Home / U.S. / Michael Cohen, once at the pinnacle of Trump’s world, now poses a threat to him

Michael Cohen, once at the pinnacle of Trump’s world, now poses a threat to him

When Donald Trump won the presidency, his old lawyer Michael Cohen appeared in a coveted position in the upper ranks of the White House.

At one point, Cohen headed a list of five candidates for the White House council, according to documents reviewed by The Washington Post. He suggested to some Trump allies that he could be a good chief of staff.

But when Trump built his West Wing team, the impetuous New York lawyer failed to make the cut.

Some in Trump's inner circle were concerned about the retreat of Cohen's associations and unorthodox tactics to fix the problems of the New York developer, Trump's associates said.

Among the opposites, said the associates, were Trump's daughter, Ivanka and her son-in-law, Jared Kushner. For his part, Cohen had warned Trump not to offer jobs to Ivanka Trump and Kushner White House, saying the president would be hit by allegations of nepotism, according to two people familiar with the matter.

The rejection wounded Cohen, according to people familiar with his views, although he continued to publicly express admiration for his former boss.

"Here was a man who dedicated his life to Trump, who was sure it would be one of the best options," said a Trump associate who spoke on condition of anonymity to describe the conversations he witnessed. But, in the end, "I was frozen."

Now, the link between the president and his self-proclaimed fixer is under much more punitive pressure: a broad criminal investigation into Cohen's commercial dealings and actions he took to quell negative stories about Trump during the 2016 campaign. [19659009] The result, and Cohen's response to the investigation, could determine the fate of both men, who have relied heavily on each other for years.

Both men have sent the public points out in recent days that their relationship remains stable, with Trump describing a federal raid on Cohen's offices and his home as a "disgrace" and calling his lawyer to control him.

But Trump and Cohen's associates say that Cohen, with his deep knowledge of Trump's personal and financial life, could try to reach an agreement with prosecutors at a time when Trump's businesses face scrutiny related to the separate investigation of special advisor Robert S. Mueller III to Russian interference in the 2016 elections.

Former Trump lawyer Jay Goldberg, who has spoken on the matter with the president, said that if Cohen He faces prison, he would be under the extraordinary pressure of his family "to say what the government wants to hear".

In Saturday's tweets, Trump rejected speculation that Cohen would turn against him. Quoting a New York Times report on the subject, the president wrote that "I always liked and respected" Cohen, adding: "Most people will change if the government allows them to get out of trouble, even if that means lying or inventing Stories, I'm sorry, I do not see Michael doing that despite the horrible witch hunt and dishonest means! "

Cohen declined to comment on this story, much like the White House.

A tough guy wannabe

Cohen barely seemed to be headed for life as a tough-talking "solver" while growing up in a high-middle-class town on Long Island. He attended a yeshiva day school and then the elite Lawrence Woodmere Academy. His father, a doctor, was a Holocaust survivor born in Poland; his mother was a nurse Cohen described himself as an "agnostic Jew".

When he was a teenager in the 1980s, he dated the Ukrainian immigrant Laura Shusterman. Cohen often visited his home in Queens, and also visited his friends in Brooklyn, where Soviet refugees had settled in Brighton Beach and Sheepshead Bay.

"He grew up in a homogeneous and rich enclave, and came to a radically different place, Brighton Beach, on the border of Coney Island, which was full of immigrants and minorities," said an old friend of Cohen's who spoke on condition of anonymity to describe a private relationship.

The Soviet émigrés were "hard children", and there was a lot of "friction between the Italian and Russian gangs," said the friend. Cohen emulated them. Later he learned to speak Russian "like a four-year-old child," Cohen told The Post in an interview last year.

Laura's father, Fima Shusterman, pleaded guilty in 1993 to fraud charges. Cohen married Laura the following year. He became friends with several emigrants from Russia and Ukraine. Among them was the Russian emigrant Felix Sater, who years later would work with Trump and Cohen in the efforts to develop real estate of the Trump brand in Russia and elsewhere.

Cohen was drawn to politics, first as a volunteer democrat for the 1988 presidency of Michael Dukakis campaign and then as a Republican, losing a 2003 offer to the city council.

In a candidate questionnaire for the New York race, Cohen promoted his appointment by the Republican Gov. George E. Pataki to a transit board, "where I serve as a public vigilante against corruption in government."

Regarding his other accomplishments in New York City, Cohen wrote that, among his accomplishments, he had "hectored" to a local coffee shop to better manage his trash.

