Witness Says Trump Did Not Personally Ask Him to Carry Out ‘Hush Money’ Payments

Witness Says Trump Did Not Personally Ask Him to Carry Out ‘Hush Money’ Payments
Former President Donald walks back to the courtroom following a lunch break during 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. (Steven Hirsch/Pool/AFP via Getty Images)

A witness in President Donald Trump’s New York “hush money” trial on May 6 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 that payments 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.

Mr. McConney replied, “Sure, yes.”

Mr. Bove asked, “And payments to lawyers by The Trump Organization are legal expenses, right?”

Mr. McConney replied, “Yes.”

Later, Mr. McConney said 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.

Mr. McConney replied, “He did not.”

Mr. Bove asked, “And as far as you know, President Trump did not ask anyone to do those things?

“In none of the conversations that you had with Weisselberg, did he suggest that President Trump had told him to do these things?”

Mr. Conney replied, “Allen never told me that.”

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 the payments that were sent to Mr. Cohen as legal expenses, while prosecutors say 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.

Mr. McConney replied, “Yes.”

Mr. Bove asked, “[It] was a bit antiquated?”

Mr. McConney replied, “Yes.”

Mr. Bove asked, “These categories, there was a level of rigidity to them?”

Mr. McConney replied, “Yes.”

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

Mr. McConney replied, “Yes.”

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 of the tasks, the former controller said that he “did not.” He also said he didn’t speak to President Trump on a regular basis, noting that any talks with him wouldn’t be about accounting programs.

Mr. McConney, who testified for about three hours on May 6, 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.

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.

Mr. McConney replied, “Yes.”

Mr. Bove asked, “And you don’t know what he did, right?”

Mr. McConney replied, “That’s correct.”

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 May 6, New York Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan ruled that President Trump was in contempt of court again, fining him for violating his gag order over comments 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 him from commenting on certain individuals connected to the case.

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, noting that legal experts have said that “there is no case here.”

Justice Merchan is “conflicted,” President Trump said.

“He’s taken away my constitutional right to speak,” he said regarding the judge.

President Trump noted that reporters were asking him questions about the case during a recent event in Miami, and he wasn’t allowed to respond to their questions.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

From The Epoch Times

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