Trump at­tor­ney Cohen re­ported to have split with his le­gal team

Richmond Times-Dispatch - - NATION&WORLD - BY SHAN­NON PET­TY­P­IECE AND DAVID VORE­A­COS

Michael Cohen, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s long­time per­sonal at­tor­ney and fixer, is part­ing ways with his le­gal team as fed­eral prose­cu­tors in New York pur­sue a crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion of him, ac­cord­ing to a per­son fa­mil­iar with the case.

Un­der deep fi­nan­cial pres­sure, Cohen plans to hire a new lawyer for the next phase of the probe, the per­son said. Cohen’s move to switch lawyers was in­ter­preted by some le­gal ob­servers as a sign he may seek to co­op­er­ate with fed­eral prose­cu­tors.

But he could have other mo­tives — it’s un­clear, for ex­am­ple, how Cohen plans to fund his ex­pen­sive le­gal de­fense.

Cohen and his lawyers didn’t re­spond to re­quests for com­ment on Wed­nes­day.

Cohen has a decade-long view into Trump’s busi­ness deal­ings, in­clud­ing pro­posed deals in Moscow and the for­mer Soviet Union, as well as his pres­i­den­tial cam­paign. He’s ar­ranged hush­money pay­ments to women al­leg­ing they’d had af­fairs with Trump. He traded in his Trump con­nec­tion to take in mil­lions of dol­lars from com­pa­nies and a fund linked to a wealthy Rus­sian.

Cohen’s de­ci­sion to change lawyers, re­ported ear­lier by ABC News, is “very sig­nif­i­cant,” but the im­pact on Trump de­pends on what he knows and whether he co­op­er­ates, for­mer fed­eral prose­cu­tor Re­nato Mar­i­otti said.

“Even if he co­op­er­ates, the ques­tion is what does he know and what is he go­ing to tell prose­cu­tors?” Mar­i­otti said. “It’s never a good thing when your lawyer flips. But we don’t know how bad it will be for the pres­i­dent. It will ei­ther be an an­noy­ance or dev­as­tat­ing.”

Fed­eral prose­cu­tors in Man­hat­tan will be un­likely to strike a co­op­er­a­tion deal un­less Cohen agrees to talk to both spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller and state and fed­eral prose­cu­tors in New York, Mar­i­otti said.

“He’s not go­ing to get a co­op­er­a­tion deal un­less he helps them make a case against some­one they wouldn’t oth­er­wise get or moves the ball for­ward sig­nif­i­cantly against some­one else,” he said. “If he gets a deal, he has to say what he knows about ev­ery­body, and he has been will­ing to co­op­er­ate with any state or fed­eral prose­cu­tors.”

Cohen’s change of course comes just days be­fore a fed­eral judge in New York is set to wrap up a re­view of ev­i­dence seized when the FBI searched his res­i­dences and of­fices in April. Cohen’s lawyers, Stephen Ryan and Todd Har­ri­son of McDer­mott, Will & Emery LLP, rep­re­sented him as a court-ap­pointed spe­cial master over­saw which

doc­u­ments should be kept private be­cause of at­tor­ney-client priv­i­lege.

Ryan also rep­re­sented Cohen when he tes­ti­fied to Congress.

The spe­cial master, re­tired judge Bar­bara Jones, re­ported ear­lier this month that only 162 of the first 292,000 items she re­viewed should be with­held on those grounds. Prose­cu­tors seized as many as 3 mil­lion items.

The process has been ex­pen­sive for Cohen. Har­ri­son told Judge Kimba Wood in a hear­ing last week that his team has 15 lawyers and two data spe­cial­ists “work­ing around the clock” to re­view the ma­te­rial. Wood said if they’re not fin­ished by Fri­day, she’ll give the rest of the seized items to a govern­ment “taint team” — a group of lawyers sep­a­rate from the pros­e­cu­tion team — to com­plete the re­view.

In April, Cohen and his wife, Laura, put up their Park Av­enue apart­ment as col­lat­eral for mil­lions of dol­lars in trou­bled loans to their be­lea­guered taxi busi­ness, public fil­ings show. Their lender, Ster­ling Na­tional Bank, ear­lier this year granted a con­ces­sion to a debtor fac­ing fi­nan­cial dif­fi­cul­ties who owed $12.8 mil­lion; the tim­ing matches the is­suance of new liens is­sued by Ster­ling against the Co­hens’ as­sets.

Cohen sued April 13 to try to block prose­cu­tors from look­ing at com­mu­ni­ca­tions pro­tected by at­tor­ney-client priv­i­lege. Trump and his com­pany, the Trump Or­ga­ni­za­tion, quickly joined in the suit.

Cohen

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