The clearest sign yet that Michael Cohen intends to flip:
When the FBI raided Michael Cohen’s home and office three months ago, President Trump freaked out like he has never freaked out before. And now the worst of his fears appears to have been realized. In a new interview with George Stephanopoulos, Cohen all but states that he will cooperate with the FBI rather than protect his longtime boss. “My wife, my daughter, and my son, and this country have my first loyalty,” says Cohen. More significantly, ABC reports that Cohen is ending his joint defense agreement with Trump, which is what Michael Flynn did before flipping.
What would it mean for Trump if Cohen turns on him? The short answer is, it would be extremely bad. A somewhat longer list of reasons why:
Cohen apparently made illegal payments on Trump’s behalf. Cohen made payments to Stormy Daniels to keep her quiet about their affair. Daniels’s lawyer, Michael Avenatti, has produced documents proving that she sent her payment to Cohen at his Trump Tower location, and that Cohen communicated through his official Trump Organization email. That means Cohen was acting on Trump’s behalf. And if the payment was intended to help Trump’s campaign, it constitutes an illegal campaign donation.
Asked if Trump directed the payment, Cohen tells ABC, “I want to answer. One day I will answer,” Cohen said. “But for now, I can’t comment further on advice of my counsel.”
Let’s mark that down as a tentative “yes.”
What other crimes may Cohen have committed on Trump’s behalf in the Stormy Daniels case? The Washington Post has reported that, in addition to campaign finance violations, Cohen is being investigated for bank fraud and wire fraud. Daniels has also reported being approached and threatened by a strange man — not Cohen, but quite possibly sent by Cohen, who styles himself as quite the goon.
Cohen can’t be pardoned. Trump has repeatedly flaunted his pardon power in an obvious effort to persuade witnesses to stay loyal. The trouble is that Trump can only issue a pardon for a federal crime. Cohen seems to have committed many state-level crimes, and New York’s state prosecutor is cooperating with Robert Mueller.
The precise contours of Cohen’s state-level criminal history remain to be defined. But reporters at ProPublica and at the New York Times have combed through his business history. His first job out of law school was working for a lawyer who was “charged with bribing insurance adjusters to inflate damage estimates and expedite claims.” His father-in-law, who worked with Cohen in the taxi business, pleaded guilty to tax fraud. His business address was the known headquarters of a Russian-American mobster. Cohen made “scores of car insurance lawsuits, often on behalf of plaintiffs who claimed to have been injured in auto collisions” at a time when “a wave of staged auto accidents, involving immigrants from the former Soviet Union who claimed to have been hurt, had led prosecutors to open a massive investigation.” And so on.
If prosecutors wanted leverage on Cohen that Trump couldn’t touch, they could surely find it.
[Corrupt cop on Law & Order voice] “I thought you knew the meaning of loyalty, Michael.”