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Michael Cohen admits he stole from Trump Organization

Former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to the media as he arrives to court with attorney Todd Blanche (right) during his trial for allegedly covering up hush money payments at Manhattan Criminal Court on April 30, 2024, in New York City. Former U.S. President Donald Trump faces 34 felony counts of falsifying business records in the first of his criminal cases to go to trial. (Curtis Means/Pool/Getty Images/TNS)
May 21, 2024

Michael Cohen admitted under cross-examination to stealing from former President Donald Trump’s business organization before eventually breaking with the former Republican president and becoming a witness against him.

Various news publications, including Fox News, reported on Cohen’s admission on Monday, during his final day on the witness stand.

Cohen worked for a time as Trump’s attorney but is now a chief witness in a New York criminal trial in which the former president is alleged to have falsified business records to conceal a financial compensation to get porn star Stephanie Clifford (who goes by Stormy Daniels) to agree to a nondisclosure agreement regarding an affair she alleged she had with the real estate mogul years before his presidential run.

The effort to criminally prosecute Trump hinges on the premise that this nondisclosure agreement with Clifford, first arranged by Cohen in 2016, was primarily done to benefit Trump’s presidential campaign at the time and that reimbursements Trump made to Cohen for the arrangement were improperly documented. While prosecutors called Cohen to testify as the central figure in this alleged set of illicit business dealings, Trump’s defense team has had an opportunity to ask Cohen their own questions about how the lawyer arranged transactions on his client’s behalf.

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It was during this cross-examination on Monday that Trump attorney Todd Blanche got Cohen to admit under oath to stealing tens of thousands of dollars from his client. Cohen said he had grown accustomed to a $150,000 annual holiday bonus and that once the bonus was reduced to $50,000, he decided to misreport a separate Trump Organization expense and keep some of the funds for himself.

Cohen admitted that he submitted a request for a $50,000 reimbursement from the Trump Organization to the tech firm RedFinch but only paid the tech firm $20,000, an admission indicating that he took the remaining $30,000 for himself.

Asked to explain why he misreported these expenses, Cohen admitted to his frustration for having his bonus cut and said his decision to pocket the misreported funds was an act of “self-help.”

Cohen admitted to requesting the reimbursement for RedFinch around the same time he asked for reimbursement for arranging the $130,000 payment for Clifford to enter into her nondisclosure agreement.

Cohen’s admissions to misreporting expenses to the Trump Organization could come as a blow to his credibility and perceived reliability as a witness against the president.

The prosecution closed its case with Cohen, and Trump’s legal team began calling its own witnesses on Monday.