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Cohen testifies to loss of enthusiasm as Trump ally | Arkansas Democrat Gazette

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Cohen testifies to loss of enthusiasm as Trump ally | Arkansas Democrat Gazette


NEW YORK — Under questioning this week, Michael Cohen described the nuts-and-bolts of how payment to the porn actor Stormy Daniels to bury her story of an alleged sexual encounter with former President Donald Trump worked.

It wasn’t until after a decade in the fold, after his family pleaded with him, after the FBI raided his office, apartment and hotel room, Cohen testified Tuesday, that he finally decided to turn on Trump.

The complicated break led to a 2018 guilty plea to federal charges involving the payment to Daniels and to other unrelated crimes.

And it’s that insider knowledge of shady deals that pushed Manhattan prosecutors to make Cohen the star witness in their case against Trump about that same payment, which they say was an illegal effort to influence the 2016 presidential election.

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“To keep the loyalty and to do the things that he had asked me to do, I violated my moral compass, and I suffered the penalty, as has my family,” Cohen testified Tuesday.

But defense attorneys sought to portray Cohen as motivated by vengeance toward his former boss, confronting him on the witness stand with his own profane social media about Trump and wanting to see the former president in handcuffs.

The Republican presidential nominee has pleaded innocent and denies that any of the encounters took place.

As prosecutors laid out their case, Cohen testified about purposefully mislabeled checks, false receipts and blind loyalty that placed Trump at the center of the scheme. The testimony, somewhat dry for a man who was defined for years by his attitude as Trump’s problem-zapper, underscored the prosecution’s foundational argument — that the case isn’t about the spectacle of what Trump was paying for, but rather his effort to illegally cover up those payments.

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Cohen has testified in detail about how the former president was linked to all aspects of the hush money scheme, and prosecutors believe Cohen’s testimony is critical to their case. But their reliance on a witness with such a checkered past — he was disbarred, went to prison and separately pleaded guilty to lying about a Moscow real estate project on Trump’s behalf — could backfire, especially as Trump’s attorneys continue to cross-examine him.

One of Trump’s attorneys, Todd Blanche, spent no time Tuesday asking about the allegations at the center of the trial, instead working to raise doubts about Cohen’s credibility and his motivation for helping prosecutors try to put Trump behind bars.

Amid rapid-fire objections from prosecutors, Blanche probed Cohen’s hyperfocus on Trump, suggesting he’s attempted to parlay his insider knowledge into a reduced prison sentence and court supervision for his own crimes, and a new career making millions of dollars criticizing Trump.

Cohen was asked to listen through headphones to a snippet of his podcast, as was Trump while sitting at the defense table. Blanche asked Cohen if he recalled an October 2020 episode in which he said Trump needs to wear handcuffs and that “people will not be satisfied until this man is sitting inside a cell.”

“I wouldn’t put it past me,” Cohen testified.

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“Is it fair to say you’re motivated by fame?” Blanche asked.

“No sir, I don’t think that’s fair to say,” Cohen said. “I’m motivated by many things.”

Cohen will be the prosecution’s last witness. Trump’s defense will begin after Cohen, though it’s not clear whether his lawyers will call any witnesses or if Trump will testify in his own defense.

Jurors have already heard how Trump and others in his orbit were reeling after the leak just a few weeks before the 2016 election of an “Access Hollywood” tape in which he bragged about grabbing women by the genitals without their permission. The publication of the tape hastened the payments to Daniels, according to testimony.

Cohen testified that Trump was constantly apprised of the behind-the-scenes efforts to bury stories feared to be harmful to the campaign. And after paying out $130,000 to Daniels in order to keep her quiet about an alleged sexual encounter, Trump promised to reimburse him.

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Jurors followed along as prosecutor Susan Hoffinger walked Cohen through that reimbursement process. It was an attempt to show what prosecutors say was a lengthy deception to mask the true purpose of the payments.

As jurors were shown business records and other paperwork, Cohen explained their purpose and reiterated again and again that the payments were reimbursements for the hush money — they weren’t for legal services he provided or for a retainer.

It’s an important distinction, because prosecutors allege that the Trump records falsely described the purpose of the payments as legal expenses. These records form the basis of 34 felony counts charging Trump with falsifying business records. All told, Cohen was paid $420,000, with funds drawn from a Trump personal account.

“Were the descriptions on this check stub false?” Hoffinger asked.

