Trump Insists He’s Not Mad About Michael Cohen. He Just Wants to Bury Him.
In public, all is calm. In private—and, yes, implied in the tweets—the president ain’t too pleased with his former lawyer.
Donald Trump’s friends and spokespeople want you to know one thing about the brutal public betrayal committed by Trump’s former loyalist and enforcer Michael Cohen: The president of the United States is totally not mad about it.
That said, he wouldn’t mind if the entirety of Trumpworld came crashing down upon the turncoat’s head.
On Tuesday, Cohen pleaded guilty to an array of federal criminal charges such as tax fraud and violations of campaign finance laws. In doing so, he explained that he had operated “in coordination and at the direction” of then Republican presidential contender Trump, though he declined to actually say the name of his former boss.
This was, to put it mildly, a bombshell. But by Wednesday, the president was nonchalantly attempting clean-up via a pre-taped Fox News interview with Fox & Friends co-host Ainsley Earhardt. And in conservations with close associates, he pushed the idea that he was unruffled by the latest legal saga.
Eric Bolling, a Trump-allied former Fox News personality and current CRTV host, told The Daily Beast on Wednesday afternoon that he had talked with the president that morning.
“I said, ‘How are you?’ and he said ‘I'm fine,’ and looking forward to a ‘rebooting’ of NAFTA, and focusing on economic issues and trade,” Bolling continued. “He mentioned specifically a record bull-market run that he was excited about, and I then asked about [Paul] Manafort and Cohen. He said, ‘You know, it doesn't really affect me or my presidency, I'm not really thinking about that’…He's not shaken or deterred by any of this stuff.”
Later in the day, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders insisted at a press briefing that the president was and is not “concerned at all” by what his former fixer and attorney could tell Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
Every White House—and congressional office for that matter—attempts to project an all-is-well demeanor during moments of acute crisis. Rarely, however, has a president and his team had as much practice as this one. And yet, for all that experience, Wednesday’s attempts at projecting calm were belied by Trump’s own social missives.
“If anyone is looking for a good lawyer, I would strongly suggest that you don’t retain the services of Michael Cohen!” Trump posted to Twitter on Wednesday morning, in the first of a barrage of Cohen-related hate-tweets.
“Michael Cohen plead guilty to two counts of campaign finance violations that are not a crime. President Obama had a big campaign finance violation and it was easily settled!” the president—who longtime associates and senior aides to Trump assure absolutely is not “shaken” by any of this—continued.
In private, the attitude within the president’s inner circle was more geared towards extracting revenge than achieving tranquility. Three prominent Trump allies who spoke to The Daily Beast in the aftermath of the Cohen plea deal said that the play among the West Wing, as well as outside advisers and surrogates, was to try to discredit Cohen. To do so, they would insist that he has zero credibility and is simply betraying and fibbing about Trump in order to save his own hide.
“I’ve known Michael Cohen for 15 years, I’ve spoken to him a hundred times over the years,” Bolling added. “Did he lie over the [past] year, or is he lying now to get a sweeter deal?”
Bolling said the last time he ran into Cohen was in the lobby of Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., just a few blocks away from the White House—roughly a week prior to the feds raiding Cohen’s office, home, and hotel room in early April.
According to Bolling, Cohen “appeared anxious” then, and had his wife and one of his children with him.
Nowadays, Cohen finds himself the ultimate Trumpworld pariah, taking advice from Hillary Clinton supporters—including his own lawyer Lanny Davis—and battening down the hatches for a full-on assault from Team Trump.
“My only advice is what I told [Cohen] when I had breakfast with him,” Rev. Al Sharpton told The Daily Beast on Tuesday afternoon. “Like he said, he ought to do what’s right for the country and what’s right for his family…If in fact he knew that what he was doing with Stormy Daniels was tantamount to a campaign finance violation, he ought to say that. And if Trump had knowledge of that deal, he ought to say that.”
Lanny Davis, a lawyer for Cohen, could not be reached for comment.
—With additional reporting by Harry Siegel and Betsy Woodruff.