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March 1, 2024

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Michael Cohen heads to trial against Trump Organization demanding $1.3M in legal fees: What to know

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In the five years since Michael Cohen made the transition from Donald Trump’s true-blue bulldog fixer to his greatest foe, he’s been raided by the FBI, served three years i n custody, testified before millions in congressional probes, and cooperated extensively in wide-ranging criminal investigations into the former president’s business dealings.

At his trial kicking off against the Trump Organization in Manhattan Supreme Court on Monday, Cohen plans to convince a panel of New Yorkers that his former boss’ company should foot the costs for all lawyers involved in the yearslong saga.

After being selected, jurors are expected to hear evidence for four days starting July 24, including testimony from Trump Organization CEO Donald Trump Jr., whom Cohen’s lawyers got the green light to call as a witness last week. Don Jr.’s lawyers said in a filing Friday that he would comply with their subpoena.

Cohen says the ex-president’s eldest son called the shots as to which Trump Organization employees had their legal fees paid and had his own covered in several of the same matters he was involved in.

The former president is not expected to attend or testify.

Cohen, the Trump Organization’s executive vice president before becoming Trump’s personal lawyer — and ultimately losing his law license — says the company violated a 2017 deal to cover his attorneys’ bills upon realizing he would cooperate, leaving him with at least $1.3 million in unpaid bills. The company says Cohen’s crimes voided the indemnification agreement.

Months after the feds raided his Manhattan office and residences in April 2018 following a referral to the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office by special counsel Robert Mueller, Cohen pleaded guilty to a host of charges.

He admitted to violating federal campaign finance laws when he paid Stormy Daniels into silence at Trump’s behest “for the principal purpose of influencing” the outcome of the 2016 election. The payoff came as the porn star considered going public with allegations that she slept with Trump in 2006, less than two years after he married Melania. Cohen also admitted to helping to coordinate a similar payment to Playboy model Karen McDougal.

Cohen, who’s still on probation, also copped to charges that he lied to Congress, failed to report more than $4 million in income — including $1.3 million from his taxi medallion holdings — and hid more than $14 million in debt from a bank when he signed up for a home equity line of credit. He maintains he was unfairly targeted.

About halfway through his prison sentence, Cohen was released from the Federal Correctional Institution, Otisville, to home confinement in May 2020 amid the worsening coronavirus pandemic. He wound up back in prison that July after refusing to agree not to publish a tell-all book about Trump until he’d done his time.

Cohen sued, and Manhattan Federal Judge Alvin Hellerstein quickly released him back to house arrest at his Trump Park Ave. family residence, questioning whether the unusual gag order by the Bureau of Prisons was an act of retaliation.

Early into his prison sentence, Cohen began voluntarily cooperating with Manhattan DA investigators and the New York attorney general in their probes into Trump, meeting at least 20 times with investigators over the coming years.

In March, he testified before the grand jury that indicted Trump on 34 felony counts — each representing a check to Cohen as reimbursement for the hush money. He’s expected to be the star witness in the case headed to trial in March. Trump maintains his innocence.

New York Attorney General Letitia James’ civil case against the Trump Organization, headed to trial in October, was also born out of information gleaned from Cohen in his testimony before Congress, James has said. Trump and his top executives are accused of committing rampant business fraud in New York’s real estate market by habitually overvaluing and undervaluing assets by hundreds of millions of dollars. James says Trump bloated his net worth by more than a billion dollars.

Cohen is demanding the Trump Organization pay outstanding fees for three legal firms that represented him in the various cases and probes: the Petrillo firm, the Davis Galper firm, and the Monico Spevack firm. He and his lawyer declined to comment.

Lawyers representing the Trump Organization ignored multiple requests for comment.

Trump also faces federal charges in Florida for mishandling national defense secrets in classified documents he unlawfully took from the White House. He’s pleaded not guilty. He also faces outstanding litigation from E. Jean Carroll. Trump was found liable, at trial in May, of sexually abusing Carroll in a Midtown changing room in the 1990s.

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