Donald Trump’s longtime attorney Michael Cohen is a confounding figure, one who is eager to keep sticking his neck out for Trump, despite the fact that it just seems to land him in more legal trouble. Trump’s so-called “fixer”—a guy who once bragged that he would “take a bullet” for his boss—becomes even more of an enigma in light of a new New York Times report detailing how Cohen was subject to demeaning and abusive treatment from Trump over the course of their professional relationship.
Cohen has recently become subject to a criminal investigation after his home, hotel room, and office were raided by FBI agents looking for information on payouts Cohen made or coordinated ahead of the election to silence women with which Trump allegedly had affairs. Despite Cohen’s professed loyalty, Trump allies have expressed their concerns that Cohen will flip on his boss when faced with surmounting legal bills and the prospect of spending decades in jail if convicted on charges related to cleaning up Trump’s messes.
“I think for two years or four years or five years, Michael Cohen would be a stand-up guy. I think he’d tell them go piss up a rope. But depending on dollars involved, which can be a big driver, or if they look at him and say it’s not two to four years, it’s 18 to 22, then how loyal is he?” a lawyer who represents a senior Trump aide in the Russia probe told Politico. “Is he two years loyal? Is he 10 years loyal? Is he 15 years loyal?…That’s the currency. It’s not measured in inches. It’s measured in years.”
In a bizarre CNN hit, former Trump attorney Jay Goldberg told Erin Burnett that he didn’t think Cohen would stay loyal to Trump and do time on the president’s behalf because he’d be vulnerable to prison rape.
“He’s of a type that I’ve recognized in the past as one not suited to stand up to the rigors of jail life. And don’t forget, he’s under pressure not just from his own personality, but from his family,” Goldberg told Burnett. He later added, “And a person like Michael doesn’t see himself walking down Broadway while people are clamoring, ‘you’re going to be my wife.’ And so he’s under pressure from his family to try to figure out what it would take to bring the government aboard as his sponsor.”
According to sources speaking to the Times, the president should have been a little nicer to the guy who helped broker almost every foreign Trump Organization deal over the past decade or so and thus, likely knows where all the real estate magnate’s bodies are buried. However, Trump apparently views Cohen as more of a servant or a punching bag rather than the keeper of the president’s most damaging secrets, former Trump aides Sam Nunberg and Roger Stone said. From the Times:
Mr. Trump has long felt he had leverage over Mr. Cohen, but people who have worked for the president said the raid has changed all that.
“Ironically, Michael now holds the leverage over Trump,” said Sam Nunberg, a former aide to Mr. Trump who worked with Mr. Cohen and Mr. Stone. Mr. Nunberg said that Mr. Cohen “should maximize” that leverage.
“The softer side of the president genuinely has an affection for Michael,” Mr. Nunberg said. “However, the president has also taken Michael for granted.” Mr. Nunberg added that “whenever anyone complains to me about Trump screwing them over, my reflective response is that person has nothing to complain about compared to Michael.”
Mr. Stone recalled Mr. Trump saying of Mr. Cohen, “He owns some of the finest Trump real estate in the country — paid top dollar for it, too.” In Mr. Trump’s worldview, there are few insults more devastating than saying someone overpaid.
Stone summarized the dynamic between the president and his consigliere thusly: “Trump goes out of his way to treat [Cohen] like garbage.”
That treatment apparently entailed Trump constantly insulting or threatening to get rid of Cohen. From the Times:
Over the years, Mr. Trump threatened to fire Mr. Cohen over deals that didn’t work out, or snafus with business projects, people who were present for the discussions said. He was aware that Mr. Cohen benefited in other business projects as being seen as affiliated with the Trump Organization, and it irked him.
“He clearly doesn’t think that Michael Cohen is his Roy Cohn,” said Tim O’Brien, a Trump biographer, referring to Mr. Trump’s former mentor and the president’s ideal for a pit bull-like defender. “I think his abusive behavior to Michael is animated by his feeling that Michael is inadequate.”
If Trump, a known narcissist, treats Cohen poorly, perhaps it has something to do with Cohen’s almost pathological need for the president’s approval and has thanklessly raised campaign funds, squashed embarrassing news stories, and performed other demeaning tasks. From the Times.
For years, Mr. Cohen has described himself as unflinchingly devoted to Mr. Trump, whom he has admired since high school. He has told interviewers that he has never heard Mr. Trump utter an inaccuracy or break a promise. He has tweeted about Mr. Trump nearly 3,000 times.
Hopefully, for Cohen’s sake, he’s smart enough to realize that it’s not worth doing hard time for Trump. But unfortunately for him, Trump has a tendency to attract sycophants who insist on carrying his water long after he’s publicly humiliated and tossed them aside. Just ask Reince Priebus, Sean Spicer, and Steve Bannon, though, they weren’t facing the prospect of jail time.