President Donald Trump’s legal problems are such that his longtime attorney, Michael Cohen, has had to hire an attorney, David Schwartz, to represent him. Over the last couple of days, Schwartz has made numerous media appearances to defend Cohen and, ultimately, Trump.
It is not going well.
On Wednesday night, Schwartz argued on CNN that Trump was not even aware of the contract, a legal argument that makes the contract in general, and the arbitration provisions in particular, nearly impossible to enforce. Trump, not the shell company Cohen created, was the only party that can bring an arbitration proceeding or be awarded damages. If he isn’t a party to the contract, which Schwartz appears to concede, the entire thing could be void. It was a major error that left legal experts scratching their heads.
On Thursday morning on NBC’s Megyn Kelly Today, things got even worse.
A key issue in the Stormy Daniels case is whether the $130,000 payment was designed to benefit Trump’s campaign for president. If it was, it would likely be in violation of federal election law since it would effectively be a contribution to the campaign well above the individual limit.
Kelly asked a basic question: Why would Michael Cohen make this payment on Trump’s behalf? Schwartz responded that the decision was motivated, in part, by the proximity to the election.
“You gotta see the way this all comes down,” Schwartz said, “First off he got approached, OK, he got approached 19 days or 15 days before the election. It’ll take $130,000 to make this go away.”
In other words, Cohen was motivated because he understood the story would be damaging to Trump’s chances in the upcoming election. He is speaking on behalf of his client, and this is just about the worst possible answer Schwartz could provide.
Things went downhill from there.
Another key issue in the scandal is Stormy Daniels’ claim that she was threatened by a man in a Las Vegas parking lot in 2011. The man allegedly told her she — and her young child — would be in danger if she didn’t stop talking about Trump. Daniels’ attorney, but not Daniels herself, has suggested Cohen was behind the threat.
Kelly asked Schwartz if Cohen had “threatened people in the past in vulgar and intimidating terms?”
After some hemming and hawing by Schwartz, Kelly asked again, “He has threatened people. He has threatened people who are on the opposite side of Donald Trump, has he not? In vulgar, profane, and intimidating terms?”
Schwartz responded by essentially saying, yes, Cohen has made such threats in the past.
“I have heard that through the grapevine,” Schwartz said, eliciting laughter from the audience. He was, after all, there to represent Cohen’s interests.
Kelly then displayed on screen an obscene threat that Cohen had made against a Daily Beast reporter who was doing a story on Ivana Trump’s claim, which she has since retracted, that Trump had raped her.
Schwartz responded by saying that “everyone should want an employee like this,” prompting raucous laughter from the studio audience.
“They are laughing at you openly, David,” Kelly said, as if he didn’t know already.
Later, Kelly shared how she has been on the receiving end of Michael Cohen’s threats. She noted that during the campaign, Cohen retweeted a message that people should “gut” her because she asked Trump some tough questions during a debate. Kelly said the tweet prompted death threats, which forced her to employ security guards.
Schwartz said that Kelly and Cohen had since reconciled, which Kelly said was not true.
Schwartz then backtracked and attempted to joke about the threats of violence. “It’s not a love connection, OK?” he said, referring to the relationship between Kelly and Cohen.
When Kelly objected to him joking about Cohen’s threats, Schwartz tried a third tactic.
“He was trying to help you,” Schwartz said to an incredulous Megyn Kelly.
Schwartz’s media blitz is clearly an effort to counterbalance Michael Avenatti, who has been a near-constant presence on TV since he was retained by Stormy Daniels. Schwartz talks frequently about being a close friend of Michael Cohen.
With friends like these, who needs enemies?