“Yes,” Cohen said.

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“And again, there was no retainer agreement,” Hoffinger asked.

“Correct,” Cohen replied.

But prosecutors also spent time working to blunt the potential credibility issues, painting Cohen as a longtime Trump loyalist who committed crimes on behalf of the former president. On the witness stand, Cohen described in detail the April 2018 raid that marked the beginning of the end of his time being devoted to Trump.

“How to describe your life being turned upside-down? Concerned. Despondent. Angry,” Cohen told the jury.

“Were you frightened?” Hoffinger asked.

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“Yes, ma’am,” he said.

But he was heartened by a phone call from Trump that he said gave him reassurance and convinced him to remain “in the camp.”

He said to me, ‘Don’t worry. I’m the president of the United States. There’s nothing here. Everything’s going to be OK. Stay tough. You’re going to be OK,’” Cohen testified.

Cohen, who once boasted that he would “take a bullet” for Trump, told jurors that he “felt reassured because I had the president of the United States protecting me. … And so I remained in the camp.”

It was his wife and family who finally made him see how sticking by Trump was detrimental.

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“What are you doing? We’re supposed to be your first loyalty,” Cohen testified. “It was about time to listen to them,” he said.

Throughout Cohen’s testimony Tuesday, Trump reclined in his chair with his eyes closed and head tilted to the side. He occasionally shifted and leaned forward, opening his eyes and talking to his attorney before returning to his recline. Even some of the topics that have animated him the most as he campaigns didn’t stir his attention.

It was a far cry from the scene last October, when the once-fierce allies faced off at Trump’s civil fraud trial and Trump walked out of the courtroom after his lawyer finished questioning Cohen.

“Mr. Cohen, do you have any regrets about your past work for Donald Trump?” Hoffinger asked as she concluded her questioning.

“I do,” Cohen said. “I regret doing things for him that I should not have. Lying. Bullying people to effectuate a goal. I don’t regret working for the Trump Organization. As I expressed before, I had some very interesting, great times.”

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Information for this article was contributed by Jill Colvin and Lisa Mascaro of The Associated Press.

    Former President Donald Trump appears at Manhattan criminal court before his trial in New York, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. (Justin Lane/Pool Photo via AP)
 
 
  photo  Former President Donald Trump speaks to the media outside Manhattan criminal court in New York, on Tuesday, May 14, 2024. (Curtis Means/Pool Photo via AP)
 
 
  photo  Former President Donald Trump speaks to the media outside Manhattan criminal court before his trial in New York, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. (Mark Peterson/Pool Photo via AP)
 
 
  photo  Eric Trump looks on as his father, former President Donald Trump arrives at Manhattan criminal court in New York, on Tuesday, May 14, 2024. (Curtis Means/Pool Photo via AP)
 
 
  photo  Former President Donald Trump gives a thumbs-up as he exits the courtroom during a break at Manhattan criminal court before his trial in New York, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. (Justin Lane/Pool Photo via AP)
 
 
  photo  From left U.S Speaker of the House Mike Johnson, businessman Vivek Ramaswamy and Republican Congressman Cory Mills of Florida listen as former President Donald Trump talks with reporters outside Manhattan criminal court before his trial in New York, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. (Curtis Means/Pool Photo via AP)
 
 
  photo  Former President Donald Trump appears at Manhattan criminal court before his trial in New York, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. (Mark Peterson/Pool Photo via AP)
 
 
  photo  Defense attorney Todd Blanche cross examines Michael Cohen in Manhattan criminal court, Tuesday, May 14, 2024, in New York. Cohen returned to the witness stand Tuesday, testifying in detail how former president was linked to all aspects of a hush money scheme that prosecutors say was aimed at stifling stories that threatened his 2016 campaign. (Elizabeth Williams via AP)
 
 
  photo  Former President Donald Trump appears at Manhattan criminal court before his trial in New York, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. . (Justin Lane/Pool Photo via AP)
 
 



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Arkansas

Former Unbound champion Ivar Slik injured in collision during training ride in Arkansas

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Former Unbound champion Ivar Slik injured in collision during training ride in Arkansas


2022 Unbound Gravel 200 champion Ivar Slik was taken to hospital on Tuesday in Fayetteville, Arkansas, after he crashed into a motor vehicle while on a training ride in nearby Bentonville. 

