Michael Dean Cohen born August 25, 1966 is an American attorney who worked as a lawyer for Donald Trump from 2006 until the termination of his employment in May 2018, a month after a federal investigation began.The investigation led to him pleading guilty on August 21, 2018, to eight counts of campaign finance violations, tax fraud, and bank fraud. In his statement before the court, Cohen said he violated campaign finance laws “in coordination with and at the direction of a candidate for federal office,” meaning Trump, “for the principal purpose of influencing the election” for president in 2016.
Cohen served as a vice-president of the Trump Organization and special counsel to President Donald Trump, and previously served as co-president of Trump Entertainment and was a board member of the Eric Trump Foundation, a children’s health charity. He joined the Trump Organization after having been a partner at Phillips Nizer.
From 2017 to 2018, Cohen was deputy finance chairman of the Republican National Committee.
Cohen joined the Trump Organization in 2006. Trump hired him in part because he was already a fan of Trump’s, having read Trump’s Art of the Deal twice, bought several Trump properties, and convinced his own parents and in-laws, as well as a business partner to buy condominiums in Trump World Tower. Cohen aided Trump in his struggle with the condominium board at the Trump World Tower, which led to Trump obtaining control of the board.
Cohen became a close confidant to Trump, maintaining an office near Trump at Trump Tower.
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In May 2018, the BBC reported that Cohen had received a secret payment of between $400,000 and $600,000 from intermediaries for Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko to arrange a meeting between Poroshenko and Trump, though Cohen was not registered as a foreign agent. Cohen and the Ukrainian president’s office denied the allegations.
In May 2018, Rudy Giuliani announced that Cohen was no longer Trump’s lawyer. In July, seized tapes secretly recorded by Cohen of his conversations with Trump about hush payments to Karen McDougal were disclosed to the New York Times, seemingly contradicting earlier statements by Trump denying knowledge of the payments, and raising questions about campaign finance ethics. Cohen also asserted that then Candidate Trump knew in advance about the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting between his son, Donald Jr. and other Trump campaign officials with Russians who claimed to possess information damaging to the Hillary Clinton campaign, contradicting the President’s repeated denials that he was aware of the meeting until long after it had taken place.
In the fall of 2016, adult film actress Stephanie Clifford (better known by her stage name Stormy Daniels) was speaking to some reporters about her allegation that she had had a sexual affair with Trump in 2006. In October, Cohen and her attorney, Keith M. Davidson, negotiated a non-disclosure agreement under which she was to be paid $130,000 for her silence. Cohen created a Delaware limited liability company called Essential Consultants and used it to pay the $130,000. The arrangement was publicly revealed by the Wall Street Journal in January 2018.
Cohen told The New York Times in February 2018, that the $130,000 was paid to Daniels from his own pocket, that it was not a campaign contribution, and that he was not reimbursed for making it by either the Trump Organization or the Trump campaign. The Washington Post later noted that, by stating that he used his own money to “facilitate” the payment, Cohen was not ruling out the possibility that Trump, as an individual, reimbursed Cohen for the payment. In April 2018, Trump acknowledged for the first time that Cohen has represented him in the Stormy Daniels case, after previously having denied knowledge of the $130,000 payment.
On March 5, the Wall Street Journal cited anonymous sources recounting Cohen as saying he missed two deadlines to pay Daniels because Cohen “couldn’t reach Mr. Trump in the hectic final days of the presidential campaign”, and that after Trump’s election, Cohen had complained that he had not been reimbursed for the payment. Cohen described this report as “fake news”.
On March 9, NBC News reported that Cohen had used his Trump Organization email to negotiate with Daniels regarding her nondisclosure agreement, and that Cohen had used the same Trump Organization email to arrange for a transfer for funds which would eventually lead to Daniels’ payment. In response, Cohen acknowledged that he had transferred funds from his home equity line of credit to the LLC and from the LLC to Daniels’ attorney.
In a March 25, 2018, interview with 60 Minutes, Daniels said that she and Trump had sex once, and that later she had been threatened in front of her infant daughter, and felt pressured to later sign a nondisclosure agreement.
On March 26, David Schwarz, a lawyer for Cohen, told ABC’s Good Morning America that Daniels was lying in the 60 Minutes interview. Cohen’s lawyer sent a cease-and-desist letter claiming Daniels’ statements constituted “libel per se and intentional infliction of emotional distress” to Cohen.
In April 2018, The Wall Street Journal reported that Shera Bechard, a former Playboy Playmate, had an affair with married Republican fundraiser Elliott Broidy, got pregnant by him, had an abortion, and was to be paid $1.6 million in so-called “hush money” to stay quiet. Broidy is a Republican fundraiser and deputy finance chair of the Republican National Committee.
In a 2018 court proceeding, Cohen said he had given legal advice to only three clients in 2017: Donald Trump, Sean Hannity, and Elliott Broidy. In late 2017, Cohen arranged the $1.6 million payment by Broidy to Bechard as part of a nondisclosure agreement requiring Bechard to keep silent about the matter. Cohen was Broidy’s attorney and Keith M. Davidson represented Bechard. Davidson had previously been the attorney for Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal. The Bechard nondisclosure agreement used the same pseudonyms – David Dennison for the man and Peggy Peterson for the woman – as in the Daniels agreement. The payments were to be made in installments.
On July 6, 2018, Bechard filed a lawsuit against Broidy, Davidson, and Daniels’ attorney Michael Avenatti, claiming the three had breached the agreement in relation to the cessation of the settlement payments.
After Cohen’s conviction his personal lawyer, Lanny Davis, stated that Cohen was ready to “tell everything about Donald Trump that he knows”. Davis alluded to Cohen’s knowledge which could be used against Trump, and hinted that Cohen had knowledge of whether Trump knew in advance about the computer hacking that was detrimental to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, as well as knowledge of the meeting at Trump Tower in June 2016. He later added that he believed Cohen would agree to testify before Congress, even without immunity.
Responding to speculation that President Trump might issue a pardon for Cohen, lawyer Davis said on NPR, “I know that Mr. Cohen would never accept a pardon from a man that he considers to be both corrupt and a dangerous person in the oval office. And [Cohen] has flatly authorized me to say under no circumstances would he accept a pardon from Mr. Trump.” In his interview to Sky News, Davis said the turning point for his client’s attitude toward Trump was the Helsinki summit in July 2018, which caused him to doubt Trump’s loyalty to the U.S.
The New York Times reported on August 22, 2018, that Cohen court documents revealed that two senior Trump Organization executives were also involved in the hush money payments, and that Cohen “coordinated with one or more members of the campaign, including through meetings and phone calls” about the payments.
On August 22, 2018, it was announced that the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance had issued a subpoena to Cohen in connection with their investigation into whether the Donald J. Trump Foundation had violated New York tax laws. This investigation is separate from the New York Attorney General’s lawsuit alleging that the foundation and its directors violated state and federal laws about the operation of charities.
Cohen married Ukraine-born Laura Shusterman in 1994.Laura Shusterman’s father, Fima Shusterman, left Ukraine for New York in 1975.He has a daughter who was attending the University of Pennsylvania as of May 2017. His uncle is a family practitioner who gave medical aid to members of the Lucchese crime family.
Before joining the Trump Organization, Cohen had purchased several homes in Trump’s buildings. A 2017 New York Times article reported that Cohen is known for having “a penchant for luxury”; he was married at The Pierre, drove a Porsche while attending college, and once owned a Bentley.