‘Knee deep in the cult’: Ex-fixer says he lied and bullied for Trump


Michael Cohen said he had been “knee deep into the cult of Donald Trump” as he testified for a second day in the ex-president’s trial.

As Trump‘s defence tried to paint the former lawyer and ‘fixer’ as a bitter and fame-hungry former acolyte, he denied being obsessed by his former boss but said he had once “admired him tremendously”.

He is testifying in the case about hush money payments to ex-porn star Stormy Daniels in an attempt to cover up an alleged sexual encounter in 2006.

Trump trial – Day 17 as it happened

Such payouts aren’t illegal, but Trump is accused of falsifying business records to hide it – a claim he denies.

He told the court on Tuesday that loyalty was the reason he kept lying about the payment when it came out in the media.

In 2016 he described Trump as kind, humble, honest and genuine.

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The defence asked whether he had believed what he was saying.

“At the time, I was knee-deep into the cult of Donald Trump,” he responded, adding: “I was not lying, no, that’s how I felt.”

Mr Cohen admitted he “missed Trump” at times after he became president.

They have also pointed to hundreds of media appearances, podcasts and interviews in which the disgraced lawyer has mentioned him.

Michael Cohen (right) leaves his apartment building in New York on Tuesday. Pic: AP
Michael Cohen (right) was once a fiercely loyal confidant of the ex-president. Pic: AP

His credibility was under attack as Mr Cohen has previously admitted lying under oath.

The 57-year-old was jailed after pleading guilty in 2018 to charges relating to the hush money payment and other unrelated offences.

He said that after a FBI raid on his home the same year, Trump had messaged him: “I am the president of the United States, everything is going to be okay, stay tough”.

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Porn stars, sex scandals and zzzs: A to Z of Trump trial

Donald Trump denies the liaison with Stormy Daniels and says Mr Cohen acted on his own initiative when he made the payment.

The former lawyer denied that claim in earlier evidence, saying “everything required Trump’s sign-off”.

Donald Trump on day 17 of his hush money trial. Pic: Reuters
Mr Trump, who denies the charges, faces several other trials. Pic: Reuters

‘I violated my moral compass’

Mr Cohen – who once said he would take a bullet for his boss – admitted at the end of questioning on Tuesday that he “violated my moral compass” while working for Donald Trump.

“I regret doing things for him that I should not have,” he told the New York court. “Lying, bullying people in order to effectuate the goal.

“I don’t regret working for the Trump Organisation – as I expressed before, [those were] some very interesting, great times,” he added.

“But to keep the loyalty and to do things that he had asked me to do, I violated my moral compass, and I suffered the penalty, as did my family. That is my failure.”

On Monday, the court heard him testify about setting up a shell company to make the $130,000 hush money out of his own money.

Stormy Daniels, seen here in January, received a $130,000 payment from Trump's lawyer Pic: AP/DeeCee Carter/MediaPunch /IPX
Stormy Daniels has also testified in the case. AP/DeeCee Carter/MediaPunch /IPX

Prosecutors say Trump later paid the money back and covered it up by recording it as a legal retainer fee.

He faces 34 counts of falsifying business records over the claims.

Trump – who will take on Joe Biden in his bid to become president again in November – is unlikely to face a custodial sentence if found guilty.

His other cases are potentially more damaging but mired in delays.

They concern allegations of keeping stacks of secret documents after leaving office and trying to overturn his 2020 election defeat. He denies the claims.

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