Michael Dean Cohen, the 51-year-old personal lawyer of U.S. President Donald Trump, had generated a fair share of controversies during their association of more than a decade, but nothing would have prepared him to be in the eye of the storm that he is currently in. It all began with a revelation that Mr. Cohen paid a porn star $130,000 to keep quiet on a sexual encounter between her and Mr. Trump in 2006. The porn star in question is far from keeping mum. Aided by an articulate lawyer, her story has triggered multiple lines of investigations that could be the most consequential thus far for the Trump presidency. Mr. Cohen has become the unlikely central character in the scandal that engulfs Mr. Trump.
When did he join Trump?
Mr. Cohen has held multiple positions in the Trump organisation before becoming personal counsel to the President. He was executive vice-president, a title he shared with the adult children of Mr. Trump, in the organisation. More than the title, ever since their first public association in 2007, Mr. Cohen grew into the role of the future president’s fixer and deal-maker. The deal with the porn star is under public scrutiny and investigation.
Why is he in trouble?
The special counsel investigating Mr. Trump’s alleged links to Russia appears to have unearthed material that puts Mr. Cohen in the dock. FBI agents seized documents and collected evidence from his home and offices in New York on April 9. He is reportedly being probed for bank fraud, wire fraud and violation of campaign finance laws. According to court filings, he showed “lack of truthfulness.”
Mr. Cohen, a New Yorker like Mr. Trump, had his first law office in a taxi garage in Queens.
He invested in New York taxi licences, a highly valued asset before Uber came into the scene, and brought lawsuits against insurance companies on behalf of clients claiming injuries in auto accidents. His associates in both fields created history sheets, but Mr. Cohen shifted focus to real estate. He bought apartments in Trump buildings, a move that brought him close to Mr. Trump. He also dabbled in New York politics, unsuccessfully.
In 2011, it was Mr. Cohen who tested the waters for Mr. Trump’s presidential run with a website shouldtrumrun.com. During the 2016 presidential campaign, Mr. Cohen became a surrogate for Mr. Trump on TV, but the more significant job he did during that period was negotiating a hush deal with the porn star. Mr. Cohen claims that he paid her the money without the knowledge of candidate Trump to protect him. Whether this was an act of contribution to his campaign is now a matter of dispute and investigation.
Is there a Russia link?
Of the deals that Mr. Cohen did for Mr. Trump, those linked to former Soviet republics, including Russia, remain highly speculated upon. A scandalous dossier on Mr. Trump a British spy made for the Hillary Clinton campaign in 2016 follows the trail of Mr. Cohen’s contacts with Russian moneybags. The special counsel has reportedly gathered evidence of Mr. Cohen’s secrets contacts with Russian operatives.
Hot on Mr. Cohen’s trail is his namesake Michael Avenatti, the lawyer for the porn star. The seizure of documents from Mr. Cohen’s office lightened the dreams of Mr. Avenatti and spooked the President and his associates.
Jay Goldberg, another Trump lawyer and adviser, fears that Mr. Cohen is going to spill the beans on Mr. Trump. Mr. Goldberg said in interviews this week that Mr. Cohen might even lie to investigators to get some leniency and take Mr. Trump down in the process. The reason why Mr. Cohen’s future could have global implications. Even North Koreans would be interested in what is going to happen to Mr. Cohen next.
(Adapted from the Hindu)