President Donald J Trump’s former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, cut ties with his legal team this week, indicating that he may be prepared to cooperate with federal prosecutors.
According to court documents, the longtime Trump associate is being investigated by the New York Attorney General’s office “for criminal conduct that largely centers on his personal business dealings.” Cohen has been accused of engaging in various hush-money payments among other dealings in order to protect Trump during his presidential campaign. Most notably, he previously used a shell company to pay $130,000 in hush money to former porn star Stephanie Clifford, widely known as Stormy Daniels, to cover up her alleged affair with Trump leading up to the election.
The former attorney has since become the target of an ongoing FBI investigation which culminated in a raid on his New York office. Cohen now faces serious criminal charges that could land him years in prison.
Legal experts have speculated that Cohen’s recent change in counsel could have greater implications. Previously, the former attorney was represented by a three-man team from the firm of McDermott Will & Emery. According to ABC News, a source familiar with the situation has cited a fee dispute as one of the reasons for Cohen’s switch, despite the financial assistance he is already receiving from the Trump family. They also claimed he wants someone more familiar with the the U.S attorney’s office in New York that is leading the investigation.
Other sources have considered the change to mark a shift in strategy. Facing longtime imprisonment, Cohen may feel a mounting pressure to comply with prosecutors at the president’s expense. In a recent episode of ABC’s “This Week,” panelist Alan Dershowitz, Harvard Law School professor, described Cohen’s potential threat to Trump as “very serious” as the prosecution has “enormous abilities to really put pressure” on a witness. Fellow panelist Mimi Rocah, criminal justice fellow at Pace University Law School, said she believes Cohen will cooperate with prosecutors because he’s vulnerable. “I think he flips because I think he committed a lot of crimes, and he has got a lot of jail time that he’s facing for that reason,” she said. Having spent years acting as the executive vice president of the Trump Organization and special counsel to Trump, Cohen’s possible shift in loyalty could be devastating to Trump.
Despite concerns, Trump affirmed his confidence in his former attorney’s loyalty back in April, tweeting, “Most people will flip if the Government lets them out of trouble, even if it means lying or making up stories. Sorry, I don’t see Michael doing that despite the horrible Witch Hunt and the dishonest media!”