Fellow Dutch cyclists Thijs Zonneveld, Nikki Terpstra and Jasper Ockeloen were riding with Slik at the time. Zonneveld, in collaboration with Ockeloen and Terpstra, posted to Instagram on Wednesday that Slik “is doing well under the circumstances” after a diagnosis by doctors at Washington Regional Hospital confirmed “a severe concussion, a broken nose” as well as cuts and contusions. 

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Double blasts | Arkansas Democrat Gazette

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Double blasts | Arkansas Democrat Gazette


HOOVER, Ala. — The first home run allowed by Gabe Gaeckle all season wound up being a postseason game-winner for South Carolina.

Cole Messina’s second two-run home run of the game was the difference as the Gamecocks beat the University of Arkansas 6-5 on Wednesday to send the No. 4 Razorbacks into the losers bracket at the SEC Tournament.

Messina’s shot to center field in the top of the ninth inning, his 19th of the season, came after Gaeckle (3-3) hit Blake Jackson with a pitch to lead off the inning.

“That guy, I knew he had a really good fastball,” Messina said. “I sold out for the fastball, and he ended up throwing a slider, and just took my best swing. Didn’t really think I was going to hit a slider, but it happened, and took a good swing, and the ball got out of here.

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Messina also homered off Parker Coil in the fifth inning after Coil hit Jackson with his first pitch of the game, and he delivered a one-out RBI single in the third inning to drive in five of his team’s six runs.

“They don’t really have too many holes in that lineup and we maneuvered through it pretty good expect for one guy, and he killed us,” Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn said.

Four of the runs for the Gamecocks (35-21) came from players who reached via walks or hit by pitch and the other two runs were Messina’s long balls.

“Free passes, at this time of year when everybody you play is good, they’ll come back and get you and they got us today,” Van Horn said.

South Carolina evened its season series with the Razorbacks at 2-2 and advanced to a winners bracket game against LSU on Thursday evening.

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“Two of the best teams in the country, in my opinion. Could have gone either way,” South Carolina Coach Mark Kingston said. “Cole drove in five of our six runs, so that’s the team I think we’re capable of being on any given day, and we beat one of the best teams in the country.”

Arkansas (43-13) will take on SEC co-champion Kentucky in the 9:30 a.m. elimination game Thursday.

The Razorbacks will turn to lefty ace Hagen Smith (9-0, 1.52) who held the Wildcats to three hits in a 10-3 win on May 3 in Lexington, Ky.

Van Horn was coy about what kind of length he would ask of Smith, who will have a much more important start in an NCAA regional in Fayetteville next weekend.

“Yeah, I don’t want to say much,” Van Horn said.

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South Carolina built leads of 1-0, 2-1 and 4-2 on Wednesday and the Razorbacks bounced back to tie the game each time. They almost did it again in the ninth.

After Messina’s ninth-inning blast, the Razorbacks mounted a rally against left-hander Garrett Gainey (1-3) in the bottom of the inning.

With one out, Peyton Stovall, Hudson White and Ben McLaughlin hit successive singles, with McLaughlin’s sending Stovall home to make it 6-5.

However, Gainey got Wehiwa Aloy to ground into a force out at second that nearly turned into a double play. He then retired Jared Sprague-Lott on a fly ball to left field to end the game.

Arkansas outhit the Gamecocks 9-8 but did not fully capitalize on its scoring opportunities.

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When the Razorbacks battled back from a 4-2 deficit in the seventh inning to score twice, the first four batters reached base before the inning fizzled.

Pinch hitter Will Edmunson singled to open the inning, then Kendall Diggs singled and Stovall launched a double over the head of center fielder Austin Brinling to drive in a run. Hudson White walked to load the bases, still with no outs, but all the Razorbacks got after that was a sacrifice fly by McLaughlin for the tying run.

“Just on our side it’s kind of a game of maybe missed opportunities,” Van Horn said. “You know we had a couple of chances to blow it open, instead of a two-run inning maybe three or four. One hit away. That was disappointing. Give them credit for pitching out of a couple of jams.”

Stovall, who went 3 for 5 to raise his batting average to .353, agreed with Van Horn’s assessment.

“I felt like we’ve done a good job all year of putting ourselves in those positions, we’ve just got to be able to get that big hit,” Stovall said. “And instead of maybe a sac fly or punch in one, maybe getting a huge hit and scoring three or four.”

