While Donald Trump seems to be constantly increasing his legal team under Marc Kasowitz, there is one name that rarely features in his recent legal announcements—longtime personal attorney, Michael Cohen. In fact, Cohen seems to have been given a quiet heave-ho from Trump’s inner circle.

After years of loyal service to Mr. Trump, Mr. Cohen, 50, expected to be offered a senior administration post, according to four people who know him, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they feared angering Mr. Cohen.



He was given no such job.

The reason appears to be concern that Cohen is about to join that “other” Michael, Michael Flynn, in the ranks of Trump associates who had a lot more involvement with Russia than has so far been revealed. Cohen, who earned his spot as Trump’s personal attorney the old fashioned way—he bought a bunch of apartments in Trump’s buildings and helped Trump bully a condo board into submission—also earned Trump’s favor because of his connections to Russia and Ukraine. 

Cohen was also the intermediary who met with mafia-linked Trump business partner, Felix Sater and a Ukraine parliamentarian, Andrii Artemenko at the Loews Regency hotel in Manhattan in the first days of the Trump presidency. They were there to discuss Ukraine. Artemenko gave Cohen a sealed packet of documents to hand deliver to Michael Flynn, then still Trump’s National Security Advisor. Cohen did so, though he later claimed that he didn’t.

Though Cohen’s business and family connections to Russia and Ukraine are numerous, the most interesting allegation may be one that appears in the documents compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele. 

An unverified dossier prepared by a retired British spy and published this year said that Mr. Cohen had met overseas with Kremlin officials and other Russian operatives, which he has denied. (He once posted on Twitter, “The #RussianDossier is WRONG!”)

Wrong or not, the dossier is just one reason that Cohen has been relegated to behind the scenes work dealing with fundraisers for Trump loyalists, rather than a public role. The effort to isolate Cohen shows that the White House is very aware of how closely the investigation is looking at Trump’s personal attorney. Cohen has a long history of playing fast and loose with rules to stay close to Trump.

“If somebody does something Mr. Trump doesn’t like, I do everything in my power to resolve it to Mr. Trump’s benefit,” Mr. Cohen once said during an interview with ABC News. “If you do something wrong, I’m going to come at you, grab you by the neck, and I’m not going to let you go until I’m finished.”

Trump’s lawyer got his own lawyer at the end of May, as it became clear that his profile in the investigation was growing. At the same time, he refused to appear before, or provide documents to, the Senate and House intelligence committees.