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Trump's former fixer Michael Cohen testifies against him in New York

Michael Cohen arrives for former President Donald Trump's civil business fraud trial at New York Supreme Court on Tuesday.
Yuki Iwamura
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AP
Michael Cohen arrives for former President Donald Trump's civil business fraud trial at New York Supreme Court on Tuesday.

Updated October 24, 2023 at 6:24 PM ET

NEW YORK — Michael Cohen, the onetime lawyer and fixer for former President Donald Trump, came face to face with his former boss in a New York courtroom on Tuesday.

Cohen was at the New York County Supreme Court to testify in a civil trial alleging the former president inflated the value of his assets to land better business deals and tax benefits.

During his testimony, Cohen said that Trump had asked him to "increase the total assets based upon a number that he arbitrarily elected."

His responsibility, along with that of former Trump Organization Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg, "was to reverse engineer the very different asset classes, increase those assets in order to achieve the numbers" Trump had asked for.

As the court broke for lunch, Trump, who is not required to be present for the trial but arrived within several minutes of Cohen on Tuesday morning, told reporters he is "not worried" about Cohen's testimony, arguing Cohen is not a credible witness due to his past lying under oath.

How Cohen and Trump landed on opposite sides

Trump and Cohen had a falling out in 2018 amid a federal investigation into Cohen's financial dealings and special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into the Trump campaign's possible ties to Russia during the 2016 presidential race.

In late 2018, Cohen pleaded guilty to a raft of federal charges, including campaign finance violations related to hush money payouts to two women in exchange for their public silence about their personal relationships with Trump.

Former President Donald Trump speaks to members of the media as he arrives at New York State Supreme Court where he will face Michael Cohen, who is testifying against him.
Alex Kent / AFP via Getty Images
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AFP via Getty Images
Former President Donald Trump speaks to members of the media as he arrives at New York State Supreme Court where he will face Michael Cohen, who is testifying against him.

In February 2019, Cohen testified before the House Oversight Committee.

"Mr. Trump is a cheat," Cohen said before lawmakers. "It was my experience that Mr. Trump inflated his total assets when it served his purposes, such as trying to be listed amongst the wealthiest people in Forbes, and deflated his assets to reduce his real estate taxes."

Trump has long argued that he has done no wrong and has repeatedly cast Cohen as untrustworthy.

Cohen's record came up inside the court, too. While Colleen Faherty of the New York attorney general's office wanted to get it out of the way at the top of her questioning, Trump attorney Alina Habba dwelled on it during cross examination — flagging that Cohen had lied under oath multiple times.

Ahead of Tuesday's proceedings, Cohen told reporters "this is not about Donald Trump vs. Michael Cohen, or Michael Cohen vs. Donald Trump. This is about accountability, plain and simple, and we leave it up to Judge Engoron to make all the determinations on that."

New York Judge Arthur Engoron, who is overseeing the trial, issued an order before the start of the trial concluding that Trump and his associates — including his sons Eric and Donald Jr. — did inflate the value of their assets. At stake in the trial is whether or not Trump conspired to commit fraud on purpose and how much he will owe the state in penalties if so.

Cohen's cross examination is expected to continue on Wednesday. More lawyers, insurers and Trump employees will fill out the week of testimonies as well. Still on the witness list: Trump himself and his children, Ivanka and co-defendants Donald Jr. and Eric.

Andrea Bernstein contributed to this report.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Ximena Bustillo
Ximena Bustillo is a multi-platform reporter at NPR covering politics out of the White House and Congress on air and in print.