The Trump Trials: Who is Michael Cohen?
A vice-president of the Trump Organization, Michael Cohen spent twelve years as personal counsel to former President Donald Trump. However, his career soon took a dramatic turn. On December 12, 2018, he was sentenced to three years in federal prison and ordered to pay a $50,000 fine, all as a punishment which came after he pled guilty to tax evasion, bank fraud, and campaign-finance violations. He was subsequently disbarred from practicing law in the State of New York on February 26, 2019.
The Payments to Stormy Daniels
Acting on behalf of then-candidate Donald Trump, Michael Cohen negotiated a non-disclosure agreement with Keith Davidson, an attorney for Stormy Daniels, in 2016. Under this agreement, Daniels was paid $130,000 to maintain her silence about a sexual affair she had with Trump several years ago. The payment was facilitated through a limited liability company, Essential Consultants, based in Delaware.
Initially, in 2018, Cohen claimed that he had made the $130,000 payment using his own personal funds. The payment, according to Cohen, was not related to the Trump campaign; neither the Trump Organization nor the Trump campaign ever reimbursed him. However, his story quickly changed. According to his plea, Cohen was reimbursed by the former President for these hush money payments, violating campaign-finance laws at the former candidate’s behest, all for the purpose of influencing the 2016 presidential election.
The Center of the Storm
Michael Cohen has emerged as a crucial witness in two separate legal cases against the former President. The first case, filed by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, accuses Trump of falsifying business records in order to conceal the true nature of the 11 checks paid to Cohen as reimbursement for keeping the Stormy Daniels story under wraps. But there’s more: Cohen is also a vital witness in a civil case brought by New York Attorney General Letitia James. This case began as an investigation into the Trump Organization following Cohen’s congressional testimony, in which he claimed that Trump inflated company assets for tax, insurance, and loan purposes. The investigation has now turned into a $250 million civil fraud case against Trump, his company, and his three eldest children, alleging that they manipulated company assets for years to obtain better loan and insurance terms. However, relying on Cohen’s testimony comes with risks for both cases, as the disbarred lawyer has a history of making false statements. This gives Trump’s defense team ample opportunity to challenge Cohen’s credibility.