Trump Organisation sued by ex-lawyer Cohen for legal fees

Michael Cohen was sentenced to three years for fraud, tax evasion, lying to Congress, and illegal campaign contributions. (AFP pic)

NEW YORK: President Donald Trump’s real estate group the Trump Organisation was sued Thursday by his former lawyer Michael Cohen for “millions of dollars” in legal fees Cohen says the company was obliged to pay.

Cohen alleges the company stopped paying his legal costs related to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe and other matters “only after” he began cooperating last year in investigations that have since implicated the president in wrongdoing.

“The Trump Organisation’s failure, without any reasonable basis, to pay Mr Cohen’s attorneys’ fees and costs and other amounts incurred by Mr Cohen in service to and at the behest of the Organization and its principals, directors, and officers, constitutes a breach of the Trump Organisation’s indemnification obligations,” said the lawsuit, filed in New York.

It was the latest chapter in the story of Cohen’s break with his former boss. Cohen, who was sentenced in December to three years in prison, has implicated Trump and the White House in the charges of campaign finance fraud and lying to Congress that he pleaded guilty to.

His lawyer Lanny Davis yesterday also alleged that representatives of the president “dangled” the possibility of a pardon to Cohen last year before Cohen began cooperating with investigators examining Trump’s 2016 presidential election campaign and Trump Organization.

In the lawsuit, Cohen notes his former position as executive vice president and special counsel at the Trump Organisation, where he became known as Trump’s fixer. He was also a Trump campaign advisor.

In those roles, he says, he made hush payment arrangements ahead of the 2016 election for two women who allegedly had affairs with Trump.

After the campaign became subject of investigations, Cohen’s suit claims he and the Trump Organisation made an agreement that the company would repay his legal costs.

It did pay those costs until June 2018, when it became apparent that Cohen would be cooperating with investigators. When the Trump Organisation failed to pay a US$1 million bill to Cohen’s lawyers — the firm McDermott Will & Emery — they quit representing him, the lawsuit says.

Between that time and January 25, Cohen accumulated another US$1.9 million in legal bills, which he says the Trump Organisation should pay.

In addition, the lawsuit said, the company is obliged to pay the US$1.9 million that the court fined Cohen in his plea deal last December.