Former president Donald Trump is suing his former attorney Michael Cohen - a key witness in the criminal case against the former president - for $500 million over allegations that Cohen violated their attorney-client relationship and breached a confidentiality agreement.
According to a 32-page lawsuit filed by Trump's lawyers Wednesday, Trump accuses Cohen of revealing "confidences" in an "embarrassing or detrimental way." Cohen, the suit alleges, also breached a confidentiality agreement and spread "falsehoods" about Trump "with malicious intent and to wholly self-serving ends."
The lawsuit comes after Trump pleaded not guilty in a Manhattan court April 4 to 34 felony charges that he falsified business records to conceal $130,000 in reimbursement payments to Cohen, who paid adult-film actress Stormy Daniels in 2016 trying to keep her from publicly claiming she had a sexual encounter with Trump. Cohen is at the center of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg's investigation into Trump's payment.
Trump denies the affair and maintains that Daniels was an opportunist shaking him down because of his stature and his vulnerability as a presidential candidate.
"This is an action arising from [Cohen's] multiple breaches of fiduciary duty, unjust enrichment, conversion, and breaches of contract by virtue of [Cohen's] past service as Plaintiff's employee and attorney," the lawsuit states.
In a statement, Lanny J. Davis, an attorney for Cohen, described the lawsuit as "frivolous" and accused Trump of "using and abusing the judicial system as a form of harassment and intimidation against Michael Cohen."
"It appears he is terrified by his looming legal perils and is attempting to send a message to other potential witnesses who are cooperating with prosecutors against him," Davis said. "Mr. Cohen will not be deterred and is confident that the suit will fail based on the facts and the law."
In the lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, Trump also accuses his former attorney of unjust enrichment, arguing that Cohen has benefited from violating his fiduciary duty and breaching a confidentiality agreement by publishing two books on Trump as well as a podcast.
"[Cohen] has engaged in such wrongful conduct over a period of time and, despite being demanded in writing to cease and desist such unacceptable actions, has instead in recent months increased the frequency and hostility of the illicit acts toward [Trump]," the lawsuit states.
Trump also accuses Cohen of "fraudulently" misrepresenting a business expenditure and stating that he was owed $74,000 over the true cost of the expense. For these and other allegations, Trump is suing Cohen for damages his attorneys expect to "substantially exceed" $500 million. The former president is also demanding compensation from profits Cohen has made from his books and podcast.
According to the lawsuit, Trump has "suffered vast reputational harm as a direct result of [Cohen's] breaches."
Last month, Cohen testified before a grand jury about his relationship with Trump. Cohen pleaded guilty in the U.S. District Court in Manhattan in 2018 to campaign finance fraud charges related to the payments. He was sentenced to three years in prison but was given "compassionate release" in April 2020 because of the pandemic.
Trump has filed multiple lawsuits targeting former rivals as well as prosecutors investigating him and his business practices. In January, he withdrew two lawsuits against New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) related to her office's fraud probe of his business practices. That same month, U.S. District Judge Donald M. Middlebrooks fined Trump and his lawyer, Alina Habba, almost $1 million for what was ruled a frivolous lawsuit brought against his 2016 presidential rival, Hillary Clinton, and others.
Middlebrooks, in his judgment published in January, wrote that Trump is a "prolific and sophisticated litigant who is repeatedly using the courts to seek revenge on political adversaries."