WASHINGTON – Michael Cohen, former personal lawyer for U.S. President Donald Trump, is expected to part ways with attorneys handling the criminal investigation into his business dealings, a person familiar with the matter told Reuters.
Cohen’s lawyers Stephen Ryan and Todd Harrison of McDermott, Will & Emery LLP, a Washington and New York firm, are expected to complete a review of documents seized by federal prosecutors in an April raid on Cohen’s home and office. The court has set a Friday deadline for completion of the review.
Cohen will hire other counsel once the review is complete, the person familiar with the matter told Reuters on condition of anonymity. Cohen wants to hire a lawyer who has a relationship with the U.S. prosecutor’s office in Manhattan, the source added.
Cohen did not respond to calls and texts seeking comment. Ryan and Harrison did not respond to questions about the expected legal change, which was first reported by ABC News.
The criminal probe into Cohen’s business dealings stems in part from a referral by special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating whether Trump’s 2016 campaign colluded with Russia to influence the U.S. presidential election.
Trump has repeatedly said there was no collusion, and Russia has denied interference. Cohen has not been criminally charged, but a source familiar with the investigation told Reuters in April that federal prosecutors in New York are investigating him for possible bank and tax fraud, and for possible campaign law violations connected with a payment to a porn actress and matters concerning foreign support of Trump’s 2016 campaign.
Roughly 3.7 million files were seized in the Cohen raid and are being reviewed to determine which ones may be subject to attorney-client privilege. Judge Kimba Wood set a June 15 deadline for Cohen’s and Trump’s lawyers to finish their review and has appointed a special master to vet claims of privilege.
It was not clear what the planned change in attorneys might mean for Cohen’s legal strategy.
The probe has taken a toll on Cohen, who has expressed worries about the financial burden of mounting a legal defense against federal prosecutors with extensive resources, according to a friend who spoke with Cohen in the past few days.
The friend, who spoke on condition of anonymity, also told Reuters that Cohen has complained that he does not feel he has received enough support from Trump in dealing with the situation.
Cohen has admitted that he made a $130,000 payment shortly before the 2016 election to porn star Stormy Daniels, who has said she had sex with Trump in 2006 and was paid to keep quiet about it. Cohen did not acknowledge the payment until after it became public through media reports.
Legal experts have said the payment could amount to a violation of campaign finance law, which requires public disclosure of expenses meant to influence the election.
Trump has said he never had an affair with Daniels.