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Ex-fixer Cohen testifies Trump signed off on hush money payment to porn star

NEW YORK (Reuters) -- Donald Trump's former fixer Michael Cohen told jurors on Monday that the Republican presidential candidate personally approved a hush money payment to bury a porn star's story of a sexual encounter before it could derail his 2016 campaign.

"Just do it," Cohen said Trump told him, instructing him to figure out the best way of paying adult film actress Stormy Daniels $130,000 to stay quiet about an alleged 2006 liaison, which he denies.

The October 2016 payment is at the center of the historic trial, which entered its fifth week in New York state criminal court in Manhattan. Prosecutors have said they could rest their case this week.

In hours of dramatic testimony, Cohen, 57, once one of Trump's most loyal lieutenants and now the prosecution's star witness, described multiple episodes in which Trump signed off on payments aimed at quashing sex-scandal stories while he campaigned for the highest office in the land.

In the final weeks before the 2016 election, Cohen learned that Daniels was shopping her story to tabloids. It was a pivotal moment for the Trump campaign, which was reeling from the release of an audio recording from the TV show "Access Hollywood" in which Trump bragged about grabbing women's genitals.

"He said to me: 'This is a disaster, a total disaster. Women are going to hate me,'" Cohen, wearing a dark suit and pink tie, testified Trump had said. "'Guys, they think it's cool, but this is going to be a disaster for the campaign.'"

Prosecutors have said Trump paid Cohen back after the election and hid the reimbursements by recording them falsely as legal retainer fees in Trump's real estate company's records.

Trump faces 34 counts of falsifying business records tied to the reimbursements.