No matter where you look, Michael Cohen is always a central player in Donald Trump’s legal nightmares.
The indicted former president’s ex-felon, one-time lawyer has made himself an indispensable witness in four separate cases against Trump. And now, he’s about to be questioned in a fifth.
Cohen will be deposed by Trump’s attorneys on Friday, where he is expected to answer questions about whether he ever saw the tycoon fake the value of his many business properties. Two people familiar with the situation described the arrangements to The Daily Beast on the condition of anonymity.
It hasn’t been easy to get Cohen.
According to letters filed in court, Cohen remained hunkered down in his New York City apartment for at least three days earlier this month—making it impossible for Trump’s contracted process server to place a judge’s order compelling him to testify into his hands. In the end, Justice Arthur F. Engoron intervened to rule that a simple email from Trump lawyer Michael Madaio to Cohen would have to suffice.
Cohen will answer questions from Madaio’s law partner, Alina Habba, who is defending Trump from the New York attorney general in a case that seeks to destroy his family company—and forbid him and his progeny from serving as business executives in the state.
Trump already faces a criminal trial in Manhattan for faking business records to hide the hush money he paid porn star Stormy Daniels to keep quiet about their extramarital affair. But while the Manhattan district attorney endangers Trump’s freedom as he runs for re-election, the AG’s lawsuit is targeting his bank accounts.
AG Leticia James sued the Trumps for $250 million last year, accusing the Trump Organization of “persistent and repeated fraud” for regularly faking business records and inflating property values to secure better bank loans and insurance. The civil trial, scheduled to start in October, threatens to cripple the Trump corporate empire just as the Republican primary campaigns get underway.
But in court documents filed this month, Cohen has surfaced as the latest witness in that case.
For a decade, Cohen was Trump’s “fixer,” a consigliere who advised the boss on legal matters and protected his image by quietly making problems go away, whether that meant getting accusers to sign non-disclosure agreements or intimidating reporters. That all changed when the feds nailed him in 2018 for violating campaign finance laws to shield Trump from an embarrassing extramarital affair and lying to Congress, which eventually cost him his law license.
Since then, Cohen has used his previous intimate access to Trump to try taking him down.
He wrote two tell-all memoirs bashing his former boss and portraying the Trump Organization as an unethical enterprise that exists only to enrich its chief—by any means necessary. He has met with Manhattan prosecutors more than a dozen times to guide them on their criminal investigation of Trump’s faking of business records, which has yet to be indicted. Cohen also appeared as a surprise witness in a Bronx case that ultimately settled, in which he described how Trump ordered his security goons to beat up protesters outside Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue in 2015—and laughed about it afterward.
Of course, he is now the star witness in the Manhattan DA’s case against Trump for faking business records related to that porn star hush money—the one that got the former president indicted.
But his longtime proximity to Trump is now coming up in the AG’s case too, given that he was around when many of these questionable real estate deals went down.
So far, the AG’s investigators have built a case that relies largely on thousands of documents that plainly show Trump inflating the cost of several real estate projects, sometimes going through ridiculous lengths to snag a better deal. In the most outrageous example, Trump tripled the size of his palatial apartment in Trump Tower—simply making up nearly 20,000 square feet of space that doesn’t exist.
But Cohen has the potential to, as prosecutors often say in other cases, “breathe life into the documents.”
As they did in the Fifth Avenue protesters’ case, Trump’s lawyers are expected to use Friday’s deposition as an opportunity to attack Cohen’s credibility—an effort to undermine any value he might serve as a witness at the October trial.
And while it’s Trump’s attorneys who are calling Cohen to be deposed, it’s anyone’s guess which side he’ll ultimately benefit.