Key Witness Says Trump Did Not Personally Ask Him To Carry Out 'Hush Money' Payments

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by Tyler Durden
Monday, May 06, 2024 - 10:11 PM

Authored by Jack Phillips via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),

Former President Donald Trump attends his trial for allegedly covering up hush money payments linked to extramarital affairs, at Manhattan Criminal Court in New York City, on May 6, 2024. (Peter Foley/Pool/AFP via Getty Images)

A witness in former President Donald Trump’s New York “hush money” trial on Monday appeared to confirm his attorneys’ claims that payments at the center of the case were legal expenses and that he was not personally directed by the former president to make those payments.

Former Trump Organization controller Jeffrey McConney testified Monday that payments that were sent to former attorney Michael Cohen were legal expenses, confirming defense attorneys’ arguments.

Michael Cohen was a lawyer?” Trump defense attorney Emil Bove asked Mr. McConney. “Sure, yes,” he replied.

And payments to lawyers by the Trump Organization are legal expenses, right?” asked Mr. Bove. “Yes,” said Mr. McConney.

Later, Mr. McConney said that President Trump and Trump Organization official Allen Weisselberg never told him to log the payments to Mr. Cohen as legal expenses.

President Trump did not ask you to do any of the things you just described?” the attorney then asked. “He did not,” Mr. McConney replied.

“And as far as you know, President Trump did not ask anyone to do those things?” Mr. Bove continued. “In none of the conversations that you had with Weisselberg, did he suggest that President Trump had told him to do these things?” he also asked.

“Allen never told me that,” Mr. McConney said.

Little Contact With Cohen

Mr. McConney said his interactions with Mr. Cohen were “minimal.” He said that other than emails about invoices, he never spoke to Mr. Cohen about the reimbursement arrangement.

In court papers, Trump lawyers have described that the payments that were sent to Mr. Cohen as legal expenses, while prosecutors say that it was an attempt to cover up the true nature of the payments during an election. Mr. Cohen used the funds to pay adult film actress Stormy Daniels to not speak publicly about allegations about an affair in 2006, which President Trump has denied.

At one point, Mr. Bove asked Mr. McConney about the internal payment system, and Mr. McConney suggested that it was antiquated.

“Legal expenses” were “part of a drop down menu?” Mr. Bove asked him. “Yes,” Mr. McConney answered

It “was a bit antiquated?” Mr. Bove asked. “Yes,” Mr. McConney said. “These categories, there was a level of rigidity to them?” the lawyer also asked. “Yes,” the witness replied.

“So if you are talking about payments to an attorney, legal expenses was the category that was used?” Mr. Bove asked. “Yes,” Mr. McConney said.

The defense argued that the legal expenses were legitimate and not illegal. Mr. Bove got Mr. McConney to say that he didn’t know whether Mr. Cohen did legal work for President Trump in 2017.

Also, when he was asked by the attorney if President Trump personally asked him to carry out any the tasks, the former controller said that he “did not.” He also said he didn’t speak to President Trump on a regular basis, adding that any talks with him wouldn’t be about accounting programs.

Mr. McConney, who testified for about three hours on Monday, also confirmed in court that 1099 tax forms that were sent to Mr. Cohen for the payments in 2017 were disclosed to the IRS.

“There’s no place on this form to break out payments for legal services versus expenses incurred, right?” Mr. Bove asked about the 1099 form, to which Mr. McConney agreed.

And it’s Michael Cohen’s job to figure out how to account for these payments on his personal taxes, correct?” Mr. Bove then asked him. “Yes,” the witness said. “And you don’t know what he did, right?” Mr. Bove asked. “That’s correct,” Mr. McConney said.

Mr. Weisselberg is not expected to testify during the trial. Currently, he is serving a five-month sentence after pleading guilty to two felony counts of perjury earlier this year in a separate case.

Trump in Contempt

Earlier on Monday, New York State Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan ruled that President Trump was in contempt of court again, fining him for violating his gag order over comments that he made in an interview about the jury pool. The justice also warned that the former president could be jailed if he continues to violate the gag order, which prohibits the former president from commenting on certain individuals connected to the case.

Former President Donald Trump appears in court during his trial for allegedly covering up "hush money" payments at Manhattan Criminal Court in New York City on May 2, 2024. (Jeenah Moon/Getty Images)

During remarks to court reporters, which he posted on Truth Social, President Trump said that “they’ve taken away my constitutional rights” and declared that “this has never happened” before in the United States.

“It’s a ridiculous thing. It’s a ridiculous case,” he said, adding that legal experts have said “there is no case here.” Justice Merchan is “conflicted,” President Trump said, adding that “he’s taken away my constitutional right to speak.”

Reporters were asking him questions about the case during a recent event in Miami, and he cannot respond to their questions, President Trump noted.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Former President Donald Trump has been found in contempt of court for a second time by a New York judge overseeing his hush-money trial.

On Monday, judge Juan Merchan said that Trump had violated a gag order with additional social media posts about witnesses in the case, and will consider jail if there are additional violations.

"It appears that the $1,000 fines are not serving as a deterrent," said Merchan. "Mr. Trump, I want you to understand the last thing I want to do is put you in jail."

"The magnitude of such a decision is not lost on me, but at the end of the day, I have a job to do."

Last week, Merchan fined Trump $9,000 and held the former president in criminal contempt of court for violating the gag order nine times.