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Michael Cohen sues Trump Organization, wants it to pay legal bills

Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump's former lawyer, on

Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump's former lawyer, on Wednesday. Credit: AP/Alex Brandon

President Donald Trump’s ex-lawyer Michael Cohen on Thursday sued the Trump Organization for $1.9 million in legal fees, claiming the president’s real estate company refused to honor an indemnification agreement when he started cooperating with prosecutors.

The Manhattan Supreme Court lawsuit said Cohen should be reimbursed for matters including the guilty plea in which he accused Trump of directing hush money payments to women that violated campaign finance law, his aid to a probe of collusion with Russia, and a House appearance last week in which he called Trump a “con man” and a “racist.”

Cohen is also seeking reimbursement of $1.9 million in fines, restitution and forfeitures ordered as part of his Manhattan federal court sentence in December for lying to Congress, violating election law with payoffs to silence a porn star and a Playboy model about alleged affairs with the president, and financial crimes that didn’t involve Trump.

The Trump Organization did not immediately respond to a request for comment. In an e-mailed statement, Cohen spokesman/lawyer Lanny Davis said Cohen was ready to back up his claim of an indemnity agreement that was breached.

“While I’m not involved in this lawsuit, rest assured, Michael Cohen has documents to prove the allegations,” Davis said.

The lawsuit said Cohen began working as a lawyer and “fixer” for Trump and the Trump Organization in 2006, and the indemnification promise was made in 2017, after Trump was elected president, as part of  a “joint defense” relating to a swirl of investigations.

He said the Trump Organization paid $137,460 to Cohen’s lawyers in late 2017, and by May of 2018 paid an additional $1.7 million. The lawsuit made no claim that these payments were conditioned on Cohen protecting Trump.

Cohen’s home and office were raided by the FBI in April of 2018, and by June, the lawsuit said, stories had begun to circulate that Cohen was going to cooperate with an FBI investigation of matters including the hush money payments to women.

“After it became clear that Mr. Cohen would cooperate in the investigations, the Trump Organization took steps to thwart Mr. Cohen’s ability to receive amounts he was entitled to under the indemnification agreement and thereby breached its duty of good faith and fair dealing in its performance of the indemnification agreement,” the suit said.

When the legal invoices went unpaid, Cohen’s lawyers withdrew, the suit said, and he hired a former Manhattan federal prosecutor to negotiate a guilty plea and attempts to cooperate with the government.

The lawsuit said Cohen has since been represented by several firms, his legal costs are still accruing, and the Trump Organization has not responded to a demand for payment sent in January. 

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