Michael Cohen, former lawyer to President Donald Trump, is being investigated for more than $20 million in bank and tax fraud, according to sources speaking to The New York Times. The fraud relates to loans obtained by taxi businesses that Cohen and his family own.
According to their sources, the inquiry is reaching its final stage and charges may be filed by the end of August. In addition to investigating the bank fraud, investigators are also allegedly looking into whether Cohen violated any laws relating to campaign finance when he was working for President Trump. In particular, they are looking into the hush money Cohen paid to women who claimed to have affairs with Donald Trump.
Cohen’s investigation is being conducted by the Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s Office. The investigation stems from the larger investigation being conducted by the Justice Department under Special Counsel Robert Mueller, according to The New York Post. Mueller is looking into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential race.
According to The New York Times, if there are charges filed against Cohen, it will be “a significant blow to the president.” Cohen worked for the president for over 10 years and referred to himself as President Trump’s personal lawyer.
Cohen’s office was raided by the FBI in April. President Trump responded on Twitter, calling the raid a “witch hunt” and saying “attorney-client privilege is dead!”
Following the raid, Cohen tried unsuccessfully to limit the evidence that prosecutors could review, citing attorney-client privilege.
The federal investigators are allegedly looking into whether Cohen misrepresented the amount of his assets to obtain the loans. Two lenders were listed in the search warrants for the FBI raid.
Michael Cohen is under investigation for a bank fraud involving over $20 million and charges may be filed this month. Under the federal sentencing guidelines, he is looking at a sentence of at least 87 to 108 months in prison. https://t.co/w2DG62m5DP
— Renato Mariotti (@renato_mariotti) August 20, 2018
According to The New York Times report, the banks don’t appear to have suffered a financial loss from lending the money. Showing a financial loss is an important aspect of bank fraud cases.
The report also raises the possibility that Cohen will plead guilty rather than face a lengthy trial. Cohen’s business partner Evgeny Freidman plead guilty to tax fraud in May, according to Politico. His plea deal reportedly required him to cooperate with ongoing investigations.
Freidman’s lawyer Patrick J. Egan made a statement on Friday.
“It would be against Mr. Freidman’s interest to make a public statement regarding an ongoing criminal investigation,” he said, according to The New York Times.
If Cohen pleads guilty to the alleged fraud, he will likely be required to provide information to Mueller. According to The New York Times report, if Cohen can’t reach a plea deal with prosecutors, he will likely be charged before the midterm elections.
In a July interview with Good Morning America and reported by Vox, Cohen said President Trump is not his first priority.
“My wife, my daughter, and my son have my first loyalty and always will,” he said. “I put my family and country first.”