NEW YORK – Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former lawyer and fixer, met last month with federal prosecutors in Manhattan, offering information about possible irregularities within the president’s family business and about a donor to the inaugural committee, according to people familiar with the matter.
Cohen, who worked at the Trump Organization for a decade, spoke with prosecutors about insurance claims the company had filed over the years, said the people, who did not elaborate on the nature of the possible irregularities.
While it was not clear whether the prosecutors found Cohen’s information credible and whether they intended to pursue it, the meeting suggests that they are interested in broader aspects of the Trump Organization, beyond their investigation into the company’s role in the hush money payments made before the 2016 election to women claiming to have had affairs with Trump. Cohen pleaded guilty last summer to arranging those payments.
The prosecutors also questioned Cohen about a donor to the president’s inaugural committee, Imaad Zuberi, a California venture capitalist and political fundraiser, according to the people familiar with the matter who were not authorized to discuss the confidential meeting. Around the time that Zuberi contributed $900,000 to the committee, he also tried to hire Cohen as a consultant and wrote him a substantial check, one of the people said.
Although Cohen did not go through with the arrangement, he was building a consulting business at the time with clients who sought to understand and have access to the Trump administration.
A spokesman for Zuberi, Steve Rabinowitz, confirmed the check Friday, saying it was for $100,000 and was never cashed. Zuberi, the only person directly referenced in a recent subpoena prosecutors sent the inaugural committee, had previously denied having any dealings with Cohen beyond a few conversations.
No sign Trump implicated
There was no indication that Cohen, who is scheduled to begin serving a three-year prison sentence in May, implicated Trump in the possible irregularities discussed during the meeting last month. If prosecutors conclude that Cohen’s information is truthful and valuable, they could ask the judge who sentenced him to reduce his prison term.
The White House referred questions to the Trump Organization. A company spokeswoman did not respond to requests for comment. In the past, the president has accused Cohen of lying to try to reduce his sentence.
Lanny Davis, a lawyer and adviser to Cohen, would not comment on the investigations beyond saying that his client was “interested in cooperating with and assisting” the prosecutors “in any way they believe is helpful.”
The prosecutors recently sought to interview Trump Organization executives, according to a person briefed on the request. The nature of the questions they were seeking to ask was not known.
Cohen is the only person sentenced to significant prison time in various investigations connected to Trump.
In August, Cohen pleaded guilty to breaking campaign finance laws for his role in the hush money payments, as well as tax and bank crimes. In a separate case brought by Robert Mueller, the special counsel, Cohen pleaded guilty in November to lying to Congress about the timing of negotiations to build a Trump skyscraper in Moscow, and about the extent of Trump’s involvement.
In a memo to the court before he was sentenced in December, Cohen’s lawyers wrote that he was being disproportionately punished for “conduct that is routinely pursued through noncriminal enforcement,” referring to his admission of tax evasion. His lawyers drew a comparison to celebrities who received either fines or far less time after being charged with extensive tax fraud.
The session with the Southern District prosecutors was not the first time Cohen provided information that could possibly lead to a reduced sentence. Earlier, Cohen met twice with the prosecutors to assist their investigation of the payments to women, including the Trump Organization’s decision to reimburse Cohen for $130,000 he paid to pornographic film actress Stormy Daniels.
‘Done with lying’
In an interview in December, Cohen told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos that he was “done with the lying.” He went on: “I am done being loyal to President Trump, and my first loyalty belongs to my wife, my daughter, my son and this country.”
Federal law allows prosecutors to seek — and a judge to grant — a reduced prison term for a defendant who offers “substantial assistance in investigating or prosecuting another person” within a year of being sentenced. The same rule would also allow the judge to consider assistance Cohen provided, before his sentencing, to the special counsel. Last year, he met seven times with prosecutors from Mueller’s office.