Michael Cohen and the end stage of the Trump presidency

The raids on the office, hotel room, and home of Trump’s personal lawyer may be the clearest indication yet “that we are entering the last phase of the Trump Presidency.”

The New Yorker’s Adam Davidson writes:

This is the week we know, with increasing certainty, that we are entering the last phase of the Trump Presidency. This doesn’t feel like a prophecy; it feels like a simple statement of the apparent truth. I know dozens of reporters and other investigators who have studied Donald Trump and his business and political ties. Some have been skeptical of the idea that President Trump himself knowingly colluded with Russian officials. It seems not at all Trumpian to participate in a complex plan with a long-term, uncertain payoff. Collusion is an imprecise word, but it does seem close to certain that his son Donald, Jr., and several people who worked for him colluded with people close to the Kremlin; it is up to prosecutors and then the courts to figure out if this was illegal or merely deceitful. We may have a hard time finding out what President Trump himself knew and approved.

However, I am unaware of anybody who has taken a serious look at Trump’s business who doesn’t believe that there is a high likelihood of rampant criminality. In Azerbaijan, he did business with a likely money launderer for Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. In the Republic of Georgia, he partnered with a group that was being investigated for a possible role in the largest known bank-fraud and money-laundering case in history. In Indonesia, his development partner is “knee-deep in dirty politics”; there are criminal investigations of his deals in Brazil; the F.B.I. is reportedly looking into his daughter Ivanka’s role in the Trump hotel in Vancouver, for which she worked with a Malaysian family that has admitted to financial fraud. Back home, Donald, Jr., and Ivanka were investigated for financial crimes associated with the Trump hotel in SoHo—an investigation that was halted suspiciously. His Taj Mahal casino received what was then the largest fine in history for money-laundering violations.

Listing all the financial misconduct can be overwhelming and tedious. I have limited myself to some of the deals over the past decade, thus ignoring Trump’s long history of links to New York Mafia figures and other financial irregularities. […]

The narrative that will become widely understood is that Donald Trump did not sit atop a global empire. He was not an intuitive genius and tough guy who created billions of dollars of wealth through fearlessness. He had a small, sad global operation, mostly run by his two oldest children and Michael Cohen, a lousy lawyer who barely keeps up the pretenses of lawyering and who now faces an avalanche of charges, from taxicab-backed bank fraud to money laundering and campaign-finance violations.

Cohen, Donald, Jr., and Ivanka monetized their willingness to sign contracts with people rejected by all sensible partners. Even in this, the Trump Organization left money on the table, taking a million dollars here, five million there, even though the service they provided—giving branding legitimacy to blatantly sketchy projects—was worth far more. It was not a company that built value over decades, accumulating assets and leveraging wealth. It burned through whatever good will and brand value it established as quickly as possible, then moved on to the next scheme.

There are important legal questions that remain. How much did Donald Trump and his children know about the criminality of their partners? How explicit were they in agreeing to put a shiny gold brand on top of corrupt deals? The answers to these questions will play a role in determining whether they go to jail and, if so, for how long.

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The sad truth about Sean Hannity’s deceit is that his viewers do not care

So now everybody knows. The identity of Michael Cohen’s secret third client, whom Cohen’s lawyers fought tooth and nail to keep from being revealed, just happens to be his most outspoken fan, Sean Hannity.

From New York Daily News:

Sean Hannity is not just the president of the Michael Cohen Fan Club — he’s also a client. That’s right, it turns out that one of President Trump’s top cheerleaders on Fox News is the previously unnamed third client of Trump’s attorney, whose offices were raided by the FBI last week.

Irresponsibly, Hannity didn’t tell his viewers this. But the dirty secret is, his viewers just don’t care — which reveals a far deeper problem in our nation.

It’s unclear what Hannity’s exact relationship to Cohen is. According to Cohen’s attorneys, he is a client, whose identity, if publicly revealed, was “likely to be embarrassing or detrimental” to him.

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Not that his viewers give a damn.

What’s in those seized records? Trump’s biggest new worry

Trump must indeed be a worried man right now. There’s no telling what’s liable to be found in those seized records.

And Cohen must be one of Trump’s biggest worries, even though Cohen has said he “would take a bullet” for him. Trump knows he can take cold comfort from that assertion, made when everything was hunky dory. It would be a different story entirely, should Cohen find himself faced with the prospect of spending, let’s say, the next 15 years in prison.

In that case, he would be desperate to cut a deal with prosecutors.

And knowing where the bodies are buried — as he almost certainly does — would put Cohen in a strong position to bargain for leniency.

From AP News:

President Donald Trump and his allies have hit a new level of anxiety after the raid on his personal attorney’s office, fearful of deeper exposure for Trump, his inner circle and his adult children — and more than concerned that they don’t know exactly what is in those records and electronic devices seized last week.

There is also some worry that Michael Cohen, the self-described legal fixer who helped make bad stories go away and took a leading role in Trump Organization projects in foreign outposts, may strike a deal with prosecutors out of concern about his own prospects.

