For years, it was Michael Cohen’s job to protect Donald Trump from damaging stories and allegations. Now, the president’s former personal attorney and “fixer” appears to be the one threatening Trump with potentially incriminating information.
No longer willing to “take a bullet” for Trump, Cohen is reportedly willing to tell special counsel Robert Mueller that Trump knew in advance about a Russian offer to deliver dirt on Hillary Clinton ahead of the 2016 election.
Cohen turning against Trump could prove significant because, in addition to information he may or may not have about alleged election meddling and collusion, Cohen also handled payments to women in exchange for their silence about alleged affairs with Trump.
Here is what we know:
No collusion? Cohen may say otherwise
Cohen is prepared to tell Mueller that Trump approved a June 2016 meeting at Trump Towerthat included his son Donald Trump Jr. and a Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, according to multiple media reports that relied on unnamed sources.
A person familiar with the matter told USA TODAY Cohen is aware that Trump was informed in advance of the Trump Tower meeting.
Veselnitskaya’s offer to hand over dirt on Clinton has been a major factor driving suspicion that the Trump campaign went along with Russian efforts to sway the election.
Trump has repeatedly said he did not know anything about the meeting and said Cohen must have had to “make up stories to get himself out of an unrelated jam” if he says otherwise.
Lawyer claims three more women got hush money
Michael Avenatti, the California attorney for porn actress Stormy Daniels, said he now represents three more women who were allegedly paid hush money before the election to silence them about affairs with then-candidate Trump.
The three unidentified women described by Avenatti are in addition to Daniels, who claims Cohen paid her $130,000 for her silence about a prior affair with Trump, and former Playboy model Karen McDougal, who was paid $150,000 by American Media Inc. – the parent company of the National Enquirer – for her story.
Avenatti said Cohen handled the payments to two or three women who alleged past affairs with Trump. The third woman was paid by American Media, he said.
The Cohen tapes
Federal prosecutors seized a dozen recordings that were secretly made by Cohen when the FBI raided his office, home and hotel room in April.
One of those recordings was obtained and broadcast by CNN Tuesday. The tape appears to be of a conversation between Trump and Cohen about the payment to McDougal.
“What kind of a lawyer would tape a client?” Trump tweeted after the recording was made public. “So sad!”