Tuesday Briefing: The Prosecution’s Star Witness at the Trump Trial

Tuesday Briefing: The Prosecution’s Star Witness at the Trump Trial

By Oghale May13,2024

Michael Cohen — the do-anything fixer who once boasted about burying Donald Trump’s secrets and spreading his lies — testified yesterday at Trump’s criminal trial. In a crucial passage, he said that the hush-money payment that he made to Stormy Daniels came at Trump’s direction.

“He expressed to me, ‘Just do it,’” Cohen said on the stand, adding, “I was doing everything and more to protect my boss.”

Here’s the latest.

Cohen’s testimony is key to efforts to tie Trump to allegations of a conspiracy to safeguard his presidential campaign in 2016 by burying Daniels’s account of a 2006 sexual encounter. Cohen admitted to lying and bullying for Trump, buying and suppressing negative stories while acting the part of a “thug.”

Cohen, who still faces cross-examination from the defense, also ground down some key assertions.

Trump’s lawyers argue that Trump was oblivious to his fixer’s machinations; Cohen described his boss as a micromanager. Trump’s team has also tried to paint its client as a family man deeply worried about how Daniels’s accusations would harm his marriage. Cohen described Trump as callous, saying that it “was all about the campaign.”

President Vladimir Putin’s surprise pick to lead Russia’s sprawling defense ministry made his first public appearance in his new role yesterday and spoke more about bureaucracy rather than the battlefield in Ukraine.

The appointment of Andrei Belousov, a soft-spoken expert on economic policy, signaled that Putin is focusing on subordinating Russia’s economy to its military needs in order to sustain a war of attrition with Ukraine.

In his remarks, Belousov did not reference the situation at the front, where Russian forces are mounting a new offensive in the northeast. He described his priorities as improving standards of care and living for soldiers, veterans and their families.

“It’s absolutely unacceptable” that soldiers are redirected to overcrowded hospitals when on leave, Belousov said. “This issue needs to be resolved.”

On the battlefield: A top Ukrainian general said its military was confronting a “critical” situation in the northeast as it tries to repel the Russian offensive. Ukraine is increasingly failing to stop Russian missiles as it awaits more weapons to bolster its air defenses.

The Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar has for years overseen a secret police force in Gaza that conducted surveillance and built files on young people, journalists and those who questioned the government, according to intelligence officials and internal documents reviewed by The Times.

“Super Size Me,” a documentary released 20 years ago, led to a backlash against McDonald’s, a symbol of the hegemony of American capitalism. But it didn’t stick.

Not only is McDonald’s now bigger than ever, with nearly 42,000 global locations, but fast food in general has boomed.

The Cannes Film Festival begins today in the south of France. Kyle Buchanan, a Times culture reporter, wrote about the movies, artists and events we’ll be keeping an eye on.

Some 45 years after “Apocalypse Now” won the Palme d’Or, Francis Ford Coppola is back with “Megalopolis,” starring Adam Driver as a visionary architect determined to rebuild a city after a disaster. It’s hard to imagine a friendlier place for the film’s debut than Cannes, where Coppola is revered.

But the biggest movie premiere will be “Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga.” Expect a major red-carpet moment from Anya Taylor-Joy, who takes over the title character originated by Charlize Theron.

Real-world controversies may bleed into the glitzy festival. The festival’s workers might strike, frustrated by their contracts. And the French film industry is reckoning with #MeToo, with more accusations rumored to come during the festival.

P.S. “The Retrievals,” a podcast from Serial Productions and The Times about deceit at a Yale fertility clinic, won a Peabody Award.

That’s it for today. See you tomorrow. — Amelia

You can reach us at briefing@nytimes.com.

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