Donald J. Trump on Thursday dropped a lawsuit he had filed against his former fixer, Michael D. Cohen, abandoning what has been seen as an effort to silence Mr. Cohen, who has become one of the former president’s loudest critics.
The decision to drop the case came just days before Mr. Trump was scheduled to be questioned under oath by Mr. Cohen’s lawyers. It also comes on the verge of Mr. Cohen’s testifying against Mr. Trump in an unrelated civil fraud case brought by the New York attorney general.
Mr. Cohen, a longtime Trump defender turned antagonist, is also a star witness against the former president in a criminal case, and a person familiar with the matter said Mr. Trump had been cognizant of that fact when he filed the suit.
The former president filed the lawsuit against Mr. Cohen in April, soon after Mr. Trump had been indicted on criminal charges by the Manhattan district attorney — charges largely based on Mr. Cohen’s testimony. That criminal case, the first of four to be filed against Mr. Trump, involves a hush money payment to a porn star.
Mr. Trump’s lawsuit had accused Mr. Cohen of “spreading falsehoods” about him. It specified Mr. Cohen’s role in the Manhattan district attorney’s criminal case against the former president.
The lawsuit raised concerns about whether Mr. Trump was seeking to intimidate Mr. Cohen into backing down from his testimony. Although legal experts said it did not amount to witness tampering, Mr. Cohen saw it as a threat.
Mr. Cohen said on Thursday that the suit was “nothing more than a retaliatory intimidation tactic” and said, referring to Mr. Trump, that “his attempt to hide from routine discovery procedures confirms as much.” He added, “Mr. Trump’s cowardly dismissal spells the end of this latest attempt to deter me from providing truthful testimony against him.”
A spokesman for Mr. Trump, in a statement, suggested that Mr. Trump was too busy with his campaign and with fighting the criminal cases he was facing to sit for the deposition and said that he would refile it later.
“President Trump has decided to temporarily pause his meritorious claims against Michael Cohen,” the statement said, adding that after Mr. Trump had “prevailed” in the trials, “he will continue to pursue his claims about Michael Cohen.” The statement jabbed at Mr. Cohen, noting that he had pleaded guilty to crimes unrelated to Mr. Trump.
Some of Mr. Trump’s advisers were concerned about his giving a deposition in the case while he was facing four criminal indictments in four jurisdictions along the East Coast. They feared he might say something damaging that could be used by prosecutors in those cases, according to the person familiar with the matter.
Mr. Trump is also on trial in the civil fraud case brought by the New York attorney general, Letitia James, who accused the former president, his adult sons and their family business of inflating the value of their assets by billions of dollars. The case is not going well for the former president: Even before the trial began, the judge overseeing it ruled that Mr. Trump was liable for fraud, backing a core aspect of the attorney general’s case.
Mr. Cohen is expected to testify in that case as soon as next week. In a preview of his testimony, Ms. James’s lawyers played a video in court of Mr. Cohen describing how the former president had instructed his employees to reverse-engineer the value of his assets to achieve his desired net worth. Mr. Trump, watching in the courtroom, appeared visibly angry upon seeing his former fixer.
Mr. Cohen broke from Mr. Trump in 2018 while facing a federal investigation into his own role in the hush-money deal. Ultimately, Mr. Cohen pleaded guilty and served time in prison.
Mr. Trump’s decision to sue Mr. Cohen was an escalation of his attacks on his former fixer, whom he had previously denounced as “a rat” and a liar.
The lawsuit accused Mr. Cohen of lying about the former president while also breaching attorney-client privilege, as well as a confidentiality clause he signed while working for Mr. Trump’s company.
Jonah E. Bromwich contributed reporting.