- The lawyers for President Donald Trump’s longtime attorney, Michael Cohen, are about to leave the case.
- That could lead him to cooperate with the government.
- “I think the likelihood of Mr. Cohen immediately flipping on the president just went through the roof,” Michael Avenatti, the attorney for the adult-film actress Stormy Daniels, told Business Insider.
The attorneys for President Donald Trump’s longtime lawyer, Michael Cohen, are about to leave the case, ABC News reported Wednesday.
Without any legal representation, Cohen is likely to cooperate with federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York, sources told ABC News. He is under investigation for possible campaign-finance violations, bank fraud, and wire fraud following the FBI’s April raids on his home, office, and hotel room.
Attorneys Stephen Ryan, Joseph Evans, and Todd Harrison have represented Cohen in the investigation, which has so far featured several hearings before US District Judge Kimba Wood related to the documents seized by the FBI. ABC News identified a “source representing this matter” as telling them that Cohen was about to lose his legal representation. The development is believed to be imminent, and no replacement counsel was identified as of Wednesday morning.
Cohen, Ryan, Harrison, and Evans did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Business Insider. Joanna Hendon, the attorney representing Trump in the case, did not respond to a request for comment. Nor did Alan Futerfas, the attorney representing The Trump Organization, or Trump’s outside attorney, Rudy Giuliani.
As of Wednesday morning, the attorneys had not filed to Wood a notice to withdraw from the case.
The ABC News story followed multiple reports Tuesday that Cohen had told associates he expected to be arrested in a matter of days. Responding to Vanity Fair’s report on the topic, Cohen said in a text message to the publication, “Your alleged source is wrong!”
Michael Avenatti, the attorney for Stormy Daniels, told Business Insider that the reported “abandonment” of Cohen by his attorneys “is an unmitigated disaster for” Trump and his longtime lawyer.
“I think the likelihood of Mr. Cohen immediately flipping on the president just went through the roof,” Avenatti said. “Our case gets better every day.”
The Wall Street Journal reported later Wednesday that Cohen’s attorneys are expected to stop representing him. But a source told The Journal that Cohen had not yet decided whether he would cooperate with prosecutors. Cohen is searching for a lawyer with close ties to the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, The Journal reported.
CNN also reported that Cohen and his attorneys had split, and that Cohen had already found a new lawyer whose name is not yet known. A source told CNN that Cohen had not yet met with prosecutors to try to cut a deal.
“Lawyers withdraw and change for all sorts of reasons (fees, chemistry etc),” tweeted Mimi Rocah, a former federal prosecutor in the Southern District of New York. “Maybe there’s more to the ABC report that Cohen is cooperating than what’s out there now but this sounds more like lawyer change & cooperation still more of a possibility than a fact.”
Cohen’s legal troubles are coming into focus
The center of Cohen’s troubles is a $130,000 hush-money payment that he facilitated to Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, just weeks before the 2016 presidential election to keep her quiet about her allegation of a 2006 affair with Trump.
The focus of Cohen’s case in the Southern District of New York is a review of the 3.7 million documents that the FBI had seized from Cohen. In April, Cohen and his lawyers successfully argued to have a special master appointed, which allowed them, Trump’s attorneys, and the Trump Organization to make determinations over which documents were protected by attorney-client privilege and could not be used in a potential prosecution.
The special master, Barbara Jones, was appointed to oversee the review and determine which documents she believed were privileged. Last week, Jones reported that she had completed the review of the first 300,000 documents, determining that just 162 were privileged. After initially seeking to be able to file objections under seal and having their request rebuffed by Wood, the attorneys for Cohen, Trump, and The Trump Organization filed no objections to Jones’s determinations by Monday’s deadline to do so.
As of late May, Cohen, Trump, and the Trump Organization had reviewed roughly 1.3 million of the 3.7 million total documents obtained by the FBI. In a hearing then, Wood said their review was going too slowly and ordered them to have it completed by this Friday.
If Cohen’s team can’t finish reviewing the documents to make privilege designations by Friday, Wood might turn the rest over to a “taint team” of government prosecutors to finish the review, she said. That team would be walled off from those who might prosecute Cohen. It’s the option Cohen and Trump didn’t want to have happen.
Trump has reportedly been steamed about the entire Cohen ordeal, and his allies have long feared that the attorney would flip and provide the government with information that could be damaging to the president.
On Friday, Trump said he hadn’t thought about pardoning Cohen, adding that he hadn’t been “convicted of anything.”
It’s “far too early to be thinking about that,’ he said.
Giuliani told Business Insider last month that the president’s legal team wasn’t terribly concerned about developments in the Cohen investigation because “it doesn’t really affect us.”