Trump Wanted to Use Classified Documents as 'Leverage,' Ex-Lawyer Says

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

The FBI carried out a search warrant of Trump's Florida resort home, Mar-a-Lago, on August 8 to recover top-secret and other classified materials that the former president had taken from the White House. Although Trump initially floated the possibility that the FBI planted the classified documents, his spokespeople later pivoted to say that the files were declassified under a "standing order." But top former White House staff said they never heard of such an order.

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

Michael Cohen
Michael Cohen, the former personal attorney to President Donald Trump, said he believes his ex-boss wanted to keep classified documents as "leverage." Above, Cohen departs his Manhattan apartment for prison 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's no other reason."

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

"So he'll pull out a letter from the queen or pull out a letter from [Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan or from [Russian President Vladimir] Putin or Kim Jong Un, like the love letters he kept talking about for months and months. OK, he'll show those, 'Oh, look what this person said about me. I'm really smart, really handsome, really rich.' That's what he'd use those for," Cohen said.

In a previous interview with CNN on Tuesday, Cohen made a similar assessment regarding Trump's plans for the classified materials.

"The second they would put him in handcuffs, he would turn around and say I have the documentation showing, for example, where our nuclear launchpads are," the former attorney said. "This is what I believe: He would use it and say, if you proceed with this, I'm telling you right now there are 20 of my loyal supporters, you don't know who they are, but we will release that information to Russia, to Iran, to whoever it might be."

Cohen pleaded guilty in August 2018 to eight counts, including campaign finance violations, tax fraud and bank fraud. The charges related to "hush money" payments to women who said they had sexual encounters with Trump ahead of the 2016 election.

The former attorney, who was disbarred, received a three-year prison sentence in December of 2018 but was released to serve the remainder from home during the COVID-19 pandemic. He went on to 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 has accused the FBI of being corrupt, claiming that the raid on Mar-a-Lago is part of broad partisan "witch hunt" targeting him and his allies. Notably, the current FBI director, Christopher Wray, is a Republican and was appointed by Trump in 2017.

Newsweek reached out to Trump's press office for comment.