Michael Cohen, the lawyer who spent many years working as President Donald Trump's personal "fixer," filed a lawsuit Thursday in New York against his former boss' real estate business over unpaid legal fees.
In a civil complaint filed in Manhattan Supreme Court, Cohen accused the Trump Organization of breaching a contract made in July 2017 to pay his legal bills while he was still working as Trump's personal attorney. The lawsuit claims the Trump Organization stopped paying Cohen for litigation expenses in June 2018 – roughly one month after Cohen began cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into allegations of collusion between Trump's 2016 presidential campaign and Russia.
The lawsuit is likely to prolong the bitter public stand off between the two men, as Cohen heads to prison in May after pleading guilty to campaign finance violations, tax evasion and lying to Congress in August 2018 in a case brought against him by federal prosecutors in New York.
In the case brought by Mueller's office, Cohen pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about a Trump Tower project in Moscow, as well as about the extent of Trump's involvement. Cohen has revealed that Trump was personally aware of the deal, allegedly signing a letter of intent and discussing it with Cohen on two other occasions.
Cohen just wrapped up a series of appearances before Congress. Last week, in his only public testimony to lawmakers, Cohen described the commander-in-chief as a "racist," "conman" and "cheat" and detailed a wide range of allegations against his former boss, including an illegal hush-money payoff to adult film actress Stormy Daniels, who alleges she had an affair with Trump in 2006.
"The Trump Organization agreed to indemnify Mr. Cohen and to pay attorneys' fees and costs incurred by Mr. Cohen in connection with various matters arising from Mr. Cohen's work with and on behalf of the Organization," the complaint states. "These matters included multiple congressional hearings, special counsel Robert S. Mueller III's investigation and others."
Cohen claims he has incurred at least $1.9 million in legal fees and costs that were not reimbursed by the Trump Organization.
Cohen, who was previously one of the president's most ardent defenders in business in politics, indicated last year that his loyalty to Trump might be wavering as he vowed to "put family and country first" by cooperating with federal prosecutors. His decision to cooperate with Mueller's team, federal prosecutors in New York and congressional investigators has made him arguably one of the most key witnesses to the allegations facing his former boss.
The president's former lawyer revealed to Congress last week that federal prosecutors in New York are allegedly investigating unspecified crimes involving the president. The Southern District of New York had probed hush-money payments made to women alleging extramarital affairs with Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign in exchange for their silence, and Cohen pleaded guilty to campaign finance charges last year regarding those transactions. Cohen has talked in detail about that probe, so it is likely that he is alluding to another inquiry being pursued by the government. Federal prosecutors in New York recently issued a sweeping subpoena for documents related to donations and spending by Trump's inaugural committee.