Trump Was Told of Schneiderman Abuse Years Ago, Lawyer Says

(Bloomberg) -- Back in 2013, Donald Trump was exploring a presidential run. His Trump University was in the crosshairs of New York’s crusading attorney general. Around the same time, Trump and his personal lawyer got an interesting piece of information: Eric Schneiderman, the AG, was accused of sexually abusing two women.

After five years under wraps, those abuse allegations surfaced Friday in the Manhattan court where federal prosecutors and lawyers have been battling over documents related to Trump’s longtime personal lawyer, Michael Cohen.

Trump Was Told of Schneiderman Abuse Years Ago, Lawyer Says

In a letter to the judge, attorney Peter J. Gleason asserted Trump and Cohen knew about the old abuse allegations. He argued that information about the women might be found in files the FBI seized last month from Cohen and should be kept under seal to protect the women’s privacy. Later Friday, the judge said Gleason must submit a formal memo in support of his letter or pull it.

The revelations come just days after allegations of abuse by four women forced Schneiderman’s abrupt resignation. They raise concerns about how Trump may have used such information, if true, about the top prosecutor in his home state, and whether a jeering tweet from Trump’s account five years ago was a oblique reference to the allegations.

“It is disturbing to imagine that somebody under investigation by the attorney general’s office would have been in a position to have information that would be damaging to the attorney general,” according to Harry Sandick, a former federal prosecutor in Manhattan who is now a white-collar criminal defense attorney.

In his letter to the judge, Gleason said one woman came to him in 2012 and another the next year with complaints that Schneiderman “sexually victimized” them.

Counseling against reporting the allegations to Manhattan’s district attorney -- which at the time was Cy Vance Jr. -- based on his past experiences with political corruption cases, Gleason wrote, he discussed the women’s allegations with a retired New York Post journalist, Steve Dunleavy.

Dunleavy then offered to discuss the matter with Trump. “Mr. Dunleavy did indeed discuss this very matter with Mr. Trump as evidenced by a phone call I received from attorney Michael Cohen,” Gleason, a lawyer in Mahopac, New York, wrote. “During my communications with Mr. Cohen I shared with him certain details of Schneiderman’s vile attacks on these two women.”

Schneiderman’s lawyer, Isabelle Kirshner, declined to comment. A spokesman for Vance’s office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Trump’s potential knowledge of allegations against Schneiderman hasn’t previously been disclosed. The men have publicly feuded over Trump’s business practices. Schneiderman sought to sue Trump University in state court in 2012, and filed a complaint the next year in federal court, claiming the for-profit school defrauded students.

Trump took aim at Schneiderman in a tweet on Sept. 11, 2013, that also referred to New York politicians who’d resigned over allegations of sexual misconduct, Anthony Weiner and Eliot Spitzer.

“Weiner is gone, Spitzer is gone -- next will be lightweight A.G. Eric Schneiderman. Is he a crook? Wait and see, worse than Spitzer or Weiner,” Trump tweeted.

In late 2016, after he was elected president, Trump settled the Trump University case with Schneiderman for $25 million.

Schneiderman resigned three days ago, just hours after the New Yorker printed an article detailing how four women, two of whom it identified, accused him of physical violence as recently as last year. They appear to be different women than those referenced by Gleason: In tweets on Friday, the New Yorker article’s authors wrote that none of the sources for that story had any ties to Trump or Cohen, or knowledge of Gleason.

The resignation followed years of legislative and legal advocacy by Schneiderman for women’s rights, including protecting women from physical and sexual abuse.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.

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