Earning money was another objective of Cohen. His role model was Trump, whose first book, "The Art of the Deal", inspired him. "I've been admiring Donald Trump since I was in high school," Cohen told ABC News.

He invested in the taxi business, for a time managing a fleet of 200 taxis with Simon Garber, a Ukrainian immigrant who also operates a fleet of taxis in Moscow. By 2012, when his association with Garber ended, Cohen was earning $ 90,000 a month from taxi medallions, according to a court document. He told The Post last year that he never invested in Garber's Russian business.

Before going to work for Trump, he also invested $ 1.5 million in a Florida casino boat with two Ukrainian emigrants, but the project failed. "We lost the ship in a foreclosure," Cohen told The Post last year. "And I was not happy."

Your investments in Trump properties proved to be safer. Cohen bought his first property in a Trump – Trump World Tower building near the United Nations – in April 2001, paying $ 1 million for a condominium that he sold 16 years later for $ 5 million. His in-laws had bought a separate unit. Trump himself signed Cohen's sales document

In 2005, Cohen bought his most expensive property from Trump, on Trump Park Avenue, an old hotel that Trump converted into some of the most luxurious apartments in Manhattan. Its owners included Trump's daughter, Ivanka. Cohen paid $ 5 million for unit 10A. Once again, Donald Trump signed the sales document.

Cohen met Trump in the late 1990s in a political fundraiser for a local Republican that the developer organized at Trump Tower. Cohen did legal work for Trump in the early 2000s, according to a person familiar with their relationship.

It was a real estate fight that cemented their bond.

In 2006, Cohen took the side of Trump in a dispute at Trump. World Tower, where some condo owners wanted to expel Trump from property management, according to people familiar with the dispute. Cohen, as owner of the unit, sided with Trump, who prevailed.

"When Michael won that fight, it was when Trump won him a lot of respect," said Cohen's attorney and lifelong friend David Schwartz.

led to an extraordinary leap in Cohen's career. Trump hired him as special advisor and executive vice president of Trump Organization, a privately owned family business that had a collection of hotels, condominiums, casinos and other properties.

Goldberg, the lawyer who worked for Trump at the time, said that Cohen got into the void left by the 1986 death of Trump lawyer Roy Cohn, the former advisor to the House Committee on Un-American Activities that had told Trump to counterattack 100 times harder against whoever tried to hit him.

It was a blow for Cohen, Goldberg said, because at that time, "everyone in the world was trying to get Trump as a customer."

In the following decade, Cohen handled all kinds of problems for his boss that could not be solved through traditional channels. Cohen, according to a former partner, used Trump's tactics of threats and demands, relying on the language of the tough.

Describing his methods for ABC News, he said that "if someone does something that Mr. Trump does not like, I will do everything in my power to resolve it for Mr. Trump's benefit. with you, I'll grab you by the neck and I will not let you go until I'm finished. "

Cohen also made parallel deals with Trump. One involved a mixed martial arts fighting company called Affliction Entertainment that planned to organize pay-per-view bouts in the United States and a reality TV show to be filmed in Russia, home to the most famous fighters in the burgeoning sport. The business failed after Affliction hosted only a few games.

Meanwhile, Cohen expanded his real estate investments beyond the Trump properties. Learning boss skills, he invested in real estate in New York City and made substantial profits. As of 2011, he bought four buildings in New York City and sold them for $ 32 million. One property, a modest apartment building at 172 Rivington Street, cost her $ 2 million in 2011. Three years later, she sold it for $ 10 million to a family real estate fund represented by Brooklyn attorney Herbert Chaves, who did not respond to a request for comment. Cohen used the profits in 2015 to buy an interest in a $ 58 million apartment building and seven floors on the Upper East Side.

Cohen's wealth is not publicly disclosed, but it has luxurious tastes. He paid $ 150,000 for a one-month holiday rental in the Hamptons, but later sued the owner, complaining about the small beds and electrical problems in what he called a "nightmare." The 2014 lawsuit was resolved confidentially.

Part of Cohen's role in the Trump Organization was negotiating licensing agreements, selling the Trump name to developers interested in building Trump Towers overseas. He was the main contact of the Trump Organization for a project in Batumi, a tourist city in the former Soviet republic of Georgia. He also told The Post that he once traveled to Kazakhstan to try to get similar treatment there.

Ultimately, none of the projects was built, but Trump made money from preliminary licensing agreements in a development in Georgia.

Some of Cohen's work on international agreements has drawn the attention of a special lawyer Mueller and congressional committees examining the possible collusion between Trump's presidential campaign and Russia.

