Michael Cohen expected to lose current defense lawyers and likely to cooperate with prosecutors: Report

Key Points
  • President Donald Trump's longtime personal lawyer Michael Cohen is expected to lose his current criminal defense attorneys, ABC News reported.
  • Cohen is likely to begin cooperating with federal prosecutors investigating him, the outlet said.
  • Federal prosecutors are probing the 51-year-old's business dealings as well as a $130,000 hush money payment he made to porn star Stormy Daniels right before the 2016 presidential election.
Trump lawyer Michael Cohen expected to lose defense team

President Donald Trump's longtime personal lawyer Michael Cohen is expected to lose his current legal defense team and is likely to begin cooperating with federal prosecutors who are investigating him, according to new reports Wednesday.

ABC News, which first broke the news in an article citing unidentified sources, said Cohen's current attorneys, Stephen Ryan and Todd Harrison, are not expected to represent him going forward in the pending criminal probe in New York City.

The Wall Street Journal said Ryan's and Harrison's expected departure would come after completing an ongoing review of files seized from Cohen in an April 9 FBI raid.

The Journal article said Cohen is searching for a new criminal defense lawyer and has not yet decided whether to cooperate. ABC News said it is likely that Cohen will cooperate.

A source close to Cohen who spoke with NBC News confirmed the expected split from Ryan and Harrison and his plan to hire a new lawyer. NBC reported that it is unclear whether the move signals a change in legal strategy or future cooperation by Cohen.

It is not unusual for a target of a criminal investigation to switch lawyers when they are on the verge of cooperating with prosecutors.

But as of Wednesday morning, there was no filing by Cohen's legal team in federal court in Manhattan indicating they are withdrawing their ongoing representation of him.

Cohen has not yet spoken to federal prosecutors, sources familiar with the matter told NBC News on Wednesday. Any discussions about a potential plea agreement would have to follow an organized meeting between Cohen, his lawyers and the prosecutors, the sources said.

The articles about Cohen switching legal horses came a day after reports in Vanity Fair and the New York Daily News that Cohen has been telling friends he expects to be arrested any day now. Cohen denied that to Vanity Fair.

Cohen has not been charged.

But Ryan and Harrison, as well as lawyers for Trump and the Trump Organization, have been involved in ongoing legal proceedings related to files seized from Cohen by FBI agents during searches of his New York office, home and the hotel room where he had been staying during apartment renovations.

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Cohen's lawyers face a deadline this Friday to complete a review of all of those files. If they are not finished by then, U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood has said she will allow a team of federal prosecutors not connected with the investigation to review the files and screen out ones that may be subject to withholding from the case prosecutors because of attorney-client confidentiality privilege held by Cohen's clients.

Neither Ryan nor Harrison immediately returned calls seeking comment from CNBC on Wednesday. Cohen could not be reached for comment.

A spokesman for the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York, the office that is investigating Cohen, declined to comment.

Michael Avenatti, the lawyer for porn star Stormy Daniels, told NBC News that, "Our understanding is consistent with the reporting by ABC," that Cohen's lawyers will be leaving his case

"The abandonment of Mr. Cohen by Mr. Ryan is a disaster for Mr. Cohen and for Mr. Trump," Avenatti said.

Cohen, 51, is being investigated for various business dealings, in addition to the $130,000 payment he made Daniels shortly before the 2016 presidential election that sent Trump to the White House.

Daniels has said the money was in exchange for her keeping quiet about an affair she says she had with Trump in 2006.

The White House has denied any such affair, but Trump this year belatedly acknowledged reimbursing Cohen for that payment.

— Additional reporting by Brian Schwartz and Jim Forkin.