Michael Cohen’s new lawyer has an interesting connection to the Harvey Weinstein scandal

Jun 2018 // Quartz

Michael Cohen, the personal lawyer and longtime fixer for US president Donald Trump, reportedly has a new lawyer: Guy Petrillo, the former chief of the criminal division in the Southern District of New York, according to Vanity Fair.

Petrillo has his work cut out for him: Cohen is under investigation for money laundering, bank fraud, and other potential charges, and he could face intense pressure to flip against Trump. The president may not have done himself any favors when he told reporters yesterday, “I always liked Michael”—note the past tense. “That one line had to be the dumbest thing [Trump’s] ever said,” one source close to Cohen told Vanity Fair’s Emily Jane Fox.

Petrillo played a minor role in the Harvey Weinstein scandal, representing the Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR) over its involvement in a suspicious financial transaction with the producer.

Guy Petrillo’s Weinstein connection

In 2015, Harvey Weinstein helped to arrange a $600,000 donation to amfAR, which then transferred the same sum to a small theater staging “Finding Neverland,” a Weinstein-produced play that was preparing for Broadway.

In 2016, amfAR’s board hired a Houston lawyer named Tom Ajamie to investigate the transaction. Ajamie quickly suspected wrongdealing. In response, Weinstein loyalists on the amfAR board commissioned a second lawyer to investigate Ajamie’s conduct, according to a report by Huffington Post. Ajamie claims he was also followed by private investigators—perhaps from Israeli private intelligence firm Black Cube, which was working for Weinstein to suppress the story of the film mogul’s rape and harassment accusations.

In late 2017, the Weinstein scandal finally broke. Petrillo and his law partner Joshua Klein were brought in to represent amfAR in December, amid a criminal probe by the Southern District of New York. A spokeswoman for amfAR tells Quartz that Petrillo’s work for the charity concluded in March.

Petrillo’s representation of Cohen isn’t the first time that the Trump and Weinstein scandals have converged. Earlier this year, two former Obama administration officials, Ben Rhodes and Colin Kahl, were spied upon, along with their wives. According to multiple press reports, the firm targeting them was none other than Black Cube, reportedly hired by “officials linked to the Trump team.”