The pattern is as consistent as it is amusing: when someone in Donald Trump’s orbit runs into trouble, the president decides he barely knows him or her.
When Paul Manafort was indicted, for example, Trump’s former campaign chairman became some random staffer “who played a very limited role for a very limited amount of time.”
When White House National Security Advisor Michael Flynn was forced to resign in disgrace, Team Trump decided he was “a former Obama administration official” who did some “volunteer” work for the president.
Carter Page was described as someone Trump “does not know.” George Papadopoulos was dismissed as a “coffee boy.” Trump World even tried to downplay its association with Cambridge Analytica, the Trump campaign’s data firm.
And now it’s Michael Cohen’s turn.
President Donald Trump, in an effort to distance himself from his longtime former personal lawyer Michael Cohen, claimed Cohen worked for him “part time” and was just one of many attorneys he had on his payroll.
Trump told “Fox and Friends” in an interview Thursday that Cohen – who pleaded guilty this week to tax evasion, bank fraud and campaign finance violations and admitted he made hush-money payments to women at Trump’s direction – “worked more or less” as a “part-time” employee for him.
The president added, in reference to Cohen, “Not somebody that was with me that much…. I would see him sometimes.”
Let’s set the record straight. As we discussed in April, when the White House first offered hints of this strategy, any effort to put some distance between Trump and Cohen may be hilarious, but it’s also doomed. Axios accurately described Cohen as Trump’s “make-it-go-away guy,” adding, “Cohen … is the only person on earth intertwined in Trump’s professional, political, personal, legal and family life.”
We are, after all, talking about the former vice president of the Trump Organization up until fairly recently.
The Washington Post’s Aaron Blake made a compelling case in April that any plan that involves putting distance between Trump and his fixer is going to fail.
Trump certainly has a lot of lawyers – especially given his special counsel investigation problem – but Cohen was the only one negotiating hush-money payments with porn stars, appearing on TV as a surrogate, and to whom Trump regularly referred as “my attorney.” Cohen is the guy who has expressed unflinching and complete loyalty to Trump.
Cohen isn’t just another lawyer. In fact, “lawyer” doesn’t begin to describe his closeness to Trump.
Cohen is someone the president “would see him sometimes”? Please. Trump and his team are going to have to do better than this.