More to worry: Trump allies warn, Cohen could flip
Sheetal Sukhija - Friday 20th April, 2018
People close to the President are warning him that Cohen might flip in the face of severe charges
Michel Cohen is Trump’s personal lawyer and is currently fighting the seizure of his records by federal investigators
On Thursday, Cohen dropped a lawsuit against BuzzFeed over the controversial Steele dossier
WASHINGTON, U.S. - From a looming trade war with China, to a potentially history meeting with the North Korean despot Kim Jong Un, and several other crucial decisions about the governance of the country - a lot is brewing at the White House and at the Oval Office occupied by one of American history’s most controversial president. But each week in his presidency is gripped by a new development in a federal investigation that has gripped his administration with worries right from the get go.
This week, as U.S. President Donald Trump’s fiercely loyal lawyer, Michael Cohen battled in court against the seizure of his records by federal investigators in New York, the President was faced with a grave warning by his close allies.
Tracking Cohen’s case and its development, people close to the President have reportedly warned him that in the face of severe charges, it was possible that his longtime personal lawyer might fold and sell him out.
Trump’s outside advisers are believed to be getting increasingly worried that Cohen, his longtime personal attorney, might be susceptible to cooperating with federal prosecutors.
Reports quoted two sources close to the president as saying that in recent days, people in Trump’s inner circle have been actively discussing the possibility that despite Cohen being one of Trump’s most loyal personal allies, he might flip if he faces serious charges as a result of his work on behalf of Trump.
Alan Dershowitz, the liberal lawyer and frequent Trump defender who met with the president and his staff over two days at the White House last week said, “That’s what they’ll threaten him with: life imprisonment. They’re going to threaten him with a long prison term and try to turn him into a canary that sings.”
Last week, FBI agents overseen by federal prosecutors in New York raided Cohen’s office and apartment, as well as a hotel room he had been staying in.
While Manhattan-based government attorneys have clarified in court that Cohen is under a separate investigation for his business dealings, the Trump lawyer is also one of the key figures in the ongoing Russia investigation overseen by special counsel Robert Mueller.
So far, Cohen has not been publicly charged with any crimes.
Recently, his name emerged for his deep involvement in the $130,000 payment made to adult film actress Stormy Daniels, who has accused Trump of trying to cover up an affair she had with him in 2006.
Last week, following the raid, Cohen said it was “unsettling to say the least,” but added that the federal agents were “extremely professional, courteous and respectful.”
Despite the raid grabbing headlines, it was Cohen’s comments, which raised eyebrows, as it was a dramatic departure from his usual combative style.
Some in Trump’s inner circle read into Cohen’s comments more deeply, with reports statement that close Trump aides claiming that “one of the president’s most ferocious attack dogs seemed unusually taciturn.
A Trump ally who knows Cohen was quoted as saying, “When anybody is faced with spending a long time in jail, they start to re-evaluate their priorities, and cooperation can’t be ruled out.”
According to reports, the president and his advisers have been singularly focused on the risk of a potential federal prosecution of Cohen since the raid.
Meanwhile, two other people familiar with the conversations also revealed that Trump has regularly ranted to friends and advisers about the investigation into Cohen.
According to these sources, Trump believes strongly that the FBI raid has pushed the boundaries of attorney-client privilege, and has told friends that he and his associates are being unfairly targeted.
Further, in days post the raid, the White House too is appearing to be create some distance from Cohen.
Earlier this week, addressing reporters, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that though Trump and Cohen have “still got some ongoing things,” the president “has a large number of attorneys, as you know.”
Then, on Wednesday, during a press conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Trump said that he wants the Mueller investigation “over with, done with.”
Yet, Trump and his allies fear that documents and recordings that the FBI swept up from Cohen’s home and office could come back to haunt the president.
Trump’s other lawyers have joined Cohen’s in New York in asserting attorney-client privilege.
They are now asking a federal judge to approve an independent review of the material.
Meanwhile, legal experts have not ruled out the possibility that while indictments against Cohen are possible for bank and wire fraud, he could also end up becoming a target in Mueller’s Russia investigation.
So far, former Trump aides Michael Flynn, Rick Gates and George Papadopoulos have all pleaded guilty to various criminal charges and are cooperating with Mueller’s investigation.
At the same time, experts have pointed out that federal authorities face an uphill climb in turning lawyers against their clients, with a defense lawyer working on the Russia probe warning, “It’s a bit of a moonshot if that’s what they are trying to do.”
Another expert said that the prospect of years or even decades in prison might be easier to swallow if Cohen believes a presidential pardon is possible.
Reports quoted Hank Sheinkopf, a New York-based Democratic consultant who has worked with both Cohen and Trump, as saying that the ties binding the attorney and the president will go a long way.
Yet, he wouldn’t rule out how the pressure of prosecution would influence Cohen.
Sheinkopf said, “Here’s a guy who appears to be very tough, very loyal and has said publicly about how he feels about Mr. Trump. That shouldn’t change, but who knows what the future holds. People change when pressure is put on them. He’s very loyal. He’s very stand-up. It’d be a difficult decision for him to make.”
Further, John Dean, the former White House counsel whose cooperation with Watergate prosecutors helped lead to President Richard Nixon’s resignation in 1974 pointed out that Cohen flipping “would be Trump’s worst nightmare.”
He added, “It would be as stunning and life-disrupting a surprise as his winning the presidency. And if there is any prosecutor’s office in the USA that can flip Cohen, it is the Southern District of New York.”
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