SPOTTED: Michael Cohen, on the train from Washington DC to New York city last night. President Trump’s former lawyer was returning home after a day trip to the nation’s capital. If he thought he could slip in and out un-noticed, he was mistaken. ABC News put up a brief story online, implying that he was probably there to meet Robert Mueller, the Special Counsel investigating the Trump campaign and Russia.
This was the purpose of the visit – if not Mueller, then Mueller’s staff – though he was already on his way home by the time the ABC piece ran. No one could say what, specifically, he was talking to Mueller about – however, he brought his own lawyer along for the meeting. Was this the signing of the immunity agreement that the American media have long speculated could help bring down his old boss? Cockburn can’t say, though he does know that even before Mr Cohen came to Washington, he had racked up 80 hours of discussions with various prosecutors (more than the 50 hours that has been widely reported). Clearly he has a lot to get off his chest.
So the whiff of panic comes from the President’s Android phone when he tweets about the man he once trusted (allegedly) to do his dirty work. ‘If anyone is looking for a good lawyer, I would strongly suggest that you don’t retain the services of Michael Cohen!’ But what – if any of these allegations are proven – did the ‘dirty work’ consist of? Cohen has already admitted to breaching campaign finance rules by paying hush money to a porn ‘actress’, Stormy Daniels, who claims she had an affair with Trump. He says he did this at the direction of the man who would shortly be elected to the Presidency.
A Wall Street Journal report on how this was done landed like a mortar bomb in the Rose Garden on Friday. The details are devastating. ‘What can you do to help my campaign’ the story has Trump asking David Pecker, publisher of the National Enquirer. Pecker was – it’s claimed – brought on board to help Cohen silence Stormy Daniels, and another woman, a former Playboy model called Karen McDougal. Trump asks Cohen: ‘So, what are we gonna pay…150?’ Cohen replies, ‘Yes’ to the payment of $150,000 to McDougal. There is, allegedly, a recording of this conversation.
There are rumors, too, of Trump mistresses paid to have abortions and kept quiet with non-disclosure agreements. One source tells Cockburn that there could be as many as eight such women. (Cockburn should point out that Trump has been the subject of rumors about secret abortions for years, and has admitted no such thing.) But this is more than merely sad and sordid: if any such payments were made while Trump was running for President, there could be new campaign finance violations, all felony offenses. Cohen was said to have handled all this. Cohen was also a vice-president of the Trump Organization and knows about how the secretive family business was conducted. This matters because state prosecutors in New York are now said to be looking again at how condos in Trump buildings were sold – not by Trump, but by his older children, Don Junior, Eric and Ivanka.
But what Cohen has to say about Russia could matter more. Cohen and his lawyer, Lanny Davis, continue to deny – emphatically – that he ever went to Prague to meet Russian agents, as is claimed in the ‘dossier’ written by a former MI6 officer, Christopher Steele. Cohen has told people he is being ‘framed’ for Prague – the story, after all, amounts to an allegation of treason. But he has also hinted, privately, that he has other things to say about the Trump campaign’s (alleged) links to the Kremlin… conversations he witnessed, rather than things he did. People who’ve met him in recent weeks say he seems like a recovering victim of Stockholm syndrome; he was humiliated publicly by Trump for years. The man who once said he’d ‘take a bullet’ for the President now calls him a ‘son of a bitch’. He feels that Trump should leave office in disgrace and if he can help with that, why not? So, Michael Cohen, hero of the resistance? Watch this space …