Michael Cohen: who is Trump’s legal ‘pit bull’ who was raided by the FBI?


Cohens loyalty to Trump in the Stormy Daniels scandal may have drawn him into legal jeopardy, even as it has carried him near the spires of American power

He’s a pugnacious lawyer with a Long Island accent who says he grew up idolizing Donald Trump and soaking in the wisdom of the real estate tycoon’s bestseller, The Art of the Deal.

But Michael Cohen’s devotion to Trump, his boss and mentor since 2006, may have drawn Cohen into legal jeopardy even as it has carried him near the pinnacles of American power.

FBI agents raided Cohen’s office and home on Monday after a referral by special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. Agents reportedly confiscated material including correspondence with Trump and documents relating to a payment by Cohen to the porn star Stormy Daniels, who claims to have had a sexual relationship with Trump.

Mueller’s squad had previously procured emails Cohen wrote during the campaign and presidential transition, and documentation of Cohen’s efforts to get a Trump real estate development off the ground in Moscow.

Attempts by Cohen to silence Daniels, including with the threat of a $20 m lawsuit, have so far only sharpened the public focus on her alleged affair with Trump and cast a new spotlight on Cohen’s more bareknuckle tactics.

A lawyer for Daniels last month accused Cohen, 51, of” a history of thuggish behavior” and” use intimidation tactics in trying to step on little people” on behalf of Trump.

” As it relates to my client, it’s going to come to an end ,” Michael Avenatti told CBS News.” We’re going to show the American people precisely who Michael Cohen is .”

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Cohen is the son of a surgeon who escaped a Nazi concentration camp with his family. He attended American University in Washington DC and worked at a personal injury-malpractice law firm before becoming a partner at the Manhattan law firm Phillips Nizer. He met Trump after becoming treasurer of the board for Trump World Tower, where he and his family owned apartments .

Every account of Cohen’s place in the Trump orbit includes the word ” loyalty “. For a decade, Cohen has been known as Trump’s” pit policeman”, for commentaries such as this one in a 2011 interview :” If someone does something Mr Trump doesn’t like, I do everything in my power to resolve it to Mr Trump’s benefit. If you do something wrong, I’m going to come at you, grab you by the neck, and I’m not going to let you go until I’m finished .”

That kind of tough talk might make for a pas PR headache for him, but more problematic for Cohen may be his was decided to ” facilitate”( his term) a $130,000 payment to Daniels a month before the 2016 presidential election.

The watchdog group Common Cause has added to the flurry of lawsuits swirl around Trump and Stormy Daniels, which, although it is the stage name of Stephanie Clifford, is the moniker she says she prefers.

Common Cause claims that the pay was in fact a campaign contribution and transgressed campaign finance statutes, a view that Trevor Potter, a former chairman of the federal elections commission, supported in a CBS News interview last month.

” The payment of the money just makes an enormous legal mess for, I suppose, Trump, for Cohen and anyone else who was involved in the campaign ,” Potter said.

Cohen has denied all wrongdoing and has said the payment was not related to the Trump campaign.

The depth of Cohen’s potential legal jeopardy is not yet clear. Monday’s raids may have been carried out to obtain evidence in Mueller’s Russia investigation or in a parallel investigation of potential campaign finance violations or other alleged criminal activity.

The former presidential nominee John Edwards was charged with campaign finance violations for secret pays stimulated in 2007 in an attempt to conceal a pregnant mistress, but he was discovered not guilty on one charge and no verdict was reached on five others.

The Cohen case could entail a more straightforward violation of campaign finance laws, legal analyst Rick Hasen and others have written, because Trump cannot plausibly claim the payments were made in defence of Trump’s personal reputation.

” Given pre-candidate Trump’s reputation, it is not clear that the pay in this instance could be considered personal in order to not sully his already-sullied reputation ,” Hasen wrote on his Election Law Blog.” Remember this comes after the’ grab them by the pussy’ comments .”


Cohen has insisted he “facilitated” the pay to Daniels as a favor to a friend and client and that the pay did not relate to the loom general elections. Daniels, who sued Trump earlier this month in an attempt to exit a non-disclosure agreement, brought an additional lawsuit against Cohen for defamation, claiming he had painted her as a liar .

Lawyers for Daniels and Cohen- have been locked in a battle over Daniels’ tale of an alleged sexual affair with Trump, which she recounted in an interview with CBS’s 60 Minutes.

In her interview, Daniels told a story about being approached in a Las Vegas parking lot in 2011 by an intimidating human, just as the celebrity magazine In Touch was preparing to publish her story about Trump.

” And a guy walked up on me and said to me,’ Leave Trump alone. Forget the story ,'” Daniels said.” And then he leaned around and looked at my daughter and said,’ That’s a beautiful little girl. It’d be a shame if something happened to her mom .’ And then he was gone .”

Two former employees of the magazine told CBS” the story never operated because after the publication called Mr Trump trying comment, his attorney Michael Cohen threatened to sue”, the network reported.

Daniels did not blamed Cohen directly for the parking lot showdown. His lawyers sent her a letter denying the incident all the same and, in the wider Trump machine’s unyielding attempts to undermine Daniels’ credibility, carried doubt that the man in the Las Vegas parking lot even existed.

Read more: www.theguardian.com


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