Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s longtime personal fixer, will soon be parting from the lawyers representing him in a potentially damaging and wide-ranging federal investigation into his business dealings, according to two people familiar with the case.
NEW YORK — Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s longtime personal fixer, will soon be parting from the lawyers representing him in a potentially damaging and wide-ranging federal investigation into his business dealings, according to two people familiar with the case.
Prosecutors conducting the inquiry have not approached Cohen to seek his cooperation, according to two people briefed on the case. But as the investigation continues, and with Cohen’s legal team in flux, the pressure on him to cooperate with the government may intensify.
Cohen’s current lawyers — a three-man team from the firm of McDermott Will & Emery — are expected to stay with him for at least the rest of the week as they struggle to complete a review of a trove of documents and data files seized from their client in a series of extraordinary raids two months ago. But after that review is finished, Cohen will seek new legal counsel, the people familiar with his case said.
The dispute between Cohen and his lawyers involves the payment of his legal bills, part of which are being paid for by the Trump family. Cohen has also had more long-standing concerns about the lawyers: As his case moves forward, he has been thinking about hiring a new legal team with stronger relationships with the federal prosecutors’ office in New York that is leading the investigation, according to the people briefed on the matter.
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Cohen’s case burst into public view April 9, when federal agents with search warrants went to his office, apartment and hotel room, hauling away eight boxes of paperwork, about 30 cellphones, iPads and computers — even the contents of one of his shredders. The materials were seized on the orders of prosecutors in Manhattan who have been trying to determine whether Cohen broke the law in any of his business projects, including payments he made to two women who claim they had affairs with Trump.
The Cohen inquiry is separate from the one being run by the special counsel, Robert Mueller, who is looking into potential ties between Trump, his associates and Russia.
But Trump’s lawyers have confronted the specter that the New York-based investigation could persuade Cohen — who has a wife and two children and faces the prospect of devastating legal fees — to cut a deal and share his intimate knowledge of Trump with Mueller’s team.
Cohen worked for Trump for years as a lawyer and self-described “fix-it guy,” guarding his boss’ secrets and helping him to navigate some of the most sensitive episodes in his personal and professional life.
Among those episodes was one involving the pornographic-film star Stephanie Clifford, who is better known as Stormy Daniels.
Cohen has admitted paying Clifford $130,000 in the run-up to the 2016 election to keep quiet about an affair she claims she had with Trump.
Though Trump initially denied knowledge of the payment, he later acknowledged that he had known about it.
It is not uncommon for clients — even those, like Cohen, who have not yet been charged with a crime — to change lawyers in the middle of a case. And while Cohen’s split from the McDermott team, first reported by ABC News, marked a significant moment in the proceedings, there was no certainty that he would strike a deal with the prosecutors.
One person with knowledge of the legal-staffing change said Trump’s camp was “very displeased” with the way the Cohen investigation had been conducted. But the president has also indicated to allies that he is worried that if he pushes Cohen away too hard, it could increase the likelihood that Cohen will offer information to the government.
Trump’s businesses have not been funding Cohen’s entire legal defense, but the Trump family has been paying for the process of reviewing the materials seized in the raids on Cohen, according to people familiar with the case.
Recently, a dispute has erupted over the amount that Cohen’s lawyers want to charge the Trump family enterprises for the review, which the lawyers have said they are running with a large team of associates and data specialists.