5 big takeaways from Day 18 of Trump's hush money trial

The defense hammered away at Michael Cohen's credibility on Day 18 of the trial.

Defense attorney Todd Blanche undertook an aggressive bid to undermine former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen's credibility Thursday in former President Donald Trump's criminal hush money trial, by attempting to frame Cohen as a prolific liar with a bone to pick against his former boss.

Cohen remained calm on the stand -- his emotions betrayed only by recordings of an expletive-laden podcast rant played for jurors -- as Blanche questioned him about his past lies, his criminal convictions, his ego, and some of his most painful personal and professional failings.

Blanche also called into doubt Cohen's prior testimony representing some of the government's most important evidence -- accusing Cohen of lying about a 2016 phone call in which he and Trump allegedly discussed a "catch-and-kill" scheme to suppress Stormy Daniels' story.

Trump is on trial for allegedly falsifying business records to hide the reimbursement of a hush money payment that Cohen made to Daniels, an adult film actress, in order to boost Trump's electoral prospects in the 2016 presidential election. The former president has denied all wrongdoing.

Meanwhile, as the government's case approaches its conclusion, a major question remains: Will Donald Trump take the witness stand?

Here are the big takeaways from Day 18 of Donald Trump's criminal trial.

Lies and more lies

Todd Blanche spent large swaths of his cross-examination establishing that Michael Cohen lied -- about a lot of things, to a lot of different people.

He lied to the House Intelligence Committee and federal investigators -- crimes to which Cohen later pleaded guilty.

Cohen also had to explain discrepancies between his testimony and what previous witnesses had said, including about his desire for a cooperation agreement, a presidential pardon, and a job in the White House.

"You told people you would like to be attorney general?" Blanche asked.

"I don't recall that," Cohen said -- even though an earlier witness, Keith Davidson, testified that Cohen told him about his desire to have that role.

On Thursday Cohen said what he really wanted was to be personal attorney to the president, "a hybrid position where I would still have the access to President Trump but not be a White House employee."

PHOTO: Former President Donald Trump attends his trial at Manhattan Criminal Court in New York City, on May 16, 2024.
Former President Donald Trump attends his trial at Manhattan Criminal Court in New York City, on May 16, 2024.
Angela Weiss/Pool via Reuters

Blanche read aloud from a text message exchange between Cohen and a friend shortly after Trump's 2016 victory.

"Chief of Staff?" the message inquired.

"That would be nice," Cohen replied in the text.

Cohen keeps his cool

For five hours, Cohen fielded questions about his lies, his criminal convictions, his ego, his personal and professional failings -- in short, the darkest moments of his life.

And even as Blanche tried to provoke him, Cohen managed to remain calm, candid, and polite -- often referring to Blanche as "sir." He spoke slowly and kept an even tone as he recounted telling his daughter he was "not the right person for dhief of staff," even though he "would have liked to have been considered for ego purposes."

"But you were disappointed that after all the work you've done for Trump for nine and a half years, nobody, including President Trump offered you position in the White House?" Blanche asked.

"That's not accurate," Cohen said.

"You were not embarrassed that after all the work you've done for him, you were left being his personal attorney and nothing more?" Blanche asked.

"That's the role that I wanted," he said.

On the stand, Cohen displayed scant evidence of the man jurors earlier heard on a podcast recording saying of Trump, "I truly f------ hope that this man ends up in prison."

Blanche questions Trump-Cohen phone call

Todd Blanche launched his most direct -- and animated -- line of inquiry when he accused Cohen of lying about a phone call he said he had with Donald Trump on Oct. 24, 2016 -- a key piece of evidence in the government's case.

"That was a lie. You did not talk to President Trump that night," Blanche said, growing extremely animated, raising his voice and the pace of his speech. "You can admit it."

"No sir, I can't," Cohen said. "Because I'm not sure that's accurate."

Call logs entered into evidence show that Cohen called Trump's bodyguard, Keith Schiller, at 8:02 p.m. that night, as Cohen testified earlier in the trial. Cohen claims that Schiller handed the phone to Trump, after which the two of them discussed the Stormy Daniels payment.

But Blanche said that was untrue, suggesting Cohen actually spoke to Schiller about a teenager who kept prank-calling Cohen's phone. Jurors saw a series of texts where Cohen told 14-year-old he was reporting them to the Secret Service for "ongoing and continuing harassment."

"That was a lie," Blanche said regarding Cohen's claim of speaking with Trump, pausing for effect between each word.

But Cohen calmly and stood by his testimony, saying he spoke to both Trump and Schiller.

"Based upon what was going on and based upon the other messages regarding the Stormy Daniels matter, yes, I believe I was telling the truth," Cohen said.

Republican allies flock to courtroom

Reps. Matt Gaetz and Lauren Boebert were among the coterie of Trump allies to attend the trial Thursday -- the latest high-profile Republicans to show their support for the party's leader.

Out of the jury's earshot, prosecutor Susan Hoffinger complained to Judge Merchan about the disruptions caused by members of Trump's political entourage.

"I noticed that some of his guests are already here today with their security detail. But we would just ask that they not be allowed to file in, in the middle of Mr. Blanche's cross-examination," Hoffinger said.

PHOTO: Rep. Anna Paulina Luna,  Rep. Andy Ogles, Rep. Matt Gaetz, Rep. Andy Biggs, and Rep. Lauren Boebert, look on as former President Donald Trump appears at Manhattan criminal court in New York, on May 16, 2024.
Rep. Anna Paulina Luna, Rep. Andy Ogles, Rep. Matt Gaetz, Rep. Andy Biggs, and Rep. Lauren Boebert, look on as former President Donald Trump appears at Manhattan criminal court in New York, on May 16, 2024.
Mike Segar/Pool via AP

"Yes. I would advise that that not happen," Merchan said.

Blanche said it was out of his hands.

"Your Honor, I have less than zero control over what is happening on anything or anyone that's behind me when I am crossing a witness," Blanche said.

Shortly thereafter, Gaetz walked into court in the middle of cross-examination.

Will Trump testify?

Cohen, the state's star witness, will return to the stand on Monday when court resumes after a long weekend. Blanche suggested he would conclude his cross-examination of Cohen before the lunch break on Monday.

The district attorney's office has indicated that Cohen will be their final witness, meaning prosecutors could rest their case as soon as Monday.

It remains unclear whether Donald Trump will testify -- or whether the defense will call any other witnesses. Before court concluded, Blanche left the door open for both.

If it turns out there are no other witnesses, said Merchan, the parties should be prepared to begin summations on Tuesday.

ABC News' Julia Reinstein and Jianna Cousin contributed to this report.

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