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Federal investigators have locked in on more than $20 million in loans to taxi businesses owned by Michael Cohen and his family as part of their probe into whether the former longtime personal lawyer to President Donald Trump committed bank and tax fraud crimes and campaign-finance violations, The New York Times reported Sunday night.
The Times, which cited people familiar with the matter, also reported that prosecutors are considering filing charges against Cohen by the end of this month.
That could have significant implications for Trump, who has waged a rhetorical war against his ex-political fixer ever since Cohen and his representative, Washington lawyer Lanny Davis, began signaling earlier this summer that Cohen would cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe.
The Cohen probe is being led by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District, but The Times reported that if Cohen decides to cooperate with investigators that would likely require that he provide information to Mueller.
Multiple people familiar with the ongoing federal criminal investigation told NBC News that prosecutors in New York have several options as to how to proceed and one possibility is that they could seek to indict Cohen by the end of August or they may wait until after Election Day on Nov. 6 if they feel their case isn’t ready.
One person familiar with the matter said prosecutors are proceeding “as the Southern District always does, dotting every ‘I’ and crossing every ‘T'” and added that they’re paying attention to the timing of any potential indictment as it relates to established Justice Department procedure on indictments in cases involving politically sensitive matters.
The sources said that if the investigation and possible grand jury process can’t be completed before Labor Day prosecutors would feel the need to wait until after the mid-term elections to complete their investigation.
Nicholas Biase, a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan, declined to comment.
The sources sad that investigators are acutely aware of the high-profile nature of the Cohen investigation so all routine procedures will be followed. Part of those procedures, they say, could be to give Cohen notice through a target letter that he faces potential indictment and to offer him an opportunity to speak to a grand jury himself. It may also involve discussions with Cohen’s legal team that may include the possibility of a plea deal and a cooperation agreement.
Cohen, who once bragged he’d take a bullet for Trump, hinted in July that may hve changed. “I put family and country first,” he told ABC.
In addition to bank and tax fraud questions arising from Cohen’s taxi business, federal prosecutors are looking into whether the hush-money payments Cohen arranged with women who claimed they had sexual encounters with Trump amount to violations of campaign finance law.
Asked for comment about The Times story, a spokesperson for Lanny Davis, attorney for Cohen, said: “Lanny cannot comment on advice of counsel since there is an ongoing investigation.”