“Leave Donald Trump alone. Forget the story. . . .That’s a beautiful little girl. It’d be a shame if something happened to her mom . . . ” ~ UNIDENTIFIED MAN TO STORMY DANIELS, 2011
"You write a story that has Mr. Trump’s name in it . . . and I’m going to mess your life up." ~ MICHAEL COHEN TO A REPORTER, 2015
It figures that if anyone would be more vile than Donald Trump, it would be his lawyer. But to call Michael Cohen a lawyer is misleading. He does have a law degree and sometimes does stuff that lawyers do, but he actually is a "fixer," who in a long and sordid history as the president's go-to guy and keeper of secrets, has never shied away from threats, intimidation and whatever it takes to cover up for the spittle-flecked man with small hands and unusual hair who now pretends to be president but demeans the office and the American people a little more with each passing day.
Cohen is having a very bad week, which means that Trump is, as well, because he has an awful lot to hide that his consigliere knows all about.
Agents from the public corruption unit of the Manhattan federal attorney's office came knocking at Cohen's law office, home and hotel room early on the morning of April 9 armed with search warrants and acting like he was some sort of mob lawyer. Which, of course, he is.
The agents seized Cohen's computer, cell phone and a slew of records, including privileged communications between Cohen and Trump that may well reveal evidence of federal crimes including bank fraud, wire fraud and campaign finance violations related to a $130,00 payment Cohen made to a certain adult-film star with whom Trump had an affair but claims to know nothing about.
You could call it Stormy Monday, but Tuesday's just the same.
In Trumpworld, even the lawyers have lawyers, and so Stephen Ryan, who is Cohen's, predictably threw a fit about the sanctity of lawyer-client confidentiality being besmirched despite the fact investigators appear to have taken great care in drawing up the search warrants, including being able to prove to a judge there was no other way to obtain the evidence, which in this case means that Cohen and Trump can kiss lawyer-client privilege goodbye if the relationship was used to further any criminal enterprises.
Trump, meanwhile, went ballistic and variously described the day's events as "a whole new level of unfairness," a "break-in," a "total witch hunt," and most dramatically, "an attack on our country" and "It's an attack on what we all stand for" while yet again threatening to fire Robert Mueller although the warrants were not issued by the special prosecutor and it may be too late to ax the special prosecutor with Cohen in his clutches.
Indeed, the president was unmoved by the fact the warrants had been approved by two of his senior Justice Department officials after Mueller became aware of Cohen's indiscretions, took them to his boss, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who in turn handed the ball to the official and told them to run with it.
While Cohen and Trump might have felt a modicum of relief that the bust was not directly related to Mueller's investigation of Russian election interference, that should be of small comfort.
Cohen's dirty hands are all over the scandal.
He has been a conduit for money from Ukraine, Russia and other former Soviet states, and that's how he ended up in the Trump Organization about 12 years ago. He played a central role in secret negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Moscow that the Trump Organization undertook after Trump announced his candidacy for president. He was involved with an effort to craft a "peace plan" for Ukraine after Russia seized Crimea and a few days before Trump took office that included the lifting of Obama era sanctions. Cohen delivered the plan to Michael Flynn, Trump's short-lived national security adviser, at the White House.
And, in a little explored back alley of Christopher Steele's dossier -- you know, the one that laid out the Trump campaign's collusion with the Kremlin with uncanny accuracy -- is the assertion of one of Steele's sources that Cohen took over as bag man to pay off Russian hackers after campaign manager Paul Manafort got the boot.
What is glaringly obvious is that contrary to appearances, Trump's judge of character is excellent and that bad people like Cohen are his people.
How else to explain the reprobates and grifters who surround the president, the fact his former campaign chairman is under indictment and faces spending the rest of his life in prison, his former national security adviser has pleaded guilty to lying to investigators about his own illegal activities, his son-in-law is in very deep legal doo-doo, and numerous other associates also are under scrutiny.
IT'S A PRETTY SAFE BET THAT COHEN'S CURRENT WOES might have been limited to what Mueller has unearthed were it not for the ballsy Stormy Daniels, who was on the receiving end of what may become the most infamous one-night stand in history -- a single evening of sex with Trump in 2006 followed by a year of heavy breathing and holding.
The 2011 incident in which Stormy was threatened by an unidentified man in a Las Vegas parking lot as she was taking her infant daughter out of her car to go to a fitness class occurred shortly after she first tried to sell the story of her affair to InTouch, a tabloid magazine.
The magazine had decided not to run the interview with her after Cohen threatened to sue, but finally published it after The Wall Street Journal reported on his $130,000 payment to her 12 days before the election to remain silent about the affair and the nondisclosure agreement he had her sign began to unravel. Daniels sued to get out of the hush agreement, which her lawyer says is invalid because Trump, who continues to deny the affair, never signed it and recently claimed he knew nothing about it.
Cohen and Trump have countersued, claiming she violated the nondisclosure agreement. Cohen had paid Daniels the 130 grand through a Delaware shell company. They are seeking $20 million in damages, or $1 million per violation of the agreement. And counting. More recently, Daniels has tacked on an allegation that Cohen defamed her by insinuating that she lied about the affair, and the very same legal eagles who have pontificated endlessly for the media about the Russia scandal are pretty much unanimous that Stormy has a pretty strong case.
If the hush money can be considered a direct campaign contribution, which many experts do, it blew out the $2,700 individual legal limit. The payment has become the subject of complaints to the Justice Department and the Federal Election Commission, while Cohen may end up losing his law license because of ethical lapses. (Recall that John Edwards was indicted for a not dissimilar situation.)
Meanwhile, both the New York bank that transferred the money from the shell company and the California bank that received it flagged the transaction and reported it to the Treasury Department as a suspicious payment, according to the Journal, while Cohen used his Trump Organization email in negotiating the agreement and in communicating with his bank about the funds.
The Monday raids also sought documents about Karen McDougal, an ex-Playboy model who says she carried on a nearly year-long affair with Trump more or less simultaneously with Stormy's. She was paid $150,000 by American Media Inc., the National Enquirer's parent company, whose chief executive is a friend Trump goombah, for her silence. She too is suing to get out of a nondisclosure agreement.
In addition to the feds' interest in Stormy and McDougal, they were looking for records related to the "Access Hollywood" tape made public a month before the election in which Trump made vulgar comments about forcing himself on women. All of this would seem to indicate that they are trying to determine if there was a strategy to buy the silence of women by suppressing accounts that could have harmed Trump's election chances, as well as whether any crimes were committed in service of that goal.
Additionally, investigators were looking for documents pertaining to Cohen's once lucrative taxi medallion business, which owes about $40,000 in unpaid taxes. Severely limiting the number of medallions as New York's population grew made each medallion extraordinarily valuable. Prices peaked at $1 million each in 2013 after years of strong-arm tactics on the part of Cohen and his associates before the market collapsed with the arrival of Uber and Lyft.
The 2015 incident involved Daily Beast reporter Tim Mak, who had called Cohen for comment on allegations that Trump abused ex-wife Ivana, as detailed in a 1993 biography.
"Tread very fucking lightly, because what I'm going to do to you is going to be fucking disgusting," Cohen told Mak before adding, "You write a story that has Mr. Trump's name in it . . . and I'm going to mess your life up."
Is Cohen's very bad week at prequel to Trump's impeachment?
Maybe not, but at least the president's bubble is bursting. Sooner or later Mueller will be asking him questions under oath, that is if he isn't fired first, and of course he will lie, lie, lie. Then maybe we can finally act on getting rid of the bastard, something that not even Trump's fixer can fix.