

Cohen told jurors that he received monthly checks — most bearing the former president’s signature — that purported to be part of a legal “retainer” agreement, but that were in fact reimbursements for hush money he had paid to the porn star Stormy Daniels, who alleges that she had a sexual relationship with Trump. Cohen’s testimony was the first and only personal account tying Trump to the documents at the crux of his case.

In a barrage of questions, Trump’s attorneys sought to portray Cohen as an opportunist. Trump’s lead lawyer, Todd Blanche, pressed Cohen about his social media posts, his efforts to monetize his feud with the former president, his own criminal history and his desire to see Trump behind bars.

Analysis: The defense seemed to be trying to portray Cohen as, “essentially, Trump’s stalker,” my colleague Maggie Haberman wrote — a man once obsessed with the former president who was now equally obsessed with getting revenge.

What’s next: Trump’s lawyers indicated that they could call an expert witness and that they had not decided if they would call Trump himself.

Other details: In a blow to Trump, an appeals court upheld the judge’s gag order.

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