Michael D. Cohen, the former personal lawyer to President Trump who is under investigation by federal prosecutors in Manhattan, has hired Lanny J. Davis, the Washington lawyer and public relations consultant best known for serving in the Clinton White House, to represent him, The New York Times reports.
The pairing is unusual. Mr. Davis has tried to position himself as a key defender of Bill and Hillary Clinton — particularly Mrs. Clinton, whom Mr. Trump defeated in the 2016 presidential election and continues to attack as “totally crooked.” Mr. Cohen was once a fierce defender of Mr. Trump.
The President’s allies have long considered the wide-ranging corruption investigation into Mr. Cohen and his business dealings to pose an even more imminent threat to the President than the special counsel investigation. Mr. Davis said he was persuaded to join the legal team after Mr. Cohen said in an interview with ABC News that aired this week that his first allegiance was to his family and to his country, not to the President.
“Like most of America, I have been following the matter regarding Michael Cohen with great interest,” Mr. Davis said in a statement. “As an attorney, I have talked to Michael many times in the last two weeks. Then I read his words published on July 2, and I recognized his sincerity.”
Mr. Cohen has made moves to separate himself from Mr. Trump, stripping his Twitter profile of reference to the President. And he has told people he is preparing for an onslaught from prosecutors, who have been poring over documents seized in raids on his home and office, and a public relations onslaught from Mr. Trump’s associates, who have indicated they will raise questions about Mr. Cohen’s credibility. However, they have said to allies that they will go after him only if Mr. Cohen strikes first and have indicated they want to avoid provoking him. He has told allies that he no longer wants to be the “villain” in the narrative about Mr. Trump’s behavior.
According to Politico, Davis was referring to Cohen’s interview published Monday by ABC News in which the President’s longtime personal attorney said he’d “put family and country” ahead of Trump. Many legal and political observers interpreted that as a signal that Cohen is preparing to cooperate with federal prosecutors investigating Trump.
Davis will be working alongside Guy Petrillo, a New York-based lawyer hired last month to replace Stephen Ryan and Todd Harrison. Both men have been representing Cohen as he deals with the fallout from the FBI raid in early April of his office and residences.
Cohen is under investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s office in Manhattan on a referral in part from special counsel Robert Mueller that includes potential fraud charges tied to his role in arranging a $130,000 payment before the 2016 election to adult-film actress Stormy Daniels in exchange for her silence about an alleged sexual affair a decade earlier with Trump.
Davis served as an official Clinton White House legal adviser as it fended cascading investigations from independent counsel Kenneth Starr. After leaving the White House, Davis maintained his role as prominent on-air surrogate for the Democratic president as he faced impeachment proceedings related to an affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.
More recently, Davis penned a 2018 book criticizing former FBI Director James Comey for his handling of the federal investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while secretary of state, saying the probe cost Clinton the 2016 presidential election. Davis is particularly close to Hillary Clinton, Trump’s 2016 campaign nemesis.