Michael Cohen’s ventures spanned taxis, a casino boat, real estate and ethanol. Many had links to the former Soviet Union. Now a federal inquiry threatens not just Mr. Cohen, but also the White House.
He was a personal-injury lawyer who often worked out of taxi offices scattered around New York City.
There was the one above the run-down auto repair garage on West 16th Street in Manhattan, on the edge of the Meatpacking District before it turned trendy. There was the single-story building with the garish yellow awning in the shadow of the Queensboro Bridge. There was the tan brick place on a scruffy Manhattan side street often choked with double-parked taxis.
And then there was his office on the 26th floor of Trump Tower overlooking Fifth Avenue, right next to the one belonging to Donald J. Trump.
Before he joined the Trump Organization and became Mr. Trump’s lawyer and do-it-all fixer, Michael D. Cohen was a hard-edge personal-injury attorney and businessman. Now a significant portion of his quarter-century business record is under the microscope of federal prosecutors — posing a potential threat not just to Mr. Cohen but also to the president.
Mr. Cohen’s businesses are private entities, making it difficult to get a full picture of their finances and operations. But a New York Times review of thousands of pages of public records, and interviews with bankers, lawyers and businessmen who have interacted with Mr. Cohen, reveal the degree to which he has often operated in the backwaters of the financial and legal worlds.
While he has not been charged with a crime, many of his associates have faced either criminal charges or stiff regulatory penalties. That includes partners in the taxi business, doctors for whom he helped establish medical clinics and lawyers with whom he worked.
He has spent much of his personal and professional life with immigrants from Russia and Ukraine. His father-in-law, who helped establish him in the taxi business, was born in Ukraine, as was one of Mr. Cohen’s partners in that industry. Another partner was Russian. And Mr. Cohen used his connections in the region when scouting business opportunities for Mr. Trump in former Soviet republics. Continue