By Karen Freifeld
(Reuters) – Michael Cohen, Donald Trump’s former lawyer and fixer, testified on Monday afternoon before a Manhattan grand jury investigating a hush money payment he has said he orchestrated to porn star Stormy Daniels on behalf of the former president.
“This is all about accountability. He needs to be held accountable for his dirty deeds,” Cohen said of Trump outside a Manhattan courthouse on his way to the grand jury.
Lanny Davis, Cohen’s attorney, later said Cohen testified until 5 p.m. on Monday, after starting at 2 p.m. He said Cohen would return to answer more questions Wednesday afternoon.
The Manhattan District Attorney’s office declined to comment. Grand jury proceedings are not public.
The renewed interest in Stormy Daniels and the $130,000 payment she received before the 2016 presidential election comes at a critical time for Trump, who is seeking the Republican presidential nomination in 2024. Daniels has said she got the payment in exchange for not discussing a sexual liaison with Trump, who denies it happened.
Trump has been given a chance to testify before the grand jury as a person subject to an investigation, Susan Necheles, an attorney for the former president, told Reuters last Thursday, a sign the grand jury may be close to deciding whether to bring criminal charges against him.
On Monday, Necheles said she had met with prosecutors earlier this month.
The Manhattan District Attorney “now threatens to indict former President Trump for payments made to Stormy Daniels seven years ago,” she said in a statement on Friday. “For the DA’s office to charge former President Trump, a victim of extortion, with a crime because his then lawyer, Michael Cohen, a convicted liar, paid the extortionist, would be unprecedented and outrageous selective prosecution.”
Cohen was sentenced to prison in 2018 in federal court in Manhattan for campaign finance violations tied to his arranging hush payments to Daniels and another woman during Trump’s 2016 presidential run, among other crimes.
“This is not revenge,” Cohen, who has become a Trump foe, told reporters on Monday. “My goal is to tell the truth.”
Davis, his lawyer, would not comment on the details of Cohen’s testimony before the grand jury on Monday. But, he added, “I can say generally that Mr. Cohen sticks to the facts, and documents and materials that back up the facts. Any lawyer who deflects and engages in personal attacks must not have the facts on her side.”
It is doubtful that Trump, who has called the investigation a witch hunt, will agree to testify.
“I did absolutely nothing wrong. I never had an affair with Stormy Daniels,” he said on his Truth Social platform last week.
Joseph Tacopina, another Trump lawyer, said on ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Monday there were no plans to participate in the grand jury, though a decision had not been made.
Necheles declined to comment to Reuters on whether Trump would testify.
(Reporting by Karen Freifeld; additional reporting by Douglas Higginbotham; Editing by Noeleen Walder, Bill Berkrot and Leslie Adler)