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Michael Cohen, Donald Trump and the curse of loyalty

Michael Cohen, Donald Trump and the curse of loyalty

Michael Cohen, Donald Trump’s lawyer and self-proclaimed “fixer,” likes to boast about his loyalty. “I’m the guy who would take a bullet for the president,” he told Vanity Fair last year. “There’s no amount of money in the world that could get me to disclose anything about them,” he said, reporting that he had turned down a $10 million offer for a tell-all book about Trump and his family.

That was the accepted view of Cohen by legal observers right up until the FBI search of Cohen’s office and residences last week, and the disclosure that he was under investigation by the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan. Since then, a number of analysts have been wondering aloud whether Cohen’s loyalty will pass the acid test of a federal indictment. That includes Michael Avenatti, the lawyer for actress Stormy Daniels, who told The View that without question, Cohen “is going to roll on the president. … He’s not going to look at his wife and say I’m going to take a bullet for this president.” Jay Goldberg, Trump’s own former attorney, told Trump directly not to trust his longtime associate. The 51-year-old Cohen, Goldberg warned, is “not suited to stand up to the rigors of jail life,” by which he meant the possibility of being raped in prison. Perhaps not since Thomas à Becket has one man’s conscience been so thoroughly debated and dissected in public.

What’s remarkable about this analysis is the largely unquestioned assumption that Cohen will be indicted, and that he has incriminating information on Trump to trade for leniency. On the former point, we don’t know, of course, but on Friday his own lawyer, in the course of fighting off a lawsuit by Daniels, predicted that an indictment might be imminent. The investigation was reportedly focused on Cohen’s role in paying off Daniels to keep quiet about her relationship with Trump. But Cohen has a business empire of his own, in taxi medallions and real estate, that could also be the meat in the ham sandwich that, as the saying goes, prosecutors can indict at will.

As for Trump, Bloomberg reported that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein assured him last week that he isn’t a “target” of the U.S. attorney’s investigation, but there’s a widespread belief that all that could change with a word from Cohen.

Trump himself weighed in with a series of tweets Saturday morning, reassuring his followers that “I don’t see Michael doing that despite the horrible Witch Hunt and the dishonest media!”
“Most people will flip if the Government lets them out of trouble,” Trump wrote, adding pointedly: “…even if it means lying or making up stories.”

But Cohen is too loyal to do that, isn’t he?

I do not presume to know another man’s heart. But I side with the skeptics who, when Cohen says he’d take a bullet for Trump, suspect he has in mind at worst a flesh wound. From the evidence, Trump and Cohen did not have a particularly long or close friendship; they met when Cohen bought an apartment in a Trump building, and their relationship seems to have been mostly about business. And as the Times reported Friday, Trump hasn’t always been kind to Cohen, who didn’t get the White House job he is said to have coveted — or, in the pungent phrasing of Trump confidant Roger Stone, “Donald goes out of his way to treat him like garbage.”

that he cut off contact with Cohn when the latter was dying of AIDS. Former FBI director James Comey — who learned about the limits of loyalty as a U.S. attorney, when he used informants to take down the leaders of the Gambino crime family —  described Trump demanding his “loyalty” in a conversation “like Sammy the Bull’s Cosa Nostra induction ceremony.” Comey offered “honesty” instead. As the title of his new book signifies, he held himself to “a higher loyalty,” to the country and the Constitution. (Trump has denied the conversation.)” data-reactid=”43″>

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