Michael Cohen

AP Photo/Mary Altaffer

CBS News Source: Arrest Of Michael Cohen Is Not Imminent

June 13, 2018 - 12:54 pm
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NEW YORK (WCBS 880/AP/CBS News) -- A source tells CBS News an arrest of President Donald Trump's former personal attorney Michael Cohen is not imminent, despite what Cohen has apparently been telling people.

Investigators are still combing through reams of material, including data the FBI seized during raids of Cohen's home, hotel room and office in April.

Investigators are looking at allegations of bank fraud, wire fraud and campaign finance violations.

CBS News Legal Analyst Rikki Klieman said she was not sure what to make of Cohen’s claims that he will likely soon be arrested.

“I don’t know if that appears likely or not,” she said. “I have heard that he has been telling certain people that he believes he will be arrested this week – whether it’s today or Thursday or Friday, and then, apparently, he’s telling other people something else. We don’t really know if he starts trial balloons – as we used to call them – that is, putting it out in the public to see what kind of response you get – or if there really is a message there for people in Washington, or if this is simply a rumor that has no basis in fact.”

Meanwhile, CBS News justice and Homeland Security correspondent Jeff Pegues said Cohen may be considering a change in his legal representation.

Cohen has been represented since 2017 by Stephen Ryan, a Washington lawyer initially hired to prepare him for congressional testimony about alleged Russian interference in the presidential election.

"The question is: is he preparing to cooperate with investigators or is he preparing to battle this out in court?" Pegues said.

Klieman told WCBS 880’s Michael Wallace there are numerous reasons why someone might decide to change attorneys.

“Number one, he could be cooperating, and therefore has a difference with his attorneys, or much more benign, number two, he just simply can’t afford to pay them any longer, which would cause a disintegration of the relationship. Number three, they may have had irreconcilable differences about strategy,” she said. “There’s a myriad of reasons why someone changes attorneys, and some of them seem much more salacious than others.”

A major factor in the Cohen probe is what is covered by attorney-client privilege from the April 9 seizure of more than 3 million items, and what isn't. A special master is reviewing those records to determine what is covered by the privilege. In the first batch of information reviewed, the special master suggested that only about 100 records are covered by attorney-client privilege, Pegues reported.

A federal judge has set a deadline of Friday to determine which records from that raid fall under attorney-client privilege.

“We don’t know where the investigators are, but we do know that there is a hearing scheduled for Friday, where the judge is going to, at that point, declare which documents are going to go over to the parties, and that is a pivotal day,” Klieman said.

When agents searched Cohen's home, office and safety deposit box and seized his phones this spring, they sought a wide variety of information, including his involvement in arranging a secret $130,000 payment to the porn actress Stormy Daniels, who said she had a sexual tryst with Trump years ago.

Cohen has maintained that he's innocent of wrongdoing, and Trump has called the raid on his lawyer an assault on attorney client privilege.

It isn't unusual for high-profile figures facing potential criminal charges to look for attorneys who have deep experience in the court where the case is expected to be tried, and a track record of negotiating with local prosecutors.

Daniels' lawyer, Michael Avenatti, who is suing him in an attempt to get the actress released from a confidentiality agreement, gloated over the news in a tweet.

"Not a good look and a disaster for Mr. Cohen and Mr. Trump," he said.

What Cohen decides to do going forward is important not only to his case, but to special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian election meddling and any ties to Trump associates. Mueller has already made multiple indictments as a result of that probe. 

Cohen has also denied any wrongdoing related to the Russia investigation.

(© 2018 WCBS 880. The Associated Press and CBS News contributed to this report.)