One of the president's business relationships — or attorney-client relationships, depending on who and when you ask — has been highlighted in the news as of late. But President Donald Trump and his attorney Michael Cohen met about two decades ago, and before the two got tied up in politics and nondisclosure agreements, they had a long working relationship.
The Washington Post reported that the two met in the "late 1990s" during a fundraiser for a local politician, a Republican. Trump played host and it was held at Trump Tower. After that first meeting, Cohen went on to buy property in Trump World Tower near the United Nations. The Post reported that Trump even personally signed the paperwork for the purchases.
And it was actually a fight over management at that property that "cemented their bond," according to The Post. Some of the condo owners reportedly tried to fire the Trump Organization as the property's manager. Cohen disagreed and took Trump's side, ultimately helping Trump keep control of the building.
“When Michael won that fight, that’s when Trump gained a lot of respect for him,” David Schwartz, a lawyer for Cohen and a longtime friend of his, told The Washington Post.
Morton Levine, Cohen’s uncle, told the same story to the Associated Press. "So Trump said, 'Who is this guy? My lawyers that I give thousands of dollars to couldn’t do it. I’d like to meet him.'"
That was in 2006. Cohen had done some minor legal work for Trump before that, but after this fight Cohen was named executive vice president of the Trump Organization and special counsel to Trump. He presided over negotiations around the world for the Trump Organization, including in Moscow.
Trump tried to distance himself from Cohen in April on Fox News, though, by trying to describe Cohen as purely a businessman — one that isn't intricately involved in the Trump Organization. "Michael is in business. He's really a businessman, and a fairly big business as I understand it — I don't know his business. But this doesn't have to do with me," Trump told the hosts of Fox & Friends.
"I have nothing to do with his business," Trump said, contradicting what several people in his inner circle have said. His former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski told Fox News that Cohen has been a vital member of the Trump Organization. Lewandowski gave an example of what he had to do:
Well, Michael Cohen served for a number of years, probably a decade or so as the executive vice president of the Trump Organization. And part of the things I can tell you my interaction with Michael, one of the things that he worked on behalf of the Trump Organization was when there was a problem on an airplane engine, he had to go and work to get the problem resolved.
Lewandowski further explained to Fox what he did as a "fixer." "He was a problem solver on behalf of the organization when it came to business issues that affected the organization, whether it was in negotiations with vendors, whether it was individuals who were doing business with the Trump organizations, making sure that those contracts were in place," Lewandowski said.
Trump, speaking to Fox & Friends, implied that Cohen and his legal relationship was limited. "I have many attorneys. I have attorneys — sadly, I have so many attorneys you wouldn't even believe it," Trump told Fox News. "Michael would represent me and represent me on some things. He represents me, like with this crazy Stormy Daniels deal, he represented me."
Given their long history, it's not surprising Trump would entrust Cohen with that work.