“I think it’s a huge minefield for Donald Trump and the Trump Organization,” said trial attorney Joseph Cammarata, who represented Paula Jones in her sexual harassment suit against President Bill Clinton. “I think this is on its own track and this train is coming down the track with brute force.”

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Trump lawyer forced to reveal another client: Sean Hannity

Well, whaddayaknow. Sean Hannity, of all people, just happens to be a client of Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen.

From AP News:

A legal fight over what should happen to records the FBI seized from President Donald Trump’s personal attorney took a surprise twist Monday when the lawyer, Michael Cohen, was forced to reveal a secret—that he had also done legal work for Fox News host Sean Hannity. […]

Cohen’s legal team said he had just three clients in 2017 and 2018.

One was Trump. Another was Elliott Broidy, a Trump fundraiser who resigned from the Republican National Committee on Friday after it was revealed that he paid $1.6 million to a Playboy Playmate with whom he had an extramarital affair. The Playmate became pregnant and elected to have an abortion.

Cohen’s lawyers resisted revealing the name of the third client, saying it would be embarrassing and unnecessary. Plus, the client had specifically asked for privacy and requested that they appeal any demand to divulge his name.

But Wood pressed on.

“I understand he doesn’t want his name out there, but that’s not enough under the law,” she said, after hearing legal arguments from Robert Balin, a lawyer for five news organizations including The Associated Press.

When the name was announced, there were gasps and some laughter in a courtroom packed with journalists. A few of them raced from the courtroom.

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Trump After Dark: ‘Untruthful slime ball’ edition

Another slanging tweet-session by our president.

From Politico:

The James Comey media tour hadn’t even started, really, before President Donald Trump responded with anger and indignation.

Then the revelations started to leak out.

“He is a weak and untruthful slime ball who was, as time has proven, a terrible Director of the FBI. His handling of the Crooked Hillary Clinton case, and the events surrounding it, will go down as one of the worst ‘botch jobs’ of history. It was my great honor to fire James Comey!” Trump wrote in one of a series of tweets. […]

“The presidential missives were triggered by the release of a Justice Department inspector general report to the Hill critical of McCabe’s conduct. The report seemed only to further irritate the already amped-up president, who began the day tweeting about Comey, calling the longtime civil servant “a weak and untruthful slime ball.”

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Mueller has evidence Cohen was in Prague in 2016, confirming part of dossier

From McClatchy:

The Justice Department special counsel has evidence that Donald Trump’s personal lawyer and confidant, Michael Cohen, secretly made a late-summer trip to Prague during the 2016 presidential campaign, according to two sources familiar with the matter.

Confirmation of the trip would lend credence to a retired British spy’s report that Cohen strategized there with a powerful Kremlin figure about Russian meddling in the U.S. election.

It would also be one of the most significant developments thus far in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of whether the Trump campaign and the Kremlin worked together to help Trump win the White House. Undercutting Trump’s repeated pronouncements that “there is no evidence of collusion,” it also could ratchet up the stakes if the president tries, as he has intimated he might for months, to order Mueller’s firing.

Trump’s threats to fire Mueller or the deputy attorney general overseeing the investigation, Rod Rosenstein, grew louder this week when the FBI raided Cohen’s home, hotel room and office on Monday. The raid was unrelated to the Trump-Russia collusion probe, but instead focused on payments made to women who have said they had sexual relationships with Trump.

Cohen has vehemently denied for months that he ever has been in Prague or colluded with Russia during the campaign. Neither he nor his lawyer responded to requests for comment for this story.

It’s unclear whether Mueller’s investigators also have evidence that Cohen actually met with a prominent Russian — purportedly Konstantin Kosachev, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin — in the Czech capital. Kosachev, who chairs the Foreign Affairs Committee of a body of the Russian legislature, the Federation Council, also has denied visiting Prague during 2016. Earlier this month, Kosachev was among 24 high-profile Russians hit with stiff U.S. sanctions in retaliation for Russia’s meddling.

But investigators have traced evidence that Cohen entered the Czech Republic through Germany, apparently during August or early September of 2016 as the ex-spy reported, said the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is confidential. He wouldn’t have needed a passport for such a trip, because both countries are in the so-called Schengen Area in which 26 nations operate with open borders. The disclosure still left a puzzle: The sources did not say whether Cohen took a commercial flight or private jet to Europe, and gave no explanation as to why no record of such a trip has surfaced.

Peter Carr, a spokesman for Mueller’s office, declined comment.

Unconfirmed reports of a clandestine Prague meeting came to public attention in January 2017, with the publication of a dossier purporting to detail the Trump campaign’s interactions with Russia – a series of reports that former British MI6 officer Christopher Steele gathered from Kremlin sources for Trump’s political opponents, including Democrat Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee. Cohen’s alleged communications with the Russians were mentioned multiple times in Steele’s reports, which he ultimately shared with the FBI.

When the news site Buzzfeed published the entire dossier on Jan. 11, Trump denounced the news organization as “a failing pile of garbage” and said the document was “false and fake.” Cohen tweeted, “I have never been to Prague in my life. #fakenews.”

