“If anyone is looking for a good lawyer, I would strongly suggest that you don’t retain the services of Michael Cohen!”
That was President Trump’s final blow to solidify the end of a relationship with his “fixer” in an unsubtle tweet Wednesday morning.
The prior afternoon, Cohen pleaded guilty to tax evasion, bank fraud, and campaign finance violations, claiming he made violated campaign laws to make hush-money payments to two women at Trump’s direction.
Cohen joined the Trump team more than a decade ago, first as the treasurer on the board of Trump World Tower in New York before assuming the role as personal Trump lawyer and vice president of the Trump Organization.
At the height of his Trump orbit career, the self-proclaimed “pitbull” who would “take a bullet” for his boss was the top attorney at the Trump Organization. To Cohen, Donald Trump became more than a boss—he was family. Family he was prepared to fight to protect.
"If somebody does something Mr. Trump doesn't like, I do everything in my power to resolve it to Mr. Trump's benefit," Cohen said in a 2011 interview with ABC News. "If you do something wrong, I'm going to come at you, grab you by the neck, and I'm not going to let you go until I'm finished."
Similarly, in 2015, Cohen threatened Daily Beast reporter Tim Mak for printing a story on sexual-assault allegations against Trump: “I’m warning you, tread very fucking lightly,” he said, “because what I’m going to do to you is going to be fucking disgusting. You understand me?”
Such rabid protectiveness of Trump now rings odd in light of Cohen effectively turning on his ex-boss and naming him as having directed him to commit a crime. But the Trump-Cohen public relationship had been on the decline long before Cohen pleaded guilty to eight charges on Tuesday.
So when did the bromance end? Let’s take a look back at how Trump’s tone changed over time from loving to distant to outright cruel:
Pre-Presidency: The Good Old Days
February 6, 2012: Trump promoted on Twitter an interview with Cohen, conducted by then-Fox Business Network host Eric Bolling (also a personal friend of Trump’s).
August 1, 2012: Trump tweeted praise for Cohen’s “good article” he wrote for NewsMax. The opinion piece careened from lamenting the lack of “American men” in blockbuster films, to lauding Trump for his “heroic” efforts to “take on the Obama machine,” to parlaying even more Trump worship into a footnote-like endorsement of Mitt Romney for president.
The Election: Trump’s ‘Pitbull’ Slowly Reduced to Outside Operative
July 23, 2015: Another push to promote a Cohen interview, this time with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, discussing Trump’s infamous decision to publicly give out Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham’s phone number.
September 21, 2016: “I appreciate this man, I really appreciate Michael Cohen,” Trump said at a rally in Cleveland Heights, Ohio.
The Slow Decline: Stormy Daniels Breaks Up the Bromance
April 5, 2018: While board Air Force One, Donald Trump was asked the now infamous question about alleged hush payments made to porn actress Stormy Daniels. “Well, you'll have to ask Michael Cohen. Michael is my attorney. And you'll have to ask Michael Cohen,” the president said.
April 21, 2018: Donald Trump delivered his final public defense of Cohen. In response to a New York Times report on the alleged breakdown of their relationship, the president slammed reporter Maggie Haberman for “going out of their way to destroy Michael Cohen and his relationship with me in the hope that he will ‘flip.’”
He continued: “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 it means lying or making up stories. Sorry, I don’t see Michael doing that despite the horrible Witch Hunt and the dishonest media!”
April 26, 2018: Trump responded to the FBI raid of Michael Cohen’s house, hotel room, and office. Appearing on Fox & Friends, his favorite show, Trump was asked how much of his legal work was still handled by Cohen., The president said: “Well, he has a percentage of my overall legal work—a tiny, tiny little fraction. But, Michael would represent me and represent me on some things.”
May 3, 2018: The president tried to set the record straight one last time. “Mr. Cohen, an attorney, received a monthly retainer, not from the campaign and having nothing to do with the campaign, from which he entered into, through reimbursement, a private contract between two parties, known as a non-disclosure agreement, or NDA,” he tweeted, continuing his months-long effort to distance himself from the man who was once his most loyal fixer.
June 15, 2018: While speaking to reporters at the White House, Trump spoke about Cohen as if he doesn’t know him at all. “I always liked Michael Cohen. I haven't spoken to Michael in a long time,” the president said,“but I always liked Michael, and he's a good person.”
And Then We Came to the End
July 25, 2018: “What kind of lawyer would tape a client? So Sad!” the president asked in a tweet the morning after CNN obtained Cohen’s privately recorded audio of a conversation between Trump and Cohen regarding the hush payments for Daniels. “Is this a first, never heard of it before? Why was the tape so abruptly terminated (cut) while I was presumably saying positive things? I hear there are other clients and many reporters that are taped - can this be so? Too bad!”
July 27, 2018: Trump slams Cohen for “making up stories” that not only did the president know in advance about the infamous Trump Tower meeting, but that he gave the initial go-ahead for it to take place. “I did NOT know of the meeting with my son, Don jr. Sounds to me like someone is trying to make up stories in order to get himself out of an unrelated jam (Taxi cabs maybe?). He even retained Bill and Crooked Hillary’s lawyer. Gee, I wonder if they helped him make the choice!” Trump tweeted.
August 22, 2018: The president rips Cohen in a series of tweets, one day after Cohen pleaded guilty to eight federal crimes and implicated Trump. “If anyone is looking for a good lawyer, I would strongly suggest that you don’t retain the services of Michael Cohen!,” he tweeted. Trump also called out Cohen by praising Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign chairman who was convicted of eight felony charges just minutes after Cohen. “I feel very badly for Paul Manafort and his wonderful family. ‘Justice’ took a 12 year old tax case, among other things, applied tremendous pressure on him and, unlike Michael Cohen, he refused to ‘break’ make up stories in order to get a ‘deal,’” he wrote. “Such respect for a brave man!”