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Michael Cohen to take the Fifth, leaving Trump in an awkward spot

Before the election, Trump told voters, “When you have your staff taking the Fifth Amendment ... I think it is disgraceful.” That's a real problem now.
Image: Michael Cohen at Federal Court
epa06673911 Attorney Michael Cohen, (C) US President Donald J. Trump's long-time personal attorney exits federal court in New York City, New York, USA, 16...

Remember when some political observers ignored the Stormy Daniels controversy, deeming it a tabloid-esque sideshow? At this point, it's effectively impossible to say this story doesn't matter.

Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump's longtime personal lawyer, filed a declaration in federal court on Wednesday asserting his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination in the ongoing lawsuit filed against him by porn star Stormy Daniels."Based on the advice of counsel, I will assert my Fifth Amendment rights in connection with all proceedings in this case due to the ongoing criminal investigation by the FBI and U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York," Cohen said in the court filing.

The development comes just weeks after the FBI raided Cohen's office, home, and hotel room, as part of an apparent investigation into his role in hush-money payments.

His legal assertion doesn't come completely out of the blue -- Cohen and his team had signaled earlier this month that this might happen -- but now that it's official, we're reminded in stark terms just how much legal jeopardy the president's personal attorney appears to be in.

And that, in turn, leaves Trump in an awkward position for a couple of reasons.

For example, it raises an obvious question that the president would prefer not to deal with: might Trump pardon his lawyer? Asked about this yesterday, the president said it's a "stupid question," which is (a) untrue; and (b) not much of an answer.

But nearly as important is Trump's record on these kinds of circumstances. Longtime readers may recall that he told voters in 2016, "The mob takes the Fifth Amendment. If you're innocent, why are you taking the Fifth Amendment?"

Around the same time, Trump added, "When you have your staff taking the Fifth Amendment ... I think it is disgraceful." (There are plenty of similar quotes along these lines.)

And yet, here we are, a year and a half later, watching a top member of the president's team asserting his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination. Does Trump now believe his own operation is "disgraceful"?