Michael Cohen overstated role in Manhattan DA’s Trump Organization investigation, prosecutors say

NEW YORK — Donald Trump’s former attorney, Michael Cohen, has made misleading claims exaggerating his role in the Manhattan District Attorney’s case against the Trump Organization and its chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, prosecutors say.

And Cohen’s credibility issue may also have played a role in Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s controversial decision to drop charges against Trump himself.

“Based on the motions, it seems unlikely that the DA will ever use Cohen as a witness against Weisselberg,” said Daniel R. Alonso, former assistant to ex-Manhattan DA Cy Vance.

“But could he be a witness against Trump?” Alonso asked. “For starters, he has massive credibility issues, not only because he’s lied in the past and been convicted of it, but also because he has strong reason to see Trump’s downfall.”

Part of the problem is Cohen’s comments to the Daily News in November that he played a key role in the prosecutor’s investigation of the Trump Org and Weisselberg, its chief financial officer. Cohen lamented that his cooperation did not buy time on his three-year federal prison sentence for lying to Congress and an assortment of financial crimes.

“Despite providing over 400 hours of testimony that led to 18 different investigations – including (Trump) tax filings, including Weisselberg and other indictments – they basically made me feel bad. door to door,” Cohen told The News.

Cohen’s alleged role in the Trump investigation has become a central argument in efforts to have the indictment against Weisselberg thrown out.

Lawyers for Weisselberg argue that Cohen’s role in the investigation cannot be understated, describing him as a “vengeful” witness who tainted the prosecutor’s case.

The DA “effectively integrated Mr. Cohen – a veritable orchard of tainted fruit – into its ranks, involving him in the prosecution from inception through indictment (and beyond),” the DA wrote. attorney Mary Mulligan in January.

A few years after his cooperation, prosecutors “from top to bottom, including DA Vance himself, thanked Mr. Cohen for his cooperation,” Mulligan said.

But Cohen’s statement to The News was not true, prosecutors said in a May 24 court filing.

Trump’s former consigliere “is not part of the prosecution team, never testified before the grand jury and has no basis to rule on what testimony” led to Weisselberg’s indictment and from the Trump Org in June 2021 for tax evasion, Assistant District Attorney Solomon Shinerock wrote. .

Cohen’s name was redacted in the filing, but it was clear the prosecutor was referring to him — and seeking to steer Cohen away from the Manhattan prosecutor’s case.

Since his federal conviction in 2018, Cohen has sought to redefine himself as a liberal resistance hero repenting of his dirty deeds. He has positioned himself as the potential star witness for a Trump trial in Manhattan, should it ever come to pass.

While the prosecutor’s office acknowledges that Cohen provided information as part of the larger Trump investigation, prosecutors insist he is unrelated to the Weisselberg case.

Reached by The News, Cohen said he had “every right” to believe his dozen or so meetings with the DA’s office led to the charges against Weisselberg and the Trump Org.

“I brought all the mishegas, all the bulls to the surface,” he said.

Bragg, meanwhile, has slowed the Trump investigation he inherited from Vance on Jan. 1. The two investigators who led it, Mark Pomerantz and Carey Dunne, resigned in February. Pomerantz wrote in his leaked resignation letter to The New York Times that Bragg was making a fatal mistake by not pursuing an immediate impeachment of Trump.

The prosecutor served as a district attorney in the Southern District of New York from 2009 to 2013, where Cohen’s reputation is less than stellar.

Manhattan federal prosecutors declined to consider Cohen a cooperator in 2018 — a designation that could have earned him leniency upon sentencing. They said Cohen would not reveal all of his past crimes, as required.

Bragg’s office declined to answer questions about his faith in Cohen. He insists the Trump investigation is ongoing and promised in April to explain his decision whether or not to indict the former president once he makes up his mind.

Weisselberg and the Trump Organization are expected to go on trial at the end of the summer. The two pleaded not guilty to dodging more than $1.7 million in taxes in a 15-year scheme. Weisselberg is accused of receiving untaxed employee benefits as the chief financial officer of Trump Org, including rent, utilities and garage fees at a luxury apartment building in Manhattan. The company also reportedly footed the bill for his grandchildren’s private school tuition, car rentals for him and his family members and other lavish perks, from 2005 until his indictment on last summer.

Their attorneys declined to comment.

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Aubrey L. Morgan