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The Latest | Defense at Trump hush money trial to cross-examine star witness Michael Cohen

NEW YORK — Prosecutors’ star witness in the hush money case against Donald Trump will be back in the hot seat Thursday as defense lawyers try to chip away at Michael Cohen’s crucial testimony implicating the former president.

The trial will resume in Manhattan with potentially explosive defense cross-examination of Cohen, whose credibility could determine the presumptive Republican presidential nominee’s fate in the case.

Cohen is prosecutors’ final witness — at least for now — as they try to prove Trump schemed to suppress a damaging story he feared would torpedo his 2016 presidential campaign, and then falsified business records to cover it up.

The trial is in its 18th day. The defense is not expected to call many witnesses.

Over two days on the witness stand, Cohen placed Trump directly at the center of the alleged scheme to stifle negative stories to fend off damage to his White House bid. Cohen told jurors that Trump promised to reimburse him for the money he fronted and was constantly updated about efforts to silence women who alleged sexual encounters with him. Trump denies the women’s claims.

Trump has pleaded not guilty to 34 felony counts.

The case is the first-ever criminal trial of a former U.S. president and the first of four prosecutions of Trump to reach a jury.

Currently:

— The jurors are getting a front row seat to history — most of the time

— Lies, loyalty and a gag order upheld: Tuesday’s Trump hush money trial takeaways

— Speaker Mike Johnson’s appearance is a remarkable moment

— Trump hush money case: A timeline of key events

— Key players: Who’s who at Trump’s hush money criminal trial

Here’s the latest:

After months of questions about whether general election debates would happen, President Joe Biden and Republican nominee Donald Trump have agreed to participate in two of them: one in June and one in September.

The first debate will play out in a jam-packed and unsettled political calendar, before either candidate becomes his party’s official nominee at the summer conventions.

The June 27 match-up will come after the expected conclusion of Trump’s criminal hush money trial in New York, foreign trips by Biden in mid-June to France and Italy, and the end of the Supreme Court’s term.

The second debate would take place before most states begin early voting — though some overseas and military ballots may already be in the mail.

Some of the most explosive moments in Donald Trump’s hush money trial have played out for most of the world to see — except for the people who are actually deciding his fate: the jury.

The 12-person panel is shown evidence and witness testimony so they can decide whether the former president is guilty of a scheme to buy up and bury seamy stories in an effort to illegally influence the 2016 presidential election. But it’s a highly curated experience; jurors are not getting the full picture seen by those who follow along each day.

They don’t even witness Trump enter or exit the courtroom. He’s already there by the time they are brought into the room, and he stays until they are dismissed. This is by design.

Donald Trump is seeking to have New York’s highest court intervene in his fight over a gag order that has seen him fined $10,000 and threatened with jail for violating a ban on commenting about witnesses, jurors and others connected to his hush money criminal trial.

The former president’s lawyers filed a notice of appeal Wednesday, a day after the state’s mid-level appellate court refused his request to lift or modify the restrictions. The filing was listed on a court docket, but the document itself was sealed and not available.

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, Michael Cohen testified Tuesday, that he finally decided to turn on Donald Trump.

The complicated break led to a 2018 guilty plea to federal charges involving a payment to the porn actor Stormy Daniels to bury her story of an alleged sexual encounter with Trump 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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