Senior Manhattan prosecutors this week asked ex-President Donald Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen to return for his eighth interview with the firm, which is conducting a far-reaching criminal investigation related to the Trump organization.
A person familiar with the case said that when Cohen was interviewed for the seventh time by officials via videoconference earlier this week, he was asked to be available for a face-to-face interview at DA Cyrus Vance Jr.’s office soon.
Cohen, who is now an avowed enemy of Trump, agreed, the source said.
Cohen declined to speak 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 because Vance has strengthened its investigative team, recently gained access to Trump’s financial records, and reportedly broadened the scope of his investigation to investigate Trump’s longtime CFO Allen Weisselberg and the Sons of Weisselberg.
One of these sons works for the Trump Organization and runs the company’s Central Park ice rinks. The other works for Ladder Capital Finance, a company that borrowed Trump’s company nearly $ 300 million in connection with four buildings in Manhattan. Vance is known to watch the Trump organization rate its buildings.
These developments, as well as Vance’s long-awaited announcement on Friday that he will not seek re-election this fall, have fueled speculation that the prosecutor will attempt to indict Trump or officials at his company in the coming months.
Vance’s investigation originally focused on how the Trump organization recorded hush money payments made or facilitated by Cohen, prior to the 2016 presidential election, to two women, porn star Stormy Daniels and playboy model Karen McDougal.
When Cohen pleaded guilty to financial funding violations and other crimes in 2018, he told a federal judge that he arranged these payments on Trump’s orders to calmly approve the women over their allegations of having sex with Trump hold. 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 to either gain favorable loan and insurance terms or to reduce the amount of taxes owed on them.
These Cohen allegations are now being investigated in both Vance’s investigation and a civil investigation by Attorney General Letitia James.
Vance court records suggest that his investigation is targeting possible “insurance and banking fraud by the Trump organization and its officials” as well as possible tax crimes.
Vance last month hired Mark Pomerantz, a private practice criminal defense attorney, as a special assistant prosecutor to work solely on the Trump investigation.
Pomerantz’s career included a stint as the head of the criminal justice department in Manhattan, where he was responsible for securities fraud and organized crime cases.
Pomerantz was one of the investigators who spoke to Cohen about the video call this week. Vance and other senior officials were in the office on the call.
The DA office also kept the consulting firm FTI to analyze Trump’s financial records.
In February, shortly after Pomerantz was hired, the US Supreme Court rejected Trump’s efforts to prevent Vance from obtaining his tax returns and other financial records from his longtime accountants through a grand jury subpoena.
The investigators received these documents immediately.
Cohen began working with Vance’s investigation in 2018 before being sentenced to three years in prison for his crimes in 2019.
Investigators from the district attorney’s office visited him at federal prison in Otisville, New York.
Cohen was released from prison last May because he feared he was at particular risk for Covid-19 due to several health issues.
He was thrown back in jail in July after defying demands from federal probation officers not to publish a book about Trump or anyone else while he was serving the remainder of his sentence.
About two weeks later, Cohen was released again after an outraged federal judge said he had been the victim of retaliation by the Bureau of Prisons for failing to meet this condition. Cohen later published his book on Trump called “Disloyal”.
Since then, in addition to working with Vance’s investigation, Cohen has hosted a podcast, Mea Culpa, whose guests include other Trump critics such as Daniels, the porn actress and Rosie O’Donnell.
Audio Up, which produces the podcast, touted it Friday as “the fastest growing podcast in the world” with “5 million downloads”.