Monday’s FBI raids on Michael Cohen’s Rockefeller Center office, his hotel room, and his home all provided a proper dose of comeuppance to a man more accustomed to screaming threats, shit-tier legal theorizing, and putting his strip-mall law degree to work in service of Donald Trump.
Cohen, far from being the superlawyer to a billionaire real-estate tycoon, really only has one important job: covering up Trump’s alleged dalliances. It was Cohen batting cleanup, dealing with an army of models, escorts, Mistresses (large “M” and small “m”), actresses, porn stars, models, Real Dolls, fangirls, groupies, and random topiary at Mar-a-Delicto with a wall of nondisclosure agreements. Master of the NDA, Cohen thought attorney-client privilege would protect him.
He forgot he had a fool for a client. Trump couldn’t shut his mouth on Air Force One last week.
Even before Trump opened his mouth on that fateful day, Cohen had managed to repeatedly hoist himself with his own petard in his dumb legal fight with adult-film actress Stormy Daniels, hoping she would, like so many of Trump’s endless bimbo eruptions, go away after one of his spittle-flecked, apoplectic tantrums. If you ever wanted to see a proof of the Steve Jobs “As hire Bs and Bs hire Cs” rule, it was Trump hiring Cohen, and then Cohen hiring an attorney who was an even lower-rent knockoff version of himself. Hilarity ensued.
The image of Michael Cohen as a superlawyer was always laughable, and even the Trump fan club recognized that Cohen was a particular flavor of attorney: The Fixer. His desire to cast himself as a real-life Ray Donovan made him a kind of overwrought, grunting thug character destined for the cutting-room floor in even the most lurid soap-opera script.
Cohen, though, should be understood as an almost perfect metaphor for the Trump era, the Trump White House, and everything else orbiting this president like the hot chunks of waste spinning around the central oscillator at a sewage-treatment plant. He truly brings it all: the shoddy, hair-trigger temperament, the indifferent education and understanding of the world outside of dalliance-cleanup duty and real-estate branding deals, the malfeasance, the petty corruption, general shitheel behavior, the impulsivity, the tantrum-as-negotiation style, and the overall sketchiness of the Trump administration.
Like Trump, his enablers, and supporters, Cohen thought his position as a Trump inner-circle member would protect him indefinitely. He believed, after so many years of getting away with every kind of shenanigan at Trump’s behest, that the facts would never matter, the music would never stop, and the party would never end. Again, he’s a perfect metaphor for this administration.
Then the FBI came knocking. Imagine that moment, when he realized that they were going to raid his office, home, and hotel room. It was one thing for Cohen to pay Stormy’s $135,000 hush-money payment from his home-equity loan. “Happens all the time!” “Common practice!” “Trump never even met her, I’m just really generous!” (For you Trump readers, that’s called sarcasm.)
It’s quite another when the most experienced and determined federal prosecutors are giving you an investigative colonoscopy. If you think for one moment there’s nothing dodgy and damaging against Trump in the files of Cohen, think again.
Suddenly, Michael Cohen, the bag-walking, dick-swinging swagger-monkey wannabe thug attorney and consigliere for Donald Trump’s far-flung penile enterprises is scared. If Cohen had a lump of coal in his ass the moment those search warrants arrived, he could have popped out a diamond. He realizes how deep this hole can become if he doesn’t roll over. He doesn’t have the resources to defend himself, and Trump isn’t exactly known for paying his bills in the first place. Cohen is scared, and he’s not alone.
What has to strike absolute terror into Trump at this moment is the fact that the Southern District of New York, acting on a referral from Robert Mueller, was able to obtain extraordinarily broad authority and was granted search warrants that may even penetrate attorney-client privilege.
Trump must know this may be one of the most dangerous moments in his entire life, not just his presidency. The likelihood is that Mueller and the FBI are now in possession of the Black Books of Trump, NDAs from enough of Trump’s various affairs that you can staff a 12-pole strip club with plenty of girls left for the Champagne rooms. It’s only speculation at this point, but it’s quite likely that Cohen was the keeper of many of Trump’s lending documents, contracts, business arrangements, and the Kryptonite of Trump’s fragile self-worth: the long-sought tax returns.
It’s an open secret and has been for quite a while, but Trump isn’t worth $10 billion. As one of my hedge-fund friends (an actual billionaire) said of Trump in 2015, “He’s a clown living on credit.” For Trump to have the public learn that he may not be as wealthy as he has continued to claim as the central element of his branding would hurt him more than if Mueller then proved he took sacks of cash and a foot massage from Vladimir Putin. Collusion with the Russians is nothing compared to having his baroque finances revealed. Trump would rather be known as a traitor than as someone who isn’t one of the Masters of the Universe.
This is, of course, another one of those moments where Trump may listen to the devil perched on his shoulder and simply burn the entire Department of Justice to the ground. He is obviously unable to retain counsel skilled enough to control his constant verbal dysentery, even when his yammering puts him in enormous legal peril.
Cohen was one of Trump’s most vulnerable and dangerous keepers of secrets. If Trump had a brain, he would have been terrified this moment would come. Cohen simply lived in a state of idiot hubris that it wouldn’t.