Cohen Says Trump’s Hush-Money Decisions Were Driven by Worries About Female Voters

The striking amount of time and energy that went into covering up Donald J. Trump’s alleged affairs with women in the run-up to the 2016 election, and the panic among his aides over their impact on female voters, returned front and center in the testimony of Michael D. Cohen on Monday.

Mr. Cohen and a team at The National Enquirer spoke seemingly constantly about how to keep these women quiet, even as new accounts surfaced that required awkward conversations with the candidate. Accounting departments were engaged, front companies were created and misleading invoices were produced, according to witnesses for the prosecution.

The “Access Hollywood” tape, a recording of Mr. Trump talking about groping women with impunity, landed like a bombshell in 2016. Mr. Trump urged Mr. Cohen, his fixer, who was in London, to reach out to his contacts in the news media. Chris Cuomo, then with CNN, in a text exchange seen in court on Monday, told Mr. Cohen it would be “too late” if he waited long to defend Trump on TV, and said, “He is dying right now.”

Mr. Cohen said Mr. Trump described the language heard on the “Access Hollywood” tape as “locker room talk,” a characterization he credited to his wife.

“The spin that he wanted put on it was that this is locker room talk, something that Melania had recommended,” Mr. Cohen testified.

Then came Stormy Daniels and the possibility of her going public with an account of a sexual liaison with Mr. Trump. Mr. Cohen said Mr. Trump told him that he had met Ms. Daniels at a golf tournament and that she liked him, and that women preferred him even over football stars, like those at the tournament.

Mr. Cohen pressed on, asking whether he had had sex with Ms. Daniels. Mr. Trump did not answer him, but called Ms. Daniels “a beautiful woman,” Mr. Cohen said. When Mr. Trump heard she was considering sharing her account, “he was really angry with me,” Mr. Cohen testified. Mr. Trump called the story a “total disaster” and said “women are going to hate me.”

“Guys may think it’s cool,” Mr. Trump said, according to Mr. Cohen, “but this is going to be a disaster for the campaign.”

Mr. Cohen said he had no control over Ms. Daniels’s story. “Just take care of it,” he says Mr. Trump told him.

To that end, Mr. Cohen established a bank account for Essential Consultants L.L.C., an entity he created in October 2016 and funded from his home-equity line of credit at First Republic Bank. He has previously said he did so to ensure his wife would not know about any transaction with Ms. Daniels. When checks were printed, per Mr. Cohen’s wishes, they included no address.

About two weeks before the 2016 presidential election, he wired the payment to Keith Davidson, a lawyer for Ms. Daniels.

To Gary Farro, a banker formerly with First Republic who was used to routine requests, the transactions stood out, he testified earlier in the trial.

“Every time Michael Cohen spoke to me, he gave me a sense of urgency,” Mr. Farro testified.

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