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Hours after President Donald Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen admitted in court that he had previously lied about Trump’s ties to Moscow, Cohen’s lawyer Lanny Davis ’67 LAW ’70 said in an exclusive interview with the News that Cohen’s Thursday admittal was a symbol of his “transformation.”

At a hearing held at a Manhattan federal court on Thursday, Cohen admitted to previously lying about the timeline of the negotiations for constructing a Trump Tower in Russia’s capital and the extent of Trump’s involvement in the deal. Cohen previously said that talks about building a tower in Moscow had culminated in January 2016, prior to the first primary elections. However, Cohen planned a trip to Russia in early May — which never happened — and continued to negotiate until June, after Trump had emerged victorious from the Republican primary.

Davis, who once served as a Chairman of the News, has long claimed that he chose to represent Cohen after Trump’s former lawyer convinced him that he had taken “ownership and responsibility for the wrong decisions he made for Donald Trump.” Citing Cohen’s previous remarks about the president, Davis added that Cohen was “no longer a person who said he would take a bullet for Donald Trump.” He defended his reasons for representing the former Trump confidant and dispelled criticism that he took on his client for political reasons.

“[Cohen] has been on a journey looking back on his life defending bad conduct by Donald Trump,” Davis said. “[His Thursday admittal] is another step in this journey.”

Cohen has already pleaded guilty to eight different charges, including bank, campaign financing and tax crimes, and his sentencing is scheduled for Dec. 12. Davis declined to comment on the Robert Mueller investigation and Cohen’s ongoing criminal lawsuits in an effort to avoid “offending the judge.”

Cohen’s cooperation with the special counsel may help reduce his sentence in the ongoing federal court case. According to Cohen’s plea agreement, Mueller’s prosecutors will present the court with “the nature and extent” of his cooperation with Mueller’s ongoing investigation.

In an interview with the News, Davis claimed that his own outspoken criticism of Trump often prompts skeptics to question his motives for defending Cohen.

“There is a question about whether I have credibility because I’m a Democrat and a known critic of Trump,” Davis told the News. “But [this question] can be used to change the subject, [which is] about the truth and Donald Trump’s character. … Some people will shoot the messenger to change the subject.”

The court documents made public Thursday stressed Cohen’s former allegiances to the president. According to those documents, in which Trump is referred to as “Individual-1,” Cohen admitted to lying in the Special Counsel investigation out of loyalty to the president.

“I made these statements to be consistent with Individual-1’s political messaging and out of loyalty to Individual-1,” Cohen said, per court documents.

Lorenzo Arvanitis | lorenzo.arvanitis@yale.edu

Serena Cho | serena.cho@yale.edu