Former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen aids DA Vance criminal probe

Senior officials in the Manhattan district attorney’s office this week asked ex-President Donald Trump‘s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen to return for what would be his eighth interview with the office, which is conducting a wide-ranging criminal probe related to the Trump Organization.

A person familiar with the case said that Cohen, while being questioned for the seventh time by officials via a video conference earlier this week, was asked to make himself available soon for an in-person interview in DA Cyrus Vance Jr.’s office.

Cohen, who now is an avowed enemy of Trump, agreed to do so, the source said.

Cohen declined to comment to CNBC, as did Vance’s spokesman, Danny Frost. A Trump Organization spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The interest in speaking to Cohen repeatedly comes as Vance has beefed up his investigative team, recently won access to Trump’s financial records, and reportedly expanded the scope of his probe to look at Trump’s long-time chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg and Weisselberg’s sons.

One of those sons works for the Trump Organization, running the company’s Central Park ice skating rinks The other works for Ladder Capital Finance, a company that has loaned Trump’s company nearly $300 million in connection with four buildings in Manhattan. Vance is known to be eyeing how the Trump Organization valued its buildings.

Those developments, as well as Vance’s long-expected announcement Friday that he will not seek re-election this fall, have increased speculation that the district attorney will seek to indict Trump or officials at his company in coming months.

Vance’s probe originally was focused on how the Trump Organization accounted for hush money payments that Cohen either made or facilitated to two women, porn star Stormy Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal, before the 2016 presidential election.

Cohen, when he pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations and other crimes in 2018, told a federal judge that he arranged those payments at the direction of Trump to keep the women quiet about their allegations of having sex with Trump. The former president denies the women’s claims.

Cohen later testified to Congress that the Trump Organization would inflate and deflate the value of real estate assets in order to either win favorable loan and insurance terms, or to reduce the amount of taxes owed on them.

Those allegations by Cohen are now being looked at both in Vance’s investigation, and in a civil probe by state Attorney General Letitia James.

Court filings by Vance suggest his probe is eyeing possible “insurance and bank fraud by the Trump Organization and its officers,” as well as potential tax crimes.

Vance last month enlisted Mark Pomerantz, a white-collar criminal defense lawyer in private practice, as a special assistant DA for the sole purpose of working on the Trump investigation.

Pomerantz’s career has included a stint heading the Manhattan U.S. Attorney Office’s criminal division, where he oversaw securities fraud and organized crime cases.

Pomerantz was one of the investigators who spoke with Cohen this week on the video call. Also on that call was Vance and other top officials in the office.

The DA’s office also retained the consulting company FTI to analyze Trump’s financial records.

In February, on the heels of Pomerantz’s hiring, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected Trump’s effort to block Vance from getting his tax returns and other financial records from his longtime accountants through a grand jury subpoena.

Investigators promptly obtained those documents.

Cohen began cooperating with Vance’s investigation in 2018, before he was sentenced in 2019 to three years in prison for his crimes.

Investigators from the DA’s office visited him in the federal prison in Otisville, New York.

Cohen was released from prison into home confinement last May because of concerns that he was at particular risk to Covid-19 because of multiple health issues.

He was thrown back into prison in July after balking at a demand by federal probation officials that he not publish a book about Trump, or anyone else, while serving out the rest of the term on home confinement.

Cohen was released again about two weeks later after an outraged federal judge said he was the victim of retaliation by the Bureau of Prisons for not complying with that condition. Cohen later published his book about Trump, entitled “Disloyal.”

Since then, in addition to cooperating with Vance’s investigations, Cohen has been hosting a podcast, Mea Culpa, whose guests have included fellow Trump critics such as Daniels, the porn actress, and Rosie O’Donnell.

Audio Up, which produces the podcast, on Friday touted it as “the world’s fastest growing podcast,” with “5 million download.”

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