Trump's been letting Rudy Giuliani handle the whole Michael Cohen situation, and Cohen keeps turning up the temperature to try to get Trump to Do Something before the jaws of the state and federal cases against Cohen snap shut. Thursday night however, Cohen dropped a thermite grenade in Trump's lap.
Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump's former personal attorney, claims that then-candidate Trump knew in advance about the June 2016 meeting in Trump Tower in which Russians were expected to offer his campaign dirt on Hillary Clinton, sources with knowledge tell CNN. Cohen is willing to make that assertion to special counsel Robert Mueller, the sources said.
Cohen's claim would contradict repeated denials by Trump, Donald Trump Jr., their lawyers and other administration officials who have said that the President knew nothing about the Trump Tower meeting until he was approached about it by The New York Times in July 2017.
Cohen alleges that he was present, along with several others, when Trump was informed of the Russians' offer by Trump Jr. By Cohen's account, Trump approved going ahead with the meeting with the Russians, according to sources.
To be clear, these sources said Cohen does not have evidence, such as audio recordings, to corroborate his claim, but he is willing to attest to his account.
There's three parts to this too, one, that Cohen is willing to testify against Donald Trump, two, that he's willing to testify as part of Mueller's investigation, not just disappear behind the closed doors of the House Intelligence Committee or something, and three, if true, that means Donald Trump Jr. committed perjury in his sworn testimony on the meeting to Congress.
None of these are exactly good for Trump, but I wonder. It's possible that somebody in Trumpland leaked this to CNN with Trump's blessing in order to justify Trump going full-bore on Cohen, because Trump really does enjoy being an awful human being to people and getting in fights.
In his two most recent tweets about his former lawyer, Trump has declined to write “Michael” or “Cohen,” as he has in other tweets about him this year. The slight is not by accident, according to multiple people who have known Trump for years. The president, they say, will often stop using people’s names if he’s convinced they’re turncoats, or if he suddenly finds them big enough “losers” not worth the attention.
“They’re dead to each other [now],” said another source close to the president who also knows Cohen.
Trump allies are already gaming out how to, in the words of one outside adviser to the president, “bury” Cohen.
A Cohen ally brushed off the impending attacks, calling Giuliani and his associates “the gang who can’t shoot straight.”
Reached for comment, Cohen referred The Daily Beast to his lawyer Lanny Davis. Davis said Cohen is not concerned about any coming attacks from the president’s allies and surrogates. “When you’ve got truth on your side, you’re not afraid of anything,” he said. “So what are they afraid of?”
“When Michael Cohen came to me, I spent two weeks asking him about what he had done in the past for Mr. Trump and what he wanted to do in the future,” Davis continued. “I decided to represent him after hearing the answers to both of those questions and listening and watching what he was willing to say on TV to George Stephanopoulos. That’s when I made my decision. He has hit the reset button, he’s made a turn—to be on his own, speaking the truth.”
Several of Cohen’s associates have told The Daily Beast that Cohen—who for years publicly branded himself as the ultimate Trump loyalist—chose to publicize elements of his relationship with Trump once he realized that his loyalty would not be reciprocated.
Many were surprised it took him so long to realize this. The president passed over Cohen for a plum administration gig—Cohen had told friends he expected to be tapped as White House chief of staff—and displayed a nasty habit of making Cohen appear like a nuisance among peers.
Two sources with direct knowledge of Trump and Cohen’s relationship over the years tell The Daily Beast that during the 2016 presidential run, Cohen would often wander into rooms in Trump Tower where the GOP frontrunner and his senior advisers were having meetings on political strategy and other campaign-related matters. Cohen, according to these sources, would try to interject, only to have Trump tell him to leave and say they’d talk later. “Get out, Michael,” Trump ordered during one particular moment of annoyance.
Through it all, Cohen remained a committed Trump ally. But in the months after the feds raided his office, he began to feel abandoned by the president. The sense that he could be left as a potential fall-guy ultimately convinced him to go on offense.
Cohen has told associates he believes there is no going back on his latest moves, and that he expects to be finished with the president for the rest of his life.
“He has… made his peace with the loss of his friend,” one friend of Cohen assessed.
So it's possible that Trump wants a fight so he can bury Cohen. It's much more likely however that Cohen knows he's going to hell, and that he doesn't want to be the only guy in the handbasket.