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McLaughlin singled to lead off the second inning against Eli Jones and scored on Sprague-Lott’s single the opposite way to tie the game. McLaughlin walked to open the fourth and raced to third when Jones threw Aloy’s potential double-play grounder into center field. He scored on Ryder Helfrick’s sacrifice fly to make it 2-2.

Van Horn was still doing his in-game interview with the SEC Network as Coil hit Jackson and Messina cranked his first shot to center field.

“Coil hits the first batter he faces, a left-handed hitter that’s somebody we really need him to get out, and then I was still finishing up my interview, so I’m not sure exactly what pitch [Messina] hit, but he hit it and I watched it,” said Van Horn, who expressed frustration that both of Messina’s homers came after Jackson was hit by pitches and that South Carolina’s first inning ran came with two outs after Ben Bybee walked two batters and gave up an RBI single to Parker Noland.

    Arkansas second baseman Peyton Stovall fields a ground ball during the Razorbacks’ loss to South Carolina. The Razorbacks face Kentucky at 9:30 a.m. Central on Wednesday in an elimination game. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Charlie Kaijo)
 
 
  photo  Will Edmunson slides into home plate as he scores on Peyton Stovall’s RBI double that pulled Arkansas within 4-3 in the bottom of the seventh inning Wednesday against South Carolina at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium in Hoover, Ala. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Charlie Kaijo)
 
 



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#5 Arkansas falls to South Carolina in SEC Baseball Tournament opener

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#5 Arkansas falls to South Carolina in SEC Baseball Tournament opener


Despite a one-out rally in the bottom of the ninth inning, No. 5 Arkansas (43-13) lost to South Carolina (35-21), 6-5, Wednesday afternoon at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium in the SEC Tournament opener.

Arkansas, the No. 2 seed, will now play third-seeded Kentucky in an elimination game at 9:30 a.m. Thursday, May 23, on SEC Network with Dave Neal (play-by-play) and Chris Burke (analyst) on the call. Razorback ace and SEC Pitcher of the Year Hagen Smith (9-0, 1.52 ERA) will start on the mound against Wildcat right-hander Trey Pooser (4-1, 4.34 ERA).

South Carolina fended off Arkansas all afternoon, opening the scoring in the top of the first inning before retaking the lead in the third, fifth and ninth. Sophomore right-hander Ben Bybee started on the mound and went 2.1 innings against the Gamecocks, allowing two runs on three hits and three walks with one strikeout before departing the ballgame.

After falling behind by a run in the first, Jared Sprague-Lott’s two-strike single to right in the bottom of the second inning tied the game up. South Carolina retook a one-run lead in the third before Ryder Helfrick’s pinch-hit sacrifice fly scored Ben McLaughlin from third in the fourth inning and evened the game at two apiece.

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In relief of Bybee, fellow sophomore right-hander Christian Foutch was the first to emerge from the bullpen, firing 1.2 scoreless innings with three strikeouts to allow the Razorback offense to even the game at two entering the fifth. For the season, Foutch now owns a 0.86 ERA with 19 strikeouts over 21.0 innings of relief work over 18 appearances.

South Carolina used a two-run homer in the fifth to reopen a 4-2 advantage, but Arkansas punched back in the seventh. Following back-to-back leadoff singles by pinch-hitter Will Edmunson and Kendall Diggs, Peyton Stovall, who finished 3-for-5 with two doubles and an RBI, drove in Edmunson from second on an RBI double to straightaway center field.

McLaughlin’s sacrifice fly to left later in the inning scored Diggs from third, as the Razorbacks erased their two-run deficit to tie the game at four. Jake Faherty, meanwhile, tossed two scoreless innings on the mound with three punchouts, raising his season strikeout total to 21 while lowering his season ERA to 1.54 in 11.2 innings over 14 appearances.

True freshman Gabe Gaeckle worked the final two frames, striking out three but allowing a two-run homer in the top half of the ninth. The Hogs, however, would not go quietly when faced with another two-run deficit, scratching out a one-out rally in the bottom of the ninth thanks to three consecutive singles by Stovall, Hudson White and McLaughlin.

McLaughlin’s one-out single to left center scored Stovall from second and cut South Carolina’s lead to one, but Arkansas could not complete the comeback and, ultimately, suffered a 6-5 defeat in its SEC Tournament opener.

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