Donald Trump’s former attorney Michael Cohen has made misleading statements overstating his role in the Manhattan DA’s case against the Trump Organization and its top financial executive, Allen Weisselberg, prosecutors say.
And Cohen’s credibility problem may also have played a role in Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg’s highly controversial decision to back off the prosecution of Trump himself.
“Based on the motions, it seems unlikely that the DA would ever use Cohen as a witness against Weisselberg,” said Daniel R. Alonso, former deputy to ex-Manhattan DA Cy Vance.
“But could he be a witness against Trump?” Alonso asked. “To start with, he has enormous credibility issues, not only because he has lied in the past and been convicted of it, but also because he has a strong motive to see Trump’s downfall.”
Part of the problem lies in Cohen’s comments to the Daily News in November that he played a key role in the DA’s probe of the Trump Org and Weisselberg, its chief financial officer. Cohen lamented that his cooperation did not result in time shaved off 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’s) tax returns, including indictments of Weisselberg and others — they basically rode me door to door,” Cohen told The News.
Cohen’s purported role in the Trump investigation has become a central argument in efforts to get the indictment against Weisselberg dismissed.
Weisselberg’s lawyers argue Cohen’s role in the probe can’t be understated, describing him as a “vengeful” witness who tainted the DA’s case.
The DA “effectively embedded Mr. Cohen — a veritable orchard of tainted fruit — in its ranks, involving him in the prosecution from its outset to Indictment (and beyond),” attorney Mary Mulligan wrote in January.
Within a couple of years of his cooperation, prosecutors “up and down the ranks, including DA Vance himself, thanked Mr. Cohen for his cooperation,” Mulligan said.
But Cohen’s statement to The News wasn’t true, prosecutors said in a May 24 court filing.
Trump’s former consigliere “is not on the prosecution team, never testified in the grand jury, and has no basis to opine on what testimony” led to the June 2021 indictment of Weisselberg and the Trump Org 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 was seeking to distance Cohen from the Manhattan DA’s case.
Since his 2018 federal conviction, Cohen has sought to recast himself as a liberal resistance hero repenting for his dirty deeds. He’s positioned himself as the would-be star witness of a Trump trial in Manhattan, should it ever occur.
While the DA’s office acknowledges Cohen provided information in the broader Trump probe, prosecutors insist he is not connected to the related Weisselberg case.
Reached by The News, Cohen said he had “every right” to believe his dozen-plus sit-downs with the DA’s office led to the charges against Weisselberg and the Trump Org.
“I brought the whole mishegas, the whole bulls–t to the surface,” he said.
Bragg, meanwhile, has slowed the Trump probe he inherited from Vance on Jan. 1. The two investigators who had led it, Mark Pomerantz and Carey Dunne, resigned in February. Pomerantz wrote in his resignation letter leaked to the New York Times that Bragg was making a legacy-defining mistake by not pursuing an immediate indictment of Trump.
The DA was a prosecutor 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 won him leniency at sentencing. They said Cohen would not come clean about all his past crimes, as required.
Bragg’s office declined to address queries about his faith in Cohen. He insists the Trump probe is ongoing and promised in April to explain his decision on whether to indict the former president once he’s made up his mind.
Weisselberg and the Trump Organization are set to go to trial late this summer. Both have pleaded not guilty to dodging more than $1.7 million in taxes in a 15-year scheme. Weisselberg is charged with enjoying untaxed company perks as Trump Org CFO, including rent, utilities, and garage expenses at a luxury apartment building in Manhattan. The company also allegedly footed the bill for his grandkids’ private school tuition, car leases for him and his family members, and more lavish benefits, from 2005 until his indictment last summer.
Their lawyers declined comment.