Trump wanted to use classified documents as ‘leverage’, ex-lawyer says

Michael Cohen, who previously worked as a lawyer and vice president of the Trump Organization, said he believed former President Donald Trump wanted to use some of the classified documents he kept at Mar-a-Lago as an “effect of leverage” in the future.

The FBI executed a search warrant at Trump’s Florida vacation home, Mar-a-Lago, on August 8 to recover top secret documents and other classified documents the former president had taken from the White House . Although Trump initially raised the possibility that the FBI hid the classified documents, his spokespersons later pivoted to say the files had been declassified under a “standing order”. But former senior White House officials said they had never heard of such an order.

Cohen, who has become one of Trump’s harshest critics in recent years, addressed the FBI raid and the classified documents scandal in an interview with CNN on Saturday. While he said some of the documents were likely kept by the former president out of vanity, the former lawyer believes he held others for more sinister purposes.

Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former personal attorney, said he believed his ex-boss wanted to keep the documents classified as “leverage”. Above, Cohen leaves his Manhattan apartment for jail on May 6, 2019 in New York City.
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

“I think he was going to use it as leverage,” Cohen said. “There is no other reason.”

The former Trump administration executive said he “can understand” why his former boss wanted to keep “the love letters” from North Korea’s Kim Jong Un. Cohen said Trump may show people such items in the future in an effort to “impress” them.

“Then he will bring out a letter from the queen or bring out a letter from [Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan or [Russian President Vladimir] Putin or Kim Jong Un, like the love letters he kept talking about for months and months. OK, he’ll show them, ‘Oh, look what that person said about me. I’m really smart, really handsome, really rich. That’s what he would use them for,” Cohen said.

In an earlier interview with CNN on Tuesday, Cohen made a similar assessment regarding Trump’s plans for classified documents.

“The second they put the handcuffs on him, he would turn around and say I had the documentation showing, for example, where our nuclear launch pads are,” the former lawyer said. “That’s what I believe he would use it and say, if you continue with this I’m telling you right now there are 20 of my loyal supporters, you don’t know who they are, but we’ll post this information to Russia, Iran, whoever.”

Cohen pleaded guilty in August 2018 to eight counts, including campaign finance violations, tax evasion and bank fraud. The charges related to “silent” payments to women who said they had sex with Trump before the 2016 election.

The former lawyer, who was disbarred, was sentenced to three years in prison in December 2018, but was released to purge the rest of his home during the COVID-19 pandemic. He has become one of Trump’s most prominent critics, regularly appearing on cable news to discuss his former boss’ scandals.

Trump has denied any wrongdoing related to the classified documents. He accused the FBI of being corrupt, saying the raid on Mar-a-Lago was part of a larger partisan “witch hunt” targeting him and his allies. Notably, current FBI Director Christopher Wray is a Republican and was appointed by Trump in 2017.

Newsweek contacted Trump’s press office for comment.