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Former Trump "fixer" Michael Cohen preps for grand jury appearance

In what has become a near-weekly routine, former Trump attorney and fixer Michael Cohen met with Manhattan prosecutors Friday amid their investigation of former President Donald Trump.

But unlike his many previous meetings, this time Cohen was there to prepare for a possible appearance before a grand jury examining allegations related to alleged "hush money" payments to adult film actress Stormy Daniels during Trump's 2016 presidential campaign.

"I look forward to speaking and being presented before the grand jury. I have some more work to do today, but I suspect it'll be very soon," Cohen said, adding that he's met with prosecutors 18 times.

Cohen's attorney Lanny Davis described Cohen as "the key" to the case.

"There's no doubt with the way they're going about this, in a very meticulous fashion, with Michael Cohen as the principal witness here, is to be very detailed and surround everything Michael says with lots of documents," Davis said.

Michael Cohen
Michael Cohen, a former attorney for Donald Trump, arrives for a meeting with Manhattan prosecutors on Friday, March 3, 2022. CBS News

No former president in American history has been charged with a crime.

The Manhattan D.A. first investigated the alleged payment in 2018 before broadening the probe into Trump's finances, but has returned its focus to the $130,000 wire on several occasions.

Former Special Assistant District Attorney Mark Pomerantz wrote in his recently published book on the investigation that inside the office, the alleged payment became known as the "zombie" case, because, though it was "very strong," it repeatedly returned "to the grave" only to be revived again.

Earlier this week, the New York Times reported that former senior counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway was interviewed by the grand jury.

Cohen wrote in his 2020 memoir "Disloyal," that on Oct. 27, 2016, he attempted to call Trump to confirm that he had made the payment to Daniels in exchange for her silence about an affair she claimed to have with Trump. 

But Cohen wrote that Trump didn't take his call, "obviously a very bad sign, in hindsight." Instead, he wrote that Conway called him back, and "said she'd pass along the good news."

A spokesperson for Manhattan D.A. Alvin Bragg declined to comment Friday.  Bragg declined to discuss both Daniels and Cohen during a January interview with CBS News.

"I'm not going to confirm or deny any of the threads that we may be looking at. It's just important for any charges we may bring for me not to talk about them at this time," Bragg said.

Two Trump Organization companies and former chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg were indicted in July 2021 in a tax fraud case stemming from the D.A.'s investigation into Trump's finances.

Trump was not personally charged and has denied wrongdoing. 

The Trump Organization companies were sentenced to pay a combined $1.6 million penalty after a December conviction on 17 criminal counts related to tax fraud. Weisselberg entered a guilty plea and was sentenced to five months in jail. 

Cohen did not say Friday if he has been formally subpoenaed by the grand jury.

Cohen himself pleaded guilty to tax evasion and campaign finance charges in 2018 related to the payments to Daniels and was sentenced to three years in federal prison. He was released to home confinement at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic —though he was returned to custody for 16 days in July 2020— and finished serving his sentence a few months later in November from home.

A lawsuit seeking information about Cohen's brief return to prison has stalled because the FBI has refused to turn over any of the approximately 47,000 documents related to his second confinement. Cohen said in a Thursday interview with CBS News that he believes the documents will show he was targeted by the Justice Department.

"Why in the world would the government provide a single document when the document would demonstrate their complicity and participation in the weaponization of the Justice Department against a U.S. citizen?" Cohen said.

Trump and his attorneys have repeatedly criticized investigators and prosecutors for using Cohen's testimony, noting his conviction and time in prison, but efforts to prevent them from using evidence from Cohen have so far failed. In a parallel civil investigation operated by the New York attorney general's office, three state and federal courts have ruled the probe began appropriately, after March 2019 congressional testimony given by Cohen raised questions about potential fraud.

That case led to a lawsuit in which New York is seeking $250 million from the Trump Organization, as well as several sanctions against the company, Trump, and three of his children.

The latest developments in the Manhattan D.A.'s investigation come as Trump is facing legal scrutiny on multiple fronts. A special grand jury in Fulton County, Georgia, completed its seven-month inquiry into Trump's activities following the 2020 election, delivering to the district attorney there in January a lengthy report, the majority of which remains under wraps. 

In Washington, D.C., a special counsel is reviewing Trump's handling of sensitive government documents found at his Mar-a-Lago home and possible obstruction of efforts to retrieve them, as well as efforts to interfere with the lawful transfer of power following the 2020 presidential election or the certification of the Electoral College vote held at the Capitol on January 6, 2021.

Trump has repeatedly decried all three investigations, calling them a "witch hunt," and claiming that prosecutors were determined to indict him out of political animus.

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