Cohen plans to call Donald Trump Jr. as a witness in trial over legal fees
Donald Trump's ex-attorney Michael Cohen plans to call one of the former president's sons as a witness in an upcoming trial over whether Trump's company owes up to $1.3 million in legal fees to Cohen, his attorneys said Friday.
Cohen, who originally sued the Trump Organization in March 2019, wants the Trump Organization to pay his fees stemming from Cohen's defense of Trump and himself during investigations in 2017 and 2018, and during roughly 20 meetings with the Manhattan district attorney and a grand jury before Trump was indicted in March.
An attorney for Cohen said in court Friday that Donald Trump Jr., a Trump Organization executive vice president, is a relevant potential witness because the company covered his legal fees in relation to some of the same investigations for which Cohen is seeking payment.
"We would like to introduce testimony about what Mr. Trump Jr. paid his lawyers in the exact same matters," said the attorney, Hunter Winstead.
Winstead initially said on Friday that they also intended to call the former president, saying he could testify about whether there were oral agreements related to Cohen's legal fees in 2017 and 2018.
"No, no need for him," Judge Joel Cohen said Friday, after Trump Organization lawyers agreed not to contest the fact that oral agreements were made.
An attorney for the company said he doesn't believe either Trump should be on the witness list, and said they may still object to Donald Trump Jr.'s inclusion.
"As far as we're concerned, both of those witnesses are irrelevant to the case," said the attorney, James Kiley, calling their inclusion on the list "borderline harassment."
A spokesperson for the Trump Organization did not reply to a request for comment.
Cohen claims the company owes him for legal fees he says he incurred while defending Trump and himself during investigations in 2017 and 2018. Cohen entered a guilty plea in 2018 to federal campaign finance violations and tax evasion, and the company has argued his criminal conduct was in violation of any agreements it had with him.
Cohen, now a Trump adversary who is enmeshed in a tangled web of litigation involving his former boss, is the key witness in the Manhattan criminal case. Cohen's attorneys say he incurred more than $500,000 in legal fees related to that case, in which Cohen is a key witness against Trump.
Trump has entered a not guilty plea in the case, which centers on a series of reimbursements paid to Cohen after the ex-lawyer arranged a "hush money" payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels just before the 2016 presidential election.
Eight days after Trump's April 4 arraignment, the former president sued Cohen for more than $500 million, alleging Cohen breached his "fiduciary duty" and attorney-client privileges in order to be "unjustly enriched." Cohen has said he's considering filing a countersuit, and has called it an attempt to "intimidate" him.
Trump's fight with Cohen is just one front in the presidential candidate's increasingly fraught legal life. Trump entered a not guilty plea on June 13 to 37 federal felony charges related to his alleged "willful retention" of classified documents after he left the White House. That case was brought by special counsel Jack Smith, who is also overseeing another investigation into Trump's behavior during and before the Jan. 6, 2021 Capitol riot.
In Fulton County, Georgia, District Attorney Fani Willis has indicated she is nearing a charging decision in her office's more than two-year-long investigation into alleged efforts by Trump and his allies to overturn the state's results in the 2020 presidential election, which Trump lost.
Trump has vehemently denied allegations in connection with all the cases, accusing prosecutors of political bias and a coordinated "witch hunt."
Jury selection in Cohen's lawsuit is scheduled to begin on July 17.
Graham Kates is an investigative reporter covering criminal justice, privacy issues and information security for CBS News Digital. Contact Graham at [email protected] or [email protected]