"Self-help": Michael Cohen argues he was owed the money he "stole" from the Trump Organization

Under questioning, Cohen admitted to pocketing money that was ostensibly meant for a third-party campaign vendor

Published May 20, 2024 1:09PM (EDT)

Michael Cohen is seen on May 20, 2024 in New York City. (Andrea Renault/Star Max/GC Images/Getty Images)
Michael Cohen is seen on May 20, 2024 in New York City. (Andrea Renault/Star Max/GC Images/Getty Images)

Donald Trump's defense team on Monday sought to paint star witness Michael Cohen as not just a liar but a thief, nothing that the former president's ex-fixer pocketed some of the money that he was supposed to pay a third-party vendor.

Earlier in Trump's hush money trial, prosecutors introduced evidence showing that Cohen was paid $50,000 by then-Trump Organization Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg for the stated purpose of reimbursing RedFinch, an IT company that had helped the 2016 Trump campaign game online polls. Cohen previously testified that Trump had balked at paying the company, forcing him to do it himself. Cohen was provided the money to do so alongside money that prosecutors say was reimbursement for a $130,000 hush payment to Stormy Daniels.

On Monday, Trump attorney Todd Blanche returned to that testimony, zeroing in on Cohen's admission that he took some of the money set aside for RedFinch and pocketed it himself. The firm ultimately accepted a payment of just $20,000, with Cohen pocketing the difference.

"So you stole from the Trump Organization?” Blanche asked. “Yes, sir,” Cohen replied.

Throughout the trial, Blanche had sought to tar Cohen as a spiteful man trying to profiteer from his criticism of Trump, without much success, while Cohen overperformed expectations as he testified that Trump was intimately involved in the scheme to cover up his payment to an adult film star, Daniels, who alleges she had a sexual encounter with the Republican candidate.

Following Blanche's cross examination, prosecutors asked Cohen to once again address the RedFinch situation. He explained that he felt he was owed money from the Trump Organization, which had slashed his bonus.

"I was angered because of the reduction in the bonus, and so I just felt it was almost like self-help," said Cohen. "I wasn’t going to let [Trump] have the benefit [of] this way as well. I wasn’t going to correct the conversation I was having with Allen about it. I had not only protected him to the best that I could, but I had also laid out money to Red Finch a year and a half earlier and again $130,000 to have my bonus cut by two-thirds was very upsetting to say the least."

When asked by prosecuting attorney Susan Hoffinger whether or not he thought it was wrong, Cohen said that he thought it was.

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