Facing the threat of a criminal indictment in New York, Donald Trump seems to realize that Michael Cohen, the former president’s former lawyer and fixer, is a key witness. With this in mind, Trump has invested quite a bit of energy attacking Cohen’s credibility.
As a strategic matter, that makes sense. It’s the details that are creating problems for him.
On Wednesday afternoon, for example, the former president promoted a copy of a February 2018 letter in which Cohen took responsibility for the hush money affair. “Wow, look what was just found,” Trump wrote on his social media platform. He added, “This is totally exculpatory, and must end the Manhattan District Attorney’s Witch Hunt, immediately.” One of Trump’s adult sons and assorted conservative websites were similarly excited.
They shouldn’t have been. To know anything about Cohen’s role in this scandal is to realize that he ultimately “flipped” as a witness, abandoned his former employer, and admitted he lied as part of his service to Trump.
What’s more, none of this is especially new. We’ve known for quite a while that Cohen rejected that letter months after he signed it, and he ultimately testified under oath that what he wrote in February 2018 wasn’t true.
The idea that the re-emergence of the letter is “totally exculpatory,” and should “immediately” end Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s investigation, is ridiculous.
Nevertheless, the former president took yet another swing at Cohen this morning with a follow-up missive. (It was originally published in all caps, but to make it easier to read, I’m converting it to standard capitalization.)
“Why won’t Bragg drop this case? Everybody says there is no crime here. I did nothing wrong! It was all made up by a convicted nut job with zero credibility, who has been disputed by highly respected professionals at every turn. Bragg refuses to stop despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. He is a Soros backed animal who just doesn’t care about right or wrong no matter how many people are hurt. This is no legal system, this is the Gestapo, this is Russia and China, but worse. Disgraceful!”
Let’s briefly acknowledge the obvious: He packed a lot of offensive nonsense into this 89-word message. From Trump calling the Manhattan district attorney an “animal,” to the references to George Soros and the Gestapo, it’s tough to know where to start.
For that matter, the idea that the entire hush money scandal was “all made up” is amazing, given, among other things, Trump’s hand-signed checks.
But with Cohen in mind, I was especially interested in the Republican attacking his former fixer as “a convicted nut job.” To be sure, it’s true that Cohen, like a great many people in Trump’s orbit, was ultimately convicted and incarcerated.
But it’s worth pausing to appreciate the fact that Cohen ultimately pleaded guilty to an illegal scheme he hatched with Trump. As part of the criminal case that sent Cohen to prison, prosecutors identified “Individual 1,” whom we now know to be the former president — who’s trying to discredit his former attorney by pointing to his former conviction.
In his desperation, Trump is effectively declaring, “Don’t trust the guy who committed crimes for me!” If the Republican expects this to be persuasive, he’s going to be disappointed.