21 July 2023
NEW YORK (AP) — Donald Trump’s company and his former longtime lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen have settled a lawsuit over Cohen’s claims that he was unfairly stuck with big legal bills after getting entangled in investigations into the former president.
Lawyers for the two sides told the judge they had reached a settlement during a video conference Friday in Manhattan, just as Cohen’s 2019 lawsuit was slated to go to trial Monday in a state court. Details of the agreement were not made public.
Cohen said Friday the matter “has been resolved in a manner satisfactory to all parties.” Messages seeking comment were left with lawyers for Trump’s company, the Trump Organization.
Cohen claimed in his lawsuit that the Trump Organization had promised to pay his legal expenses and did so for a time, footing more than $1.7 million in legal fees.
But, Cohen said, the company reneged after he began cooperating with federal prosecutors in their investigations related to Trump’s business dealings in Russia and attempts to silence women with embarrassing stories about his personal life.
Cohen’s lawyers stopped representing him after the company stopped paying. His lawsuit said that harmed his ability to respond to the federal investigations.
In court papers, the Trump Organization has disputed that it made certain promises and has said it satisfied any obligations it did have. The company also has argued that Cohen’s involvement in the federal investigations wasn’t an outgrowth of his former job but rather a personal decision to try to reduce his own criminal legal exposure as an indictment loomed.
Jury selection in the case began Monday, with a trial slated to start next week. Among the prospective jurors, more than half said they had strong opinions about Trump, the front-runner in the 2024 Republican presidential primary. Several said their feelings toward him were intense enough that they would not be able to fairly evaluate evidence.
While the former president would not have been a witness in the trial, his son Donald Trump Jr. was expected to testify.
Cohen pleaded guilty in 2018 to multiple charges, admitting that he lied to Congress, violated campaign finance laws through excessive political contributions, lied to multiple banks to obtain financing and evaded income taxes by failing to report more than $4 million in income. He was sentenced to three years in prison, although he served nearly two-thirds of it at home, released after the COVID-19 outbreak overwhelmed the nation’s prisons.
He then became a key witness in the New York grand jury proceeding that led to Trump’s April indictment on charges of falsifying Trump Organization records to protect Trump’s 2016 candidacy by suppressing claims that he had had extramarital sexual encounters.
Trump denied those encounters, and he pleaded not guilty to the criminal charges. He cast the case as a Democratic district attorney’s attempt to blunt his ongoing campaign to return to the White House in 2025.
Trump has now sued Cohen, accusing him of violating a company confidentiality agreement, breaching ethical standards for lawyers and maliciously “spreading falsehoods” about Trump. A Cohen spokesman, attorney Lanny Davis, responded that Trump was abusing the legal system to harass Cohen.
Associated Press writers Michael R. Sisak and Jake Offenhartz contributed to this report.