President Donald Trump says Michael Cohen isn’t flipping. On Saturday, Trump lashed out on Twitter over a New York Times report that reported speculations that Cohen, his longtime personal lawyer who is under criminal investigation by the Department of Justice, could end up cooperating with government officials. He said the Times is “going out of their way” to try to destroy Cohen and his relationship with Trump in the hopes that Cohen will “flip.”
Cohen, who has in the past described himself as Trump’s “fix-it guy” and said he would “take a bullet” for Trump, has become an increasingly significant figure in recent weeks after the FBI raided his home, hotel, and office on April 9. Before the election, Cohen paid $130,000 in hush money to Stormy Daniels to keep her from speaking out about her alleged affair with Trump, and he helped orchestrate countless business deals and legal maneuvers for Trump over the past several years. If there’s anyone who knows everything about Donald Trump, it’s Michael Cohen.
The Times on Friday reported on the pair’s lopsided relationship, describing how Trump has treated Cohen poorly for years. “Donald goes out of his way to treat him like garbage,” Roger Stone, a longtime political operative and Trump adviser, told the Times.
The power dynamics have now shifted. Cohen, a 51-year-old father of two, faces potential criminal charges and enormous legal fees because of his involvement with the president; there is widespread speculation that he “could end up cooperating with federal officials who are investigating him for activity that could relate, at least in part, to work he did for Mr. Trump,” the Times reported.
The assertion rubbed Trump the wrong way, and he hit back with a series of tweets on Saturday. He called one of the report’s authors, Maggie Haberman (whose name he initially misspelled), a “third-rate reporter,” and said the sources in the story were “non-existent” and a “drunk/drugged up loser” who hates Cohen.
“Michael is a businessman for his own account/lawyer who I have always liked and respected. Most people will flip if the Government lets them out of trouble, even if it means lying or making up stories,” Trump wrote. “Sorry, I don’t see Michael doing that despite the horrible Witch Hunt and the dishonest media!”
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.” They use....— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 21, 2018
....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
Haberman, who recently won a Pulitzer Prize for her reporting on the Russia investigation, responded with a tweet of her own, correcting the spelling and noting that the story seems to have “touched a nerve.” She also wondered whether Dan Scavino, Trump’s social media director, had written the tweet.
The Cohen stuff and the Comey stuff seems to be getting to Trump
While the president is not particularly known for keeping a cool head in tough situations, a couple of developments seem to have particularly irked him of late: the recent increased scrutiny of Cohen, and the reemergence of former FBI Director James Comey in the media.
Comey is doing publicity for his new memoir, A Higher Loyalty, which includes explosive details about the runup to his firing as FBI director by Trump. This week, the Justice Department released memos Comey kept of his interactions with the president, which contain new details about Trump’s comments on Russia and the events leading up to the firing of National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.
Last weekend, Trump lashed out at Comey on Twitter ahead of his interview on 20/20, the first of his days-long media blitz. On Friday evening, he shot off another Comey tweet accusing him of somehow making the appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller —who’s leading the Russia investigation — illegal.
James Comey illegally leaked classified documents to the press in order to generate a Special Council? Therefore, the Special Council was established based on an illegal act? Really, does everybody know what that means?— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 21, 2018
To unpack this: The president is arguing that one of Comey’s memos spurred the appointment of Mueller, which he deems illegal because Comey leaked one of his memos to a friend, who shared it with a reporter, thus kicking off the whole investigation. The Justice Department’s inspector general is reportedly looking into Comey’s handling of the memos, and the information contained in two of them is now considered classified.
The president has also repeatedly lamented the scrutiny of Cohen, and both he and his lawyers have battled over attorney-client privilege and what investigators should and should not be able to see. After the Cohen raid, Trump tweeted it was “A TOTAL WITCH HUNT!” and that attorney-client privilege “is dead!” Cohen, on the other hand, said he found the FBI agents respectful. “I am unhappy to have my personal residence and office raided. But I will tell you that members of the FBI that conducted the search and seizure were all extremely professional, courteous and respectful. And I thanked them at the conclusion,” he told CNN after the raid.
The president appears increasingly incensed. Friday’s Times report only adds fuel to the fire. Of course, if Trump has done nothing wrong, he should have no reason to worry about Cohen flipping or about what the special counsel will find in his investigation. But it seems like everyone — including the president’s defenders and even the man himself — are operating as if Trump is guilty of something.