Michael Cohen once bragged that he would take a bullet for his client, Donald Trump. “I’m the guy who protects the president and the family,” he insisted. More recently, Cohen offered that he would “rather jump out of a building than turn on Donald Trump,” even after the president spurned his desire for a big White House job.
Perhaps wanting to test these claims, Trump opened fire on Cohen on Fox & Friends this week and then shoved him out of a high window in the Trump Tower, where this scandal keeps returning.
“He’s a great guy,” the president said as he proceeded to disassociate himself from the man who has slaved away as his fixer since 2007, cleaning up business and personal messes left behind, who teamed with Russian-American convicted felon and businessman Felix Sater to try to swing a Trump Tower Moscow deal, who is named as one of his power brokers in the Steele Dossier, who has made ugly threats to Trump’s adversaries, and who is now the subject of an FBI investigation into wire fraud, money laundering and campaign-finance violations. Just a few weeks ago, Trump dodged reporters’ questions about the $130,000 Cohen paid to adult film actor Stormy Daniels days before the 2016 election, by saying, “You’ll have to ask Michael Cohen. Michael is my attorney.” Now, as Trump explained to the Fox & Friends hosts, he viewed Cohen primarily as a businessman, and the president Trump averred, “I have nothing to do with his business.” But…but…but…wasn’t Cohen Trump’s personal attorney? “He has a percentage of my overall legal work—a tiny, tiny little fraction,” the president responded to the stunned Fox & Friends hosts.
The U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, which is investigating Cohen, instantly leaped on Trump’s comment, setting fire to Cohen’s bullet-riddled and crushed body. The U.S. Attorney filed a letter with the judge in the Cohen case noting that if the famed fixer only did a “tiny, tiny, little fraction” of legal work for Trump, then not much of the Trump-related evidence seized by the FBI from Cohen could be privileged under lawyer/client confidentiality. Trump’s TV blabbing was stupid beyond stupid because it will help open to investigators’ eyes not just Cohen’s potentially scuzzy business dealings, both here and in Ukraine, but the president’s scuzziest deals from the past decade. The more the feds learn about Cohen, the more they’ll be able to lean on him in hopes of getting him to flip on the president.
Poor, poor, pitiful Cohen—gun-shot, shattered and smoking—also pled the Fifth Amendment this week in the Stormy Daniels lawsuit, which she filed to liberate herself from the non-disclosure agreement she signed over her 2006 one-night stand with Trump. It doesn’t look good, for Cohen, but it’s his right and will save him from saying anything the U.S. Attorney could use against him in a potential criminal case. The week’s final indignities arrived when Bloomberg News reported that Cohen’s taxi business is going down the swirly, his real estate properties are producing only modest income and demand for his professional services has dropped off. He’s not broke by any means, but Bloomberg speculates that mounting legal fees might cause him to flip on Trump. And why not? Everybody is a tough guy until they’re not. How certain are we Cohen will be indicted? Late Friday, U.S. District Court Judge S. James Otero granted a 90-day delay in the Stormy Daniels civil case, saying it was “likely” that criminal charges would be filed against Cohen and the overlap of the two cases would “implicate” his Fifth Amendment rights. “This is no simple criminal investigation; it is an investigation into the personal attorney of a sitting President regarding documents that might be subject to the attorney-client privilege,” the judge said.
Another veteran of Trump Tower reemerged in the news this week: Natalia V. Veselnitskaya, the Russian lawyer who met in the building in June 2016 with Donald Trump Jr., Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner on the promise of delivering dirt on Hillary Clinton. But now Veselnitskaya has recanted her earlier insistence that she approached the Trump campaign as a private citizen and had no Russian government ties. “I am an informant,” she told NBC News, working with the Russian prosecutor general. An email trail indicates that Veselnitskaya was working in coordination with Kremlin interests. As Martin Longman writes in the Washington Monthly, “In accepting the [Trump Tower] meeting and its offer of stolen documents and then not disclosing any of it to our intelligence agencies, the Trump team was making themselves accessories to a crime and partners with a hostile intelligence service.”
At the beginning of the week, Veselnitskaya told the Associated Press that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III had not yet contacted her. That’s probably no longer the case.
As the Senate busied itself passing a bill to protect the Mueller investigation from a presidential sacking—one that the House will never approve—one of the incoming members of Trump’s legal team, Rudy Giuliani, jawed with the Wall Street Journal about his ambitions to negotiate a quick end to Mueller’s probe. “Does the special prosecutor really have an open mind?” Giuliani said. Giuliani met with Mueller’s team to discuss the terms of an interview with the president. “I’m doing it because I hope we can negotiate an end to this for the good of the country and because I have high regard for the president and for Bob Mueller,” Giuliani told the Washington Post. Trump does not share this regard. He remains furious about the Mueller referral that resulted in the FBI raids of Cohen’s homes and business that may well blow back on him.
The House Intelligence Committee released a 253-page report from its year-long investigation of Trump and the Russia business, exonerating Trump of colluding with the Russians and disputing the intelligence community’s view that Vladimir Putin tried to elect Trump. To this, Trump tweeted his approval. The accompanying Democratic dissent argued that collusion was real and that the Republicans, who controlled the committee, had failed to follow important leads. According to the Washington Post, the report and rebuttal included little new information.
But CNN did notice a finding in the report worth our scrutiny. Aras Agalarov—the oligarch behind the 2016 Trump Tower meeting promising Clinton dirt—sent “an expensive painting” to Trump for his birthday one day after the meeting.
“There are few things better than receiving a sensational gift from someone you admire— and that’s what I’ve received from you,” Trump wrote back to Agalarov.
The subject of the painting was not specified. Was it dogs playing poker? Kazimir Malevich’s 1927 abstract masterpiece “Suprematist Composition”? Or perhaps a life-size painting of Trump and Putin, arm-in-arm, surrounded by Miss Universe contestants? Send your best guess to Shafer.Politico@gmail.com.
I took a bullet for my editor once and lived to regret it. Send regrets to Shafer.Politico@gmail.com. My email alerts would rather jump out the window than rat out my Twitter feed. My RSS feed is a stool pigeon.