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 is 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.
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.
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.
Andrea Bernstein contributed to this report.