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Michael Cohen Agrees to Settle Lawsuit With Trump Organization

Michael D. Cohen and his lawyer, Lanny Davis, in Manhattan.
Michael D. Cohen, Donald J. Trump’s former longtime fixer, at right with his lawyer, Lanny Davis.Credit...Jefferson Siegel for The New York Times

Michael D. Cohen, the longtime fixer to Donald J. Trump, who was set to go to trial next week against his former boss’s company in a dispute over legal fees, has agreed to settle his lawsuit with the Trump Organization, lawyers for both parties said at a brief court hearing on Friday.

Mr. Cohen’s lawsuit, filed in 2019, accused the Trump Organization of failing to abide by the terms of a deal and refusing to pay more than $1 million in legal costs. Jury selection for the trial began earlier this week, and opening arguments were scheduled for Monday.

But at the hearing Friday, a lawyer for Mr. Cohen, Hunter Winstead, and a lawyer for the Trump Organization, James D. Kiley, said that they had agreed on terms for a settlement. The settlement is not yet finalized and the details will be kept confidential. The judge in the case, Joel Cohen — who is no relation to Mr. Cohen — said that he would delay the trial pending a final agreement.

Mr. Cohen said in a statement that the matter had been resolved “in a manner satisfactory to all parties.”

A separate lawsuit that Mr. Trump filed against Mr. Cohen in Florida federal court remains active, and Mr. Cohen is still expected to be the star witness against the former president in a Manhattan criminal trial next year.

Mr. Cohen had argued that the Trump Organization had agreed, orally and in writing, to cover any attorney fees he incurred during multiple congressional hearings and investigations in 2017 and 2018, including the criminal inquiry conducted by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III. Mr. Cohen has said that the Trump Organization initially paid these bills but halted payments after he agreed to cooperate in the investigations.

Mr. Cohen was once a close ally of Mr. Trump — a trusted lieutenant whose job it became to clean up his boss’s messes. One such situation came during the 2016 election, when Mr. Cohen learned that a porn star, Stormy Daniels, was looking to sell a story about having had sex with Mr. Trump years earlier.

Soon afterward, Mr. Cohen paid Ms. Daniels $130,000 to keep silent. Over the following year, Mr. Trump reimbursed Mr. Cohen in installments that are now the subject of the Manhattan district attorney’s criminal case against the former president.

In 2018, as part of a federal investigation into the hush money payment, F.B.I. agents searched Mr. Cohen’s home, office and a hotel where his family had stayed. The legal pressure placed a strain on his relationship with Mr. Trump, and the men had a falling out. In August of that year, Mr. Cohen pleaded guilty to multiple crimes, including some related to the hush money payment, and several months later, he cemented his role as a Trump antagonist when he testified about the then-president in a high-profile congressional hearing.

Mr. Cohen has been a thorn in Mr. Trump’s side ever since. He is a key witness for the Manhattan district attorney, Alvin L. Bragg, who has charged the former president with 34 felony counts of falsifying business records related to the reimbursements to Mr. Cohen. In April, Mr. Trump filed his own lawsuit against Mr. Cohen, accusing the former fixer of betraying his confidences and “spreading falsehoods about him.” That lawsuit, filed in federal court in Florida, was not part of the settlement talks.

Though the settlement between Mr. Cohen and the Trump Organization will almost certainly scuttle the scheduled trial, Mr. Trump has no shortage of legal engagements on his calendar. A lawsuit filed against him by the New York attorney general is scheduled to go to trial in October, and the criminal trial related to the hush money payments is set for March of next year. There are also two civil trials scheduled for January, including a second trial on whether he defamed the writer E. Jean Carroll.

Mr. Trump has also been indicted by federal prosecutors for his handling of sensitive material and for obstructing their investigation. On Friday, the judge in that case scheduled a trial date for May 2024. And two more potential indictments loom over Mr. Trump: one from federal prosecutors related to the former president’s actions in the lead-up to the January 2021 attack on the Capitol and one by a Georgia district attorney, Fani Willis, related to possible election interference in the state.

Mr. Trump was not expected to appear in Manhattan in the trial stemming from Mr. Cohen’s lawsuit. But a settlement would prevent a courtroom showdown between Mr. Cohen and the former president’s son Donald Trump Jr., whom Mr. Cohen subpoenaed earlier this month to testify about his approval of legal fees in his capacity as executive vice president for the Trump Organization. He was expected to take the stand early next week.

Posted on 21 Jul 2023 18:56 link