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Michael Cohen’s lies, lies and more lies could sink DA Bragg’s case

Former Trump attorney Michael Cohen insists, once again, that this time he’s actually telling the truth and he wants jurors to believe him

Michael Cohen raised his right hand on Monday in the Manhattan trial of Donald Trump and swore to tell the truth. It was a meaningless gesture.

Cohen has done it before and then proceeded to lie under oath. He went to prison for it after lying to courts, lying to banks, lying to Congress, and lying to the IRS. Yet, once again, Cohen insists that now he’s telling the truth. He wants jurors to believe him. This time.

Cohen presents a contradiction about truth and falsity. In philosophy and logic it’s known as the “liar’s paradox,” and it bedevils juries whenever habitual liars take the witness stand and promise to tell the truth.

The paradox is this: if a liar indeed lied, then his admission of his lies is truthful. Unless, of course, he is lying about the lie and everything else. You can never really know. The search for truth becomes impossible. In a court of law where the central witness is a chronic fabulist, the “liar’s paradox” equals reasonable doubt.

It was on full display Monday when Trump’s one-time self-proclaimed “fixer” failed to connect the accused to any cognizable crime. But Cohen readily confessed that he often lied and bullied people. He also deceived his own client, Trump, by secretly recording him shortly before the 2016 election.

Without permission, Cohen then shared it with the publisher of the National Enquirer. It was a sleazy maneuver that would merit disbarment for breaching the attorney-client privilege. No matter. Cohen was long ago disbarred over his criminal convictions.

When the recording was played in court it seemed to help, not hurt, the defense. Cohen refers cryptically to payments made to kill a story, which is not a crime. Trump appears somewhat in the dark and is heard asking, “What financing?” Cohen assured him that he was taking care of everything. His boss didn’t need to know the details. “I’ve got it…I’m on it,” said Cohen.

Photo by David Dee Delgado/Getty Images

It is bewildering why the prosecution ventured there, except to smear Trump with the illusion of some amorphous wrongdoing. It was utterly irrelevant since the matter dealt with former Playboy model Karen McDougal who was never called as a prosecution witness and is unconnected to the charges. Trump refused to pay her money over a purported affair that he denies.

Cohen then moved on to his tangle with ex-porn star Stormy Daniels, who was intensifying her apparent extortion scheme as voters were soon heading to the polls. Cohen admitted that it was his idea to pay $130,000 for her silence accompanied by a lawful non-disclosure agreement. As Trump’s lawyer, Cohen handled the negotiated contract which was later booked as “legal expenses” because that is what they were.

In fact, Cohen confirmed the accuracy of the bookkeeping when he explained that the money he received was compensation for his work on the legal settlement with Daniels, reimbursed payments to him, plus a retainer for his legal services as Trump’s newly named personal attorney.

So, where exactly is the original fraud that forms the basis for the 34 misdemeanor charges alleged by the prosecution? Nowhere.

Cohen later testified that Trump was concerned about how Daniel’s story might impact his 2016 electoral chances. Not surprisingly, that nugget is contradicted by other witnesses who informed the jury that the candidate’s main concern was his wife and family.

Either way, it doesn’t matter. Bragg’s argument is legally flawed because Trump used his own money, not campaign funds. The law imposes limits on the latter, but not on the former.

That is one of the principal reasons why the Federal Election Commission (FEC) determined there was no campaign finance violation. The Department of Justice agreed. No civil fine was levied or criminal charge rendered. Those two entities have exclusive authority over federal elections. Not a local prosecutor such as Alvin Bragg.

But that did not stop the Manhattan DA from usurping federal jurisdiction by bringing a campaign case that he has no power to enforce and for violations that don’t exist.

Under normal circumstances, the DOJ would have intervened to stop it. Instead, Attorney General Merrick Garland tossed a going away party for his deputy, Matthew Colangelo, who abandoned his prestigious job at the Department to become Bragg’s lead prosecutor.

Undeterred by the limits of the law, these ethically bankrupt prosecutors have cobbled together a lawless case by asserting that Trump falsified his own private business records with the felonious intent to conceal another crime that they still refused to identify. Presumably, it’s campaign finance. But it’s actually not.

Former FEC Chairman Bradley Smith put it this way in his column for The Wall Street Journal: “The ‘crime’ that Mr. Bragg claims is being covered up isn’t a crime at all.”

Even if the DA’s warped legal theory proceeds, he must still prove that Trump himself understood campaign finance laws and deliberately intended to violate them. There’s no evidence of that. Even experienced candidates struggle to comprehend the mind-numbing web of campaign regulations. That’s why they depend on lawyers.

Bragg wants to put Trump in prison for relying on the advice of his legal counsel. There’s a legal term for that. Nutty.

On cross-examination, Cohen will surely be confronted with his myriad of lies, which I’ve recounted in earlier columns. One in particular is worth remembering. In February of 2018, he told the New York Times, “The payment to Ms. Clifford was lawful and was not a campaign contribution or a campaign expenditure.”

Shortly thereafter, Cohen changed his tune. It’s changing still. When he retakes the witness stand on Tuesday he’ll regurgitate more lies and misinformation. None of it is worth a damn because Cohen represents the quintessential “liar’s paradox.” He’s told so many fibs that even his recantations are self-contradictory.

In the trial at hand, Cohen has a personal interest in lying —hatred and greed. When he isn’t trolling for dollars on TikTok by trashing Trump, he’s hawking a proposed reality show that he calls, “The Fixer.” Cohen needs to fix himself.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg knows that he is teetering dangerously close to suborning perjury. But he is wholly committed to convicting Donald Trump for crimes not committed or fully revealed. By calling Cohen as his star witness, the DA has forsaken his duty to seek the truth. He is aiding and abetting a convicted perjurer by enabling more lies.

This is the worst kind of government corruption. Unscrupulous, dishonest, and amoral. It is antithetical to justice and an embarrassment to our once respected legal system.

It’s not a paradox. It’s a tragedy.

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