At the end of 2015, when the Trump campaign was on the rise, Cohen received an email from his old friend from Brighton Beach Felix Sater. Sater had worked with Trump on a number of real estate companies, including the Trump Soho condominium. Sater in 1998 pleaded guilty to a role in a mafia-related fraud case and then served as an FBI informant, a role that led a federal official to certify that he had provided "information crucial to national security."

Sater wrote to Cohen that he was seeking an agreement for a Trump Tower in Moscow. In addition, wrote Sater, Russian President Vladimir Putin could help Trump.

"I will put Putin on this program and get Donald elected," Sater wrote to Cohen, according to an e-mail published for the first time by the New York Times. 19659047] In January 2016, Cohen wrote to Putin's spokesman seeking help about the Trump Tower project. The email went to a general press email address, and the Moscow project did not move forward.

Cohen told congressional investigators in a statement that "this was just a real estate business and nothing else, I was doing my job."

Moscow's proposal came under scrutiny when Mueller and the congressional committees began to examine Trump's contacts in Russia. Questions were also raised about Cohen's role in the "Steele Dossier," a report by a former British spy that included the unfounded claim that Cohen had met with Russians in Prague to discuss the hacking of Democrats' computers. Cohen has constantly said that there was no such meeting.

Promoting the boss

Cohen for years had pushed Trump to seek the presidency. In 2011, Cohen created a website, shouldtrumprun.com, and traveled on Trump's plane to the state of Iowa's first caucus to promote his possible candidacy. Trump decided not to show up then, but Cohen kept insisting on the idea.

Michael Caputo, a former political advisor to Trump, said that Cohen was "an omnipresent force" in Trump's activities, including a possible candidacy for Governor of New York, the possible purchase of the Buffalo Bills soccer team, and a presidential offer.

Cohen also became Trump's attack dog, particularly with journalists. Most famously, she promised a Daily Beast reporter in 2015 to "dirty her life" if a story was published about Ivana Trump's statement in a statement that her husband had "raped" her. The story included Cohen's threats and his incorrect claim that a person can not be raped by a spouse. He later apologized, and Ivana Trump, Donald Trump's first wife, retracted the accusation.

Cohen's harsh words and his willingness to handle difficult problems for Trump became especially useful when Trump launched his candidacy for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. [19659055] Cohen said his job was to protect his boss "from all those who seek to slander him. " And while Trump was battling Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton for the White House, a problem arose that required Cohen's tough negotiating skills.

In the final weeks of the campaign, Cohen paid $ 130,000 to adult film star Stormy Daniels in exchange for his silence about a supposed sexual encounter with Trump a decade earlier.

Cohen said the Trump campaign and the Trump Organization were not involved with the payment, which he said he did by taking money out of a home equity line of credit secured by his Trump Park Avenue condominium.

In the opinion of several Cohen partners, the Da niels payment was an ill-conceived effort by Cohen to win Trump's favor at a time when the lawyer's rivals were excluding him. The president has said he was not aware of the payment.

Federal investigators are analyzing the payment and any participation that Cohen may have had with another Trump accuser, former Playboy model Karen McDougal. She sold the story of her alleged romance with Trump for $ 150,000 to AMI, the company that publishes the National Enquirer. AMI did not publish McDougal's story.

After leaving the Trump Organization in early 2017, Cohen became Trump's personal lawyer and got a contract with the Patton Boggs law firm of New York, which agreed to pay him $ 500,000 a year to help the company get new ones. business, according to court documents. The firm ended its partnership with Cohen this spring, according to documents filed.

In the last year, Cohen had only two other legal clients besides the president, his lawyer told a federal judge last week: Fox News anchor Sean Hannity said he consulted Cohen about unspecified real estate issues, and Elliott Broidy, a prominent Trump supporter who worked with Cohen as vice president of finance for the Republican National Committee. Broidy used Cohen to arrange a $ 1.6 million payment to a Playboy playmate with whom Broidy had an affair.

Cohen also had seven unnamed business clients to whom he did not provide legal advice, according to court documents.

Meanwhile, the value of Cohen's taxi medallions, needed to operate taxis in New York City, has plummeted -from the 2014 peak of $ 1.2 million per medallion to $ 300,000 today- in the midst of the boom of travel-sharing companies. Cohen owed $ 56,000 in back taxes for his taxi business in New York, records show.

The way in which Cohen will perform under the financial and legal pressure of the investigation remains an open question.

"I will always protect our @POTUS" he tweeted on April 8.

The next morning, the FBI raided Cohen's office and residences.

Alice Crites and Robert O & # 39; Harrow contributed to this report.

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