- Yana Paskova/Getty Images
- Lanny Davis, an attorney for President Donald Trump’s former longtime lawyer Michael Cohen, told Business Insider on Wednesday that his client felt “liberated” after cutting a deal with prosecutors.
- Davis challenged Trump to deny Cohen’s assertions “under oath,” as Cohen was when he made them to a federal judge on Tuesday.
- Cohen pleaded guilty on Tuesday to eight counts.
- Cohen said under oath that Trump directed him to violate campaign-finance laws just before the 2016 presidential election in order to boost his candidacy.
Lanny Davis, an attorney for President Donald Trump’s former longtime lawyer Michael Cohen, told Business Insider on Wednesday that his client felt “liberated” after cutting a deal with prosecutors, saying the “final straw” for Cohen was Trump’s widely criticized summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin last month.
In cutting a deal with federal prosecutors, Cohen pleaded guilty on Tuesday to five counts of tax evasion, one count of making a false statement to a financial institution, and two counts related to campaign-finance violations. Cohen said under oath that Trump directed him to violate campaign-finance laws just before the 2016 presidential election in order to boost his candidacy.
The latter two charges were in connection to payments to the former Playboy model Karen McDougal and the porn actress Stormy Daniels to silence their allegations of affairs with Trump.
Davis said he spoke with Cohen to gather his feelings on the plea deal once he agreed to it. Cohen initially faced the potential of 65 years in prison, but the deal narrowed that sentence down to a much more palatable three to five years, though the judge reserves the right to impose a more severe punishment at a December sentencing.
“I said it’s a mixture of pain for his family and the thought of going to prison combined with relief that it’s over – the uncertainty, cloud, whatever you call it, is over,” Davis said. “And he’s free in the mental sense of being able to speak his mind.”
Davis said Cohen told him that description “nailed” how he was feeling. Cohen was also feeling a sense of “liberation,” Davis added.
“This is the time he knows he’s going to jail, and he feels liberated that he can finally speak his mind about his concerns about Donald Trump without a criminal lawyer telling him to ‘be quiet’ because ‘you’ll upset the prosecutors,'” he said.
Davis, who rose to prominence as an attorney and spokesman for former President Bill Clinton during the Monica Lewinsky scandal, said Trump’s summit with Putin in Helsinki, Finland, was the “straw that broke the camel’s back” for Cohen. After that performance, Cohen “got very emotional,” Davis said.
At a press conference at the summit, Trump cast doubt on the US intelligence community’s assessment that Russia interfered in the 2016 US presidential election. He also attacked his Democratic opponents and the FBI, and he said when asked about the election meddling that he held both countries accountable for their state of relations.
But before the summit, Cohen “started to unload on me about Trump’s suitability to be president, his temperament, the Twitter, the venom, the anger,” Davis said.
Cohen, of course, was one of Trump’s biggest boosters and closest allies during the presidential campaign. He previously said he would “take a bullet” for Trump.
But Davis said Cohen eventually told him that “he never imagined in a million years that this man he knew and worried about as a businessman would ever be president of the United States.”
‘Let’s put Donald Trump under oath and deny it’
It’s Cohen’s previous praise and support of Trump that the president and his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani have pointed to in recent weeks to label the president’s former fixer a “liar.”
On Wednesday morning, Trump tweeted that Cohen invented “stories in order to get a ‘deal.'” And in a statement following Cohen’s guilty plea, Giuliani said, “Cohen’s actions reflect a pattern of lies and dishonesty over a significant period of time.”
But Davis said that if you’re doubting Cohen’s credibility, you’re also doubting the credibility of the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York. Federal prosecutors, as part of the deal, had Cohen admit to the crimes described in the way that he did.
“It was their statement that he read,” Davis said. “He didn’t write that – he had to own up to it.”
Davis said reimbursement checks further backed up Cohen’s statements, which were said under oath and penalty of perjury.
“To challenge his credibility while they were paying him back is illogical,” Davis said. “It increases his credibility that they paid him back, and it was Trump who paid him back.”
Davis added that “if there’s anyone challenging the credibility of someone, it shouldn’t be Giuliani and Trump,” noting that Trump said aboard Air Force One earlier this year that he knew nothing of the Daniels payment, a statement that was later proved false.
“So we simply say, under oath, [Cohen] testified in front of a federal judge that he was directed by and coordinated with Donald Trump to commit a campaign violation that is a felony,” Davis said. “So if they think he lacks credibility, even though it was the US attorney that caused him to say that, because that was their evidence, then let’s put Donald Trump under oath and deny it.”
Davis spoke with Business Insider amid a whirlwind day. Already by noon Wednesday, he said he had participated in no fewer than 20 interviews and was set to speak with various media outlets throughout the rest of the day. He said he felt “meshuga,” the Yiddish word for “crazy.”
One problem with doing so many interviews? He said he was running out of things to say.
“I don’t have that much [more] to say, which is making it increasingly awkward,” he said.