President Trump both defended and simultaneously distanced himself from attorney Michael Cohen on Saturday, insisting his longtime associate, who is currently under federal investigation and faces possible criminal charges related to work he did for Trump, would never “flip” on the president to save his own skin.
“The New York Times and a third rate reporter named Maggie Haberman, known as a Crooked H flunkie who I don’t speak to and have nothing to do with, are going out of their way to destroy Michael Cohen and his relationship with me in the hope that he will ‘flip’,” Trump tweeted.
The tweet cited an article published by the Times on Friday, which claimed the president had long treated Cohen with contempt, and that Cohen’s longstanding devotion to Trump may have begun to wane in the wake of recent controversies.
“They use non-existent ‘sources’ and a drunk/drugged up loser who hates Michael, a fine person with a wonderful family,” Trump continued. Suggesting Cohen mostly worked for himself, and not for the Trump family, he added, “Michael is a businessman for his own account/lawyer who I have always liked & respected. Most people will flip if the Government lets them out of trouble, even if it means lying or making up stories. Sorry, I don’t see Michael doing that despite the horrible Witch Hunt and the dishonest media!”
Trump did not identify the “drunk/drugged up loser who hates Michael” referenced in his tweet, although some have suggested he may have been referring to longtime adviser Roger Stone, who spoke to the Times for its report and claimed that Trump often treated Cohen “like garbage,” or Trump biographer Tim O’Brien, who claimed Trump viewed Cohen as “inadequate.”
….non-existent “sources” and a drunk/drugged up loser who hates Michael, a fine person with a wonderful family. Michael is a businessman for his own account/lawyer who I have always liked & respected. Most people will flip if the Government lets them out of trouble, even if….
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 21, 2018
….it means lying or making up stories. Sorry, I don’t see Michael doing that despite the horrible Witch Hunt and the dishonest media!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 21, 2018
Aside from the fact that Trump himself admitted “most people will flip” if it means authorities will let them off the hook, Trump’s decision to speak out so aggressively in support of Cohen is curious, if only because his tweets are the first time he’s defended Cohen by name since the FBI raided Cohen’s home, office, and hotel room on April 9, on a referral from Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Mueller is investigating possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials, as well as potential obstruction of justice by the president.
Despite Cohen’s dedication to the president over the past two decades, the Times report claims that Trump generally dislikes Cohen and views him with contempt. Such a sudden, public outpouring of support suggests that Trump, indeed, believes Cohen may flip on him and provide FBI officials with damaging information.
The tweets also echo Trump’s divorce lawyer, Jay Goldberg, who suggested in a CNN interview on Thursday night that Cohen would likely turn on the president to save himself from being assaulted in prison.
“He’s of a type that I have recognized in the past as one not suited to stand up to the rigors of jail life,” Goldberg said. “…History has shown that people under the threat of heavy litigation glean what the prosecutor is interested in hearing, and they can form their conduct so that they can get what’s known as a 5K1 letter.”
A 5K1 letter is typically written by a U.S. attorney to a judge, and requests a lighter sentence based on a defendant’s willingness to cooperate with authorities.
The FBI agents who raided Cohen’s home on April 9 were reportedly searching for documents related to a $130,000 hush payment Cohen made to adult film actress Stormy Daniels, who claims to have had a sexual relationship with Trump in 2006.
They are also said to have been searching for documents or emails related to a $150,000 payment The National Enquirer made to former Playboy model Karen McDougal, for exclusive rights to her account of a 10-month affair she claims to have had with Trump between 2006 and 2007.
Although Cohen claims he had no part in the negotiations for McDougal’s AMI payment — which prevented her from taking her story elsewhere — her lawyer at the time, Keith Davidson, kept Cohen in the loop throughout the process.
Both payments were made during the 2016 presidential election and kept the women from speaking out, which could have damaged Trump’s chances at the presidency. Davidson has since been contacted by federal authorities regarding the Cohen probe, and was “asked to provide certain limited electronic information” relevant to the FBI’s investigation, a spokesman told the Times.
The day after the FBI raid, on April 10, Trump expressed his frustrations on Twitter, claiming that “attorney-client privilege [was] dead.”
“A TOTAL WITCH HUNT!!!” he tweeted a short while later.
Aside from his involvement in the Daniels and McDougal payments, Cohen has also carried out various other tasks for the president over the years, including reaching out to the Kremlin in January 2016 to request assistance for the Trump Organization, which was trying to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. Cohen is also alleged to have traveled to Prague in late summer 2016, in an attempt to cover up damaging information regarding Trump’s relationship with Russian officials.
The allegation was included in the now-famous “Steele dossier,” which was compiled by former MI-6 officer Christopher Steele between June and December 2016. Cohen has claimed he never went to Prague and has slammed the dossier as “fake,” filing lawsuits against BuzzFeed, which published the dossier online, and Fusion GPS, the research firm with which Steele was contracted.