In the ensuing months, he allowed Buzzfeed to inspect his passport and tweeted: “The #Russian dossier is WRONG!”

Last August, an attorney for Cohen, Stephen Ryan, delivered to Congress a point-by-point rebuttal of the dossier’s allegations, stating: “Mr. Cohen is not aware of any ‘secret TRUMP campaign/Kremlin relationship.’”

However, Democratic investigators for the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, which are conducting parallel inquiries into Russia’s election interference, also are skeptical about whether Cohen was truthful about his 2016 travels to Europe when he was interviewed by the panels last October, two people familiar with those probes told McClatchy this week. Cohen has publicly acknowledged making three trips to Europe that year — to Italy in July, England in early October and a third after Trump’s November election. The investigators intend to press Cohen for more information, said the sources, who lacked authorization to speak for the record

One of the sources said congressional investigators have “a high level of interest” in Cohen’s European travel, with their doubts fueled by what they deem to be weak documentation Cohen has provided about his whereabouts around the time the Prague meeting was supposed to have occurred.

Cohen has said he was only in New York and briefly in Los Angeles during August, when the meeting may have occurred, though the sources said it also could have been held in early September.

Evidence that Cohen was in Prague “certainly helps undermine his credibility,” said Jill Wine-Banks, a former Watergate prosecutor who lives in Chicago. “It doesn’t matter who he met with. His denial was that I was never in Prague. Having proof that he was is, for most people, going to be more than enough to say I don’t believe anything else he says.”

“I think that, given the relationship between Michael Cohen and the president,” Wine-Banks said, “it’s not believable that Michael Cohen did not tell him about his trip to Prague.”

The dossier alleges that Cohen, two Russians and several Eastern European hackers met at the Prague office of a Russian government-backed social and cultural organization, Rossotrudnichestvo. The location was selected to provide an alternative explanation in case the rendezvous was exposed, according to Steele’s Kremlin sources, cultivated during 20 years of spying on Russia. It said that Oleg Solodukhin, the deputy chief of Rossotrudnichestvo’s operation in the Czech Republic, attended the meeting, too.

Further, it alleges that Cohen, Kosachev and other attendees discussed “how deniable cash payments were to be made to hackers in Europe who had worked under Kremlin direction against the Clinton campaign.”

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Trump’s rant after Mueller’s FBI agents raided his personal lawyer in probe

From DailyMail.com:

Trump lashed out at Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office just hours after the raid of Cohen’s office, telling reporters that ‘it’s a disgraceful situation.’

‘I have this witch hunt constantly going on,’ he vented. ‘It’s an attack on on our country…what we all stand for.’ […]

Here is every word of what President Donald Trump said as released in a White House transcript:

THE PRESIDENT: So I just heard that they broke into the office of one of my personal attorneys — a good man.

And it’s a disgraceful situation. It’s a total witch hunt. I’ve been saying it for a long time. I’ve wanted to keep it down.

We’ve given, I believe, over a million pages’ worth of documents to the Special Counsel.

They continue to just go forward. And here we are talking about Syria and we’re talking about a lot of serious things.

We’re the greatest fighting force ever. And I have this witch hunt constantly going on for over 12 months now — and actually, much more than that. You could say it was right after I won the nomination, it started.

And it’s a disgrace. It’s, frankly, a real disgrace. It’s an attack on our country, in a true sense. It’s an attack on what we all stand for.

So when I saw this and when I heard it — I heard it like you did — I said, that is really now on a whole new level of unfairness.

So this has been going on — I saw one of the reporters, who is not necessarily a fan of mine, not necessarily very good to me.

He said, in effect, that this is ridiculous; this is now getting ridiculous. They found no collusion whatsoever with Russia.

The reason they found it is there was no collusion at all. No collusion. This is the most biased group of people.

These people have the biggest conflicts of interest I’ve ever seen.

Democrats all — or just about all – either Democrats or a couple of Republicans that worked for President Obama, they’re not looking at the other side; they’re not looking at the Hillary Clinton — the horrible things that she did and all of the crimes that were committed.

They’re not looking at all of the things that happened that everybody is very angry about, I can tell you, from the Republican side, and I think even the independent side. They only keep looking at us.

So they find no collusion, and then they go from there and they say, ‘Well, let’s keep going.’

And they raid an office of a personal attorney early in the morning. And I think it’s a disgrace.

So we’ll be talking about it more. But this is the most conflicted group of people I’ve ever seen.

The Attorney General made a terrible mistake when he did this, and when he recused himself.

Or he should have certainly let us know if he was going to recuse himself, and we would have used a — put a different Attorney General in.

So he made what I consider to be a very terrible mistake for the country. But you’ll figure that out.

All I can say is, after looking for a long period of time — and even before the Special Counsel — because it really started just about from the time I won the nomination.

And you look at what took place and what happened, and it’s a disgrace. It’s a disgrace.

I’ve been President now for what seems like a lengthy period of time. We’ve done a fantastic job.

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