- Shannon Stapleton/Reuters
- Harvard law professor and famed defense attorney Alan Dershowitz spoke to Business Insider on Wednesday about new developments in the case involving President Donald Trump’s longtime lawyer Michael Cohen.
- Dershowitz said it appears Cohen is seeking an attorney who specializes in cutting deals.
- “The key is to find out who the new lawyer is,” Dershowitz said.
Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz told Business Insider on Wednesday that it appears likely that President Donald Trump’s longtime lawyer is seeking an attorney who specializes in dealmaking after reportedly separating from his existing legal team.
“It certainly could signal an attempt to make a friendly deal with the prosecutor,” Dershowitz said.
Earlier in the day, multiple reports said that Michael Cohen’s lawyers were set to stop representing him in the case. Sources told ABC News that this change made it likely that Cohen would cooperate with federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York, where he is under investigation for possible campaign-finance violations, bank fraud, and wire fraud following the FBI’s April raids on his home, office, and hotel room.
Attorneys Stephen Ryan, Joseph Evans, and Todd Harrison have represented Cohen in the investigation, which has so far featured several hearings before US District Judge Kimba Wood related to the documents seized by the FBI. The attorneys had not yet filed to Wood a notice to withdraw from the case.
The New York Times reported that Cohen’s legal team is expected to stay with him until the end of the week as they race to finish reviewing the vast array of documents, a trove of which still had to be reviewed for privilege designations. In a late May hearing, Wood ordered Cohen’s team to complete that review by Friday. The Times reported that once the review is complete, Cohen will seek new counsel.
The Wall Street Journal reported that Cohen is seeking a lawyer with close ties to the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York. Meanwhile, multiple reports said Cohen had not yet decided whether to cooperate with prosecutors, and had not met with prosecutors in hopes of cutting a deal.
“The key is to find out who the new lawyer is,” Dershowitz told Business Insider, adding that Cohen could be seeking out a New York attorney he refers to as “prosecutors in defense attorney’s clothing.”
He explained that such an attorney does “nothing but make deals with the US attorney’s office.”
“They are often recommended by the US attorneys office to clients who want to make a deal,” he said. “They’re not real defense attorneys, they never go to court. They just are dealmakers. And sometimes, the US attorney’s office will recommend an attorney like that without telling the client that they’re in bed with the prosecutor, but I don’t think that’s the case here.”
Dershowitz said that until it’s known who Cohen’s new lawyer is, “we won’t have a sense of what is going on.”
Cohen would want a lawyer who has experience working with the Southern District regardless of whether he wants to make a deal or push forward in a potential trial, Dershowitz said.
“But certainly if you’re trying to make a deal, you’re much better off having a lawyer who is on much better terms with the US attorney’s office,” he said.
Dershowitz has proven to be somewhat of an ally to Trump as he combats the special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe, as Dershowitz has argued against what he sees as overreach from investigators. In turn, Trump has promoted Dershowitz on his Twitter feed.
Cohen’s legal troubles are coming into focus
The center of Cohen’s troubles is a $130,000 hush-money payment that he facilitated to porn star Stormy Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, just weeks before the 2016 presidential election to keep her quiet about her allegation of a 2006 affair with Trump. the FBI sought documents related to that payment and other similar agreements with women during the April raids.
The focus of Cohen’s case in the Southern District is a review of the 3.7 million documents seized from Cohen. In April, Cohen and his lawyers successfully argued to have a special master appointed, which allowed them, Trump’s attorneys, and the Trump Organization to make determinations over which documents were protected by attorney-client privilege and could not be used in a potential prosecution.
The special master, Barbara Jones, was appointed to oversee the review and determine which documents she believed were privileged. Last week, Jones reported that she had completed the review of the first 300,000 documents, determining that just 162 were privileged.
If Cohen’s team can’t finish reviewing the remaining documents to make privilege designations by Friday, Wood might turn the rest over to a “taint team” of government prosecutors to finish the review, she said. That team would be walled off from those who might prosecute Cohen. It’s the option Cohen and Trump didn’t want to have happen.