Below is a slightly expanded version of my column in the New York Post on the first day of cross examination for Michael Cohen. He still has one day of cross examination ahead of him on Thursday. With the government resting after Cohen’s cross examination, I believe that an honest judge would have no alternative but to grant a motion for a directed verdict and end the case before it goes to the jury. Judge Juan Merchan will now have to give the full measure of his commitment to the rule of law. Given the failure to support the elements of any crime or even to establish the falsity of recording payments as legal expenses, this trial seemed to stumble through the motions of a trial. Michael Cohen was only the final proof of a raw political exercise. For critics, some of Cohen’s answers appear clearly false or misleading. Like their star witness, the prosecutors have shown that they simply do not take the law very seriously when there is an advantage to be taken. Cohen has truly found a home with the office of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg.

Here is the column:

On Tuesday, the prosecution surprised many by suddenly announcing that it would rest its case against former president Donald Trump with the completion of testimony by Michael Cohen.

It was surprising because the prosecution never clearly stated the crime that it was proving, the elements of that crime, or even why denoting payments related to Stormy Daniels were not properly recorded as legal expenses.

Indeed, the only thing the prosecutors proved was that, in the pantheon of dishonesty, there are liars, pathological liars . . . and Michael Cohen.

Cohen spent the last two days insisting that he used to be a liar but lied to help former President Donald Trump. If that is the thrust of his testimony, it is just the latest lie told by Cohen under oath.

Cohen has lied to Congress, courts, special counsels, the IRS, the banks, and virtually every creature that walks or crawls on the face of the Earth.

Notably, his past conviction for business and tax fraud were not taken in the interests of Trump but himself.

When he admitted on the stand that he lied during his prior plea agreement, that was not to assist Trump who he had already denounced. It was to advance his own interests.

There is every indication that Cohen is still lying.

Cohen repeatedly said that he could not remember even recent calls after recounting calls from eight years ago with crystal clarity. He said that he could not remember if he leaked information in the case to CNN. However, these paled in comparison to other glaring moments.

Take, for example, his testimony on his unethical decision to secretly record a Sept. 6, 2016 telephone call with Trump.

It was a breathtaking betrayal that most lawyers would not contemplate, let alone carry out.

When asked by the prosecutors about that act, Cohen bizarrely claimed that he did so to guarantee that David Pecker, the former publisher of the National Enquirer, would “remain loyal to Mr. Trump.”

No one seriously believes that this is true. It does not even make sense. Pecker was speaking to Trump about the payments and even met with him at the White House.

Playing for him a call with Trump would produce nothing but confusion rather than pressure for Pecker.

Moreover, why would Cohen tape the call without letting Trump know? The obvious motive was to squirrel away material to use against Trump if he ever needed a little leverage.

Again, it was for Cohen.

Cohen’s testimony showed that he has consistently acted in his sole interest.

After portraying his sudden cooperation with prosecutors as a type of Road to Damascus, jurors learned that all roads lead back to Cohen and his bank accounts.

After telling the jury that he has dedicated his life to righting the wrongs of Trump and holding him accountable, he admitted that he repeatedly acted to undermine the prosecution in order to make a buck.

Told by prosecutors to stop doing public interviews, Cohen did not care. He did roughly two dozen television appearances and recorded hundreds of podcast episodes.

He admitted that Trump is mentioned in virtually every episode, of which he did roughly four a week.

He recounted how he raked in millions on books, including one titled “Revenge.” He admitted that he is selling items like a $32 shirt with a photo of Trump in a jumpsuit behind bars and a coffee mug with the phrase “send him to the big house, not the White House.”

He is also peddling a reality show called “The Fixer,” in which he promises viewers, “I am your fixer.”

After just a few hours of cross examination, it was clear that Cohen is the same grifter saving himself — one Venmo at a time.

Yet, Cohen continued to reframe reality in his own self-constructed image.

When asked about his TikTok antics, he portrayed his postings as a type of sleep deprivation therapy, explaining that “having a difficult time sleeping and [he] found an out.”

No sane prosecutor would rely on Cohen, let alone make him the entirety of their case.

The prosecutors did not even bother to show that Trump was responsible for or knew about how the payments were recorded on ledgers and business records.

They also just shrugged away the need to show why denoting these payments as “legal expenses” was fraudulent — or what the correct description might be.

Those details might be demanded in any other courtroom, but this is New York and the defendant is Donald Trump.

For Bragg and his team, it is all about what they can get out of this case despite the law.

In that sense, they found a kindred spirit in their star witness, and Michael Cohen has finally found a place that values what he calls on his reality show promo his “particular set of skills.”

Jonathan Turley is an attorney and professor at George Washington University Law School.