Michael D. Cohen, a longtime fixer for Donald J. Trump, who will stand trial next week against his former boss's company in a dispute over legal fees, has agreed to settle his lawsuit with the Trump Organization, attorneys for both parties said at a brief court hearing on Friday.
Cohen's lawsuit, filed in 2019, alleges the Trump Organization failed to comply with the terms of the deal and refused to pay more than $1 million in legal fees. Jury selection for the trial began earlier this week, and opening arguments are scheduled for Monday.
But at Friday's hearing, Mr. Cohen, Hunter Winstead, and Trump Organization attorney James D. Kiley said they had agreed to the terms of the settlement. The settlement is not finalized and details will be kept private. The judge in the case, Joel Cohen – who is not related to Mr Cohen – said he would adjourn the trial pending a final agreement.
Mr Cohen said in a statement that the matter had been resolved “in a manner to the satisfaction of all concerned.”
A separate lawsuit filed by Trump against Mr. Cohen in Florida federal court remains active, and Mr. Cohen is still expected to be the star witness against the former president in next year's Manhattan criminal trial.
Mr. Cohen contends that the Trump Organization has agreed, orally and in writing, to cover all attorneys' fees he incurred during several congressional hearings and investigations in 2017 and 2018, including the criminal investigation initiated by special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III. Mr Cohen said the Trump Organization initially paid this bill but stopped paying after he agreed to cooperate with the investigation.
Mr. Cohen was once a close ally of Mr. Trump – a trusted lieutenant whose job it was to clean up his boss' mess. One such situation occurred during the 2016 election, when Mr. Cohen learned that porn star, Stormy Daniels, wanted to sell a story about having sex with Mr. Trump years before.
Soon after, Mr. Cohen paid Ms. Daniels $130,000 to keep quiet. Over the next year, Mr Trump reimbursed Mr Cohen for installments that are now the subject of the Manhattan district attorney's criminal case against the former president.
In 2018, as part of a federal investigation into hush money payments, FBI agents searched Mr. Cohen where his family is staying. Legal pressure weighed on her relationship with Mr. Trump, and the men fell out. In August of that year, Cohen pleaded guilty to multiple crimes, including several related to hush money payments, and months later, he cemented his role as Trump's antagonist when he testified about the then president in high-stakes congressional hearings.
Mr Cohen has been a thorn in Mr Trump's side ever since. He is a key witness for the Manhattan district attorney, Alvin L. Bragg, who has charged the former president with 34 counts of felony falsification of business records related to reimbursing Mr Cohen. In April, Mr Trump filed his own lawsuit against Mr Cohen, accusing the former fixer of betraying his trust and “spreading lies about him”. The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Florida, is not part of settlement talks.
Although the settlement between Mr. Cohen and the Trump Organization will almost certainly cancel their scheduled trial, Mr. Trump has no shortage of legal engagements on his calendar. The lawsuit filed against him by New York's attorney general is scheduled to go to trial in October, and a criminal trial over the hush payment is set for March next year. There are also two civil trials scheduled for January, including a second trial over whether he defamed author E. Jean Carroll.
Trump has also been indicted by federal prosecutors for his handling of sensitive material and for obstructing their investigation. On Friday, the judge in the case scheduled a trial date for May 2024. And two other potential charges are looming over Trump: one from federal prosecutors related to the former president's actions leading up to the January 2021 attack on the Capitol and one by the Georgia district attorney, Fani Willis, related to possible election interference in the state.
Mr Trump is not expected to appear in Manhattan at the trial stemming from Mr Cohen's suit. But the settlement would prevent a courtroom showdown between Cohen and former president Donald Trump Jr.'s son, who was subpoenaed by Cohen earlier this month to testify about his approval of legal fees in his capacity as executive vice president for the Trump Organization. He is expected to take a stand early next week.