MANHATTAN (CN) – Disgraced former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen has long complained that, for a campaign-finance conspiracy stretching all the way to the White House, he is the only one doing time.
Following a hearing Tuesday in his lawsuit against the Trump Organization, it also appears likely that Cohen will remain the only one footing the bill.
The lawsuit that Cohen filed earlier this year against the president’s signature LLC posited the existence of an oral agreement from July 2017, long before the FBI raided Cohen’s home, hotel room and office.
Though the Trump Organization denies ever having made such an agreement, Cohen maintains that it was quite expansive, covering not only his eventual prosecution but also his congressional testimony and criminal penalties.
Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Joel Cohen, who is not related to the president’s former fixer, appeared to doubt that proposition this aftrernoon during oral arguments.
“How can an agreement like that pass muster?” Justice Cohen asked Hunter Winstead, an attorney for the incarcerated former fixer.
Denying that any contract ever existed, the Trump Organization’s attorney Marc Mukasey has asked for the case to be dismissed. Winstead argued meanwhile that he should be allowed to gather invoices and emails from Trump Organization files to prove the existence of the contract.
One challenge the case faces is overcoming New York’s law mandating the performance of an oral agreement within a year, given the fact that the special counsel and congressional investigations spanned far longer.
“I think that is the hardest question you have: How does that contract survive?” Justice Cohen asked.
Winstead emphasized that they all originated from the same probe.
“It’s one and the same,” he said.
Mukasey, an ally of Trump’s top lawyer Rudy Giuliani and son of a former federal judge and attorney general, ridiculed the notion that the company would ever have agreed to a contract of that scope.
“I don’t think that the law as I understand it requires you to suspend disbelief,” Mukasey said.
Winstead insisted that it is not matter of belief and that his client has evidence in the form of invoices submitted by Michael Cohen’s former firm McDermott and the Trump Organization’s general counsel Alan Garten, making reference explicitly to an “oral agreement.”
Mukasey insisted that could mean anything.
“I can agree to take you out to dinner,” Mukasey told the judge hypothetically.
“Not anymore, you can’t,” Justice Cohen deadpanned.
Elaborating on the supposition, Mukasey said that an agreement to foot the dinner bill is not an agreement to free meals in perpetuity.
“A writing saying ‘We agree to pay your bill’ does not suggest the existence of a contract,” he said.
Riffing on an old saying, Mukasey asked: “How many lawyers can dance on the head of a bill.”
Justice Cohen chuckled at that one, muffled by his hand.
Recapping the epic scope of his client’s legal journey, Winstead reflected upon his client’s prosecution, Congressional testimony and 70 hours of interviews.
“The stakes are incredibly high,” Winstead said.
Bringing the matter back down to earth, Justice Cohen interjected: “We’re here for a more pedestrian kind of matter.”
“This is about who pays the bills,” the justice said, leaving that question on a cliffhanger.
The brief proceedings ended without a ruling.