Michael Cohen's fraud trial bombshell: Trump had me inflate his total assets based on a number he 'arbitrarily' picked

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  • Trump and Michael Cohen saw each other on Tuesday for the first time in five years.

  • Cohen was called as a key witness in Trump's New York civil fraud trial.

  • It was Cohen who first told the world that Trump's net-worth statements to banks and insurers were frauds.

Donald Trump and his fixer-turned-foe Michael Cohen came face-to-face in a Manhattan courtroom Tuesday, their first time in the same space since Cohen flipped on his boss five years ago.

And it didn't take long for Cohen to start lobbing bombshells from the witness stand, by testifying that his former boss was at the top of a conspiracy to defraud banks and insurers about his worth.

Just before the lunch break, a lawyer for the state attorney general's office asked Cohen what his role was in preparing his boss's annual net-worth statements, the documents at the heart of the Manhattan fraud trial.

The allegation in Cohen's answer was highly incriminating to Trump – placing the former president firmly at the top of a document-fraud conspiracy.

"I was tasked by Mr. Trump to increase the total assets based upon a number that he arbitrarily elected," Cohen intoned, speaking slowly and keeping his eyes on Colleen Faherty, a lead lawyer for New York Attorney General Letitia James.

"And my responsibility, along with Allen Weisselberg, primarily, was to reverse engineer" the value of Trump Organization assets, Cohen added, "in order to achieve the number that Mr. Trump tasked us."

Asked by Faherty what he meant by "whatever number," Cohen did not miss a beat in answering.

"Whatever number Mr. Trump told us to," he said.

The two adversaries did not appear to lock eyes as Cohen, his demeanor cheerful, entered the courtroom and took the witness stand in Trump's $250 million civil fraud trial, now in its fourth week.

But Trump watched intently from the defense table as Cohen was sworn in and promised to tell the truth against him.

Cohen — clad in jeans, a gray tweed jacket with an open collared white shirt, and no tie — immediately addressed his criminal record, insisting that he only copped in 2019 to personal income tax evasion because of federal pressure.

"When all of this started it was overwhelming," he said of his time in the spotlight as Trump's most vocal, and prolific, accuser. "The amount of misinformation, disinformation, malinformation against me was enormous."

Trump and his former lawyer have been bitter enemies since 2019, when Cohen testified before Congress that the then-president widely exaggerated his net worth to impress banks while downplaying his worth to save on real estate taxes.

That testimony launched two state-level investigations in New York – one brought by the Manhattan District Attorney's office, the other by the office of New York Attorney General Letitia James.

It's James' investigation that led to the fraud lawsuit against Trump, Trump Organization, and four longtime company executives – including Trump's two eldest sons – that is now being tried.

The Manhattan DA's Cohen-prompted probe eventually led to one of the four criminal indictments that Trump now faces — the so-called "hush-money" case, which charges Trump with felony-level falsification of business records.

That case, alleging that Trump Organization records were falsified to hide a $130,000 hush-money payment to the adult film actress Stormy Daniels, was the first indictment brought against the former president.

In the hush-money case, too, Cohen, who handled the money transfer, will be the key witness against Trump. Cohen has said Trump directed him to make that payment to keep Daniels quiet before the 2016 presidential election.

The lead Manhattan prosecutor in the hush-money case, Susan Hoffinger, was briefly in the courtroom Tuesday morning but left prior to Cohen taking the stand.

Throughout his testimony, Cohen repeatedly referred to Trump by full name, "Donald J. Trump," even as Faherty asked him who was his legal client and his Trump Organization employer prior to 2019.

This is a breaking story; please check back for developments.

Read the original article on Business Insider