Prosecutors’ star witness in the hush money case against Donald Trump was back in the hot seat on Thursday as defence lawyers tried to chip away at Michael Cohen’s crucial testimony implicating the former president.

The trial resumed in Manhattan with potentially explosive defence 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.

Defense attorney Todd Blanche stands making the “swearing in” hand gesture when cross examining Michael Cohen, as Donald Trump, left, looks on with Judge Juan Merchan presiding, Thursday, May 16, 2024, in New York. (Elizabeth Williams via AP) (AP)

The trial is in its 18th day.

The defence is not expected to call many witnesses.

Over two days on the witness stand, Cohen placed Trump directly at the centre 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.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, left, and attorney Michael Cohen, right, during a visit to the Pastors Leadership Conference at New Spirit Revival Center, Sept. 21, 2016. (AP)

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

Donald Trump’s defence on Thursday brought up another embarrassing episode from Michael Cohen’s past — when he supplied his lawyer with non existent, AI-generated legal cases to back up an application last year to end his post-prison court supervision early.

As he has said previously, Cohen said he was doing research with an AI tool, and it served up a few cases that sounded useful but turned out to be inventions.

He has said he didn’t realise such tools could make things up.

Former President Donald Trump gestures as he leaves during a break in his trial at Manhattan criminal court Thursday, May 16, 2024, in New York. (Angela Weiss/Pool Photo via AP) (AP)

“Those citations were inaccurate. Not the sum and substance, but essentially the citations themselves,” Cohen testified on Thursday, leading to an exchange that illustrated the disbarred attorney’s careful, sometimes hair-splitting responses to cross-examination in Trump’s hush money trial.

“When you say the citations were inaccurate, you mean the cases didn’t exist, right?” defence attorney Todd Blanche asked.

“Under that citation, no.”

“The three cases that you gave to your attorney were not real cases, correct?”

“That’s correct,” Cohen acknowledged.

Court broke for lunch soon after.

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