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Michael Cohen’s ‘Secret’ Trump Tape Leak Has the Potential to Backfire on Him


Many of the questions that were asked about the news of the secretly recorded Michael CohenDonald Trump conversation initially focused on President Trump and his lawyer Rudy Giuliani’s response to it and the rationale behind that response. There were also some questions about who leaked a recording that was in the hands of the government already.

CNN is reporting that federal prosecutors at the Southern District of New York (SDNY) are likely “very unhappy” that Cohen and his legal team would put this evidence out there without discussing it with the very people Cohen may be counting on to cut him a deal. The thesis of the story is that the tape leak could “complicate” Cohen’s legal troubles. That is true.

Cohen is under federal criminal investigation for alleged bank fraud and potential campaign finance violations. While increased cooperation with the government has seemingly been Cohen’s priority of late, the release of evidence in this way doesn’t exactly support such a commitment.

It seems like stating the obvious, but inciting the ire of people who may be able to help you avoid years of jail time isn’t the best idea. If you buy the comments made by a former federal prosecutor to CNN, then Cohen attorneys Lanny Davis and Guy Petrillo should know that this isn’t being received well at the SDNY.

“They’d be very unhappy that Michael Cohen is putting forward some of the evidence to the media and commenting on it,” a former federal prosecutor from SDNY told CNN. “They don’t like to be part of any sort of media circus.”

“Typically, they would be really mad at [Cohen],” a second former prosecutor in the office reportedly said of Cohen.

It’s not clear at this time if this was a severe enough offense in the eyes of the SDNY, but it’s been reported that it was Lanny Davis who handed CNN the actual audio of the Trump-Cohen call. The call contained a discussion about a payment to make the Karen McDougal-Trump affair story go away.

In other Cohen-related news Thursday, Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg has been subpoenaed to appear as a witness in the Cohen probe. This was deemed a “significant” development.

Giuliani criticized Davis on Thursday, calling him a “shill” who was ruining things for his client.

“He’s basically destroying his client as a witness because he really isn’t a criminal lawyer. He’s playing it like a shill as opposed to a lawyer,” he said. “His whole theory — ‘you bring it all out’ — that’s great, but now the guy’s ruined as a witness. What prosecutor is going to use him?”

[Image via Yana Paskova and Getty Images]

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Matt Naham is the Senior A.M. Editor of Law&Crime.