Michael Cohen is in big trouble. The former personal attorney for Donald Trump may be the only person in America whose high-profile legal issues are more severe than those of his former client (or those of his former client’s former campaign manager, who was jailed on Friday). Since the April raid on Cohen’s home, office and hotel room and subsequent seizure of 3.7 million documents, he’s largely remained out of sight, and reports have trickled out that his resolve has been winnowed under the weight of mounting legal bills and uncertainty over his future. On Wednesday, ABC News reported that Cohen is parting ways with his legal team, and that he could be willing to cooperate with federal investigators. On Friday, CNN reported that he had indicated as much to family and friends.
Cohen’s current legal team will remain with him through Friday, the deadline Southern District of New York Judge Kimba Wood set for them to sort through the documents obtained by investigators to let authorities know which may be protected by attorney-client privilege. Some of the seized documents had been previously shredded by Cohen, and a court filing submitted Friday revealed that federal agents were able to do a pretty good job of reassembling the material he wanted to make sure no one saw again. The filing also noted 731 pages of messages pulled from encrypted messaging applications had been recovered.
Feds just said they pieced together 16 pages of material from Michael Cohen’s shredder.
— Alan Feuer (@alanfeuer) June 15, 2018
Once the review is complete, the documents will be released for federal investigators to examine. Considering they had enough evidence to obtain a warrant for the raids, it’s likely they’ll find information to corroborate whatever crimes they already had good reason to suspect he committed. Many believe an indictment could be imminent.
Outside of the trove of likely incriminating evidence that is soon to be in the hands of federal investigators, Cohen’s newfound willingness to cooperate could also be related a belief that he has been abandoned by Trump and his allies. CBS News reported Thursday that Cohen has become “irritated” by statements made by the president’s legal counsel, Rudy Giuliani. “The is the worst move the White House could be making at a time when the president is potentially most vulnerable and others are most vulnerable,” a lawyer close to the case told CBS News in regard to the administration moving to distance itself from Cohen.
Person close to Cohen says he hasn’t flipped yet, “he’s sending up a smoke signal to Trump: I need help.”
— Gabriel Sherman (@gabrielsherman) June 13, 2018
The question now becomes what information Cohen could provide to Special Counsel Mueller. He served as the president’s “fixer” for nearly a decade, and no one is likely to have a better understanding of Trump’s business dealings overseas, which Cohen often managed. He has extensive ties to Russia, and reportedly was in contact with figures who knew about the 2016 election meddling as he was secretly trying to work out a deal to erect a Trump Tower in Moscow. Cohen also arranged the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels prior to the election, which may have constituted a violation of campaign finance law. Even if he isn’t able to provide substantive dirt on the president – which is a very real, but unlikely possibility – information possessed by Cohen could be a huge asset to the special counsel’s investigation.
When asked about the prospect of Cohen flipping Friday morning, Trump didn’t seem too concerned. “I did nothing wrong, nothing wrong,” the president said, adding that he “always liked Michael and he’s a good person.”
Though the future looks bleak for Cohen, he hasn’t totally given up just yet. He’s reportedly seeking new lawyers with more experience dealing with Southern District Court judges, and on Thursday night he filed a restraining order against Michael Avenatti, the media-friendly lawyer of Stormy Daniels, in an effort to prevent him from speaking to the press about his client’s case against Cohen. The filing alleges that Avenatti’s many TV appearances are “likely to result in Mr. Cohen being deprived of his right to a fair trial, and threatens to turn what should be a solemn federal court proceeding into a media circus.”
If Cohen wanted to avoid the media circus that has reportedly been beating him down as federal investigators have closed in on his history of criminality, he probably shouldn’t have involved himself in the president of the United States’s effort to cover up an extramarital affair with a porn star.
On Friday morning, a judge blocked Cohen’s request. We’ll see what happens next.