- Michael Cohen has been one of Donald Trump’s closest associates for years.
- On Wednesday, Cohen appeared before the House Oversight Committee and spoke about his time working for Trump.
- Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison in December after pleading guilty to tax fraud, bank fraud, and campaign-finance violations in the Southern District of New York, and for lying to Congress in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.
- The violations were related to payments to buy the silence of two women, Karen McDougal and Stormy Daniels, who say they had affairs with Trump.
- “I have fixed things, but I am no longer your fixer, Mr. Trump,” Cohen said in his prepared remarks.
At one time, there was perhaps no one more loyal to President Donald Trump than his personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, known as Trump’s “pit bull.”
“It means that if somebody does something Mr. Trump doesn’t like, I do everything in my power to resolve it to Mr. Trump’s benefit,” Cohen told ABC News in a 2011 interview. “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.”
Cohen’s brazen words endear him to Trump, who is known to obsess over loyalty.
For more than a decade, Cohen was by Trump’s side, first as the treasurer on the board of Trump World Tower in New York and now as his personal attorney.
But in the past few months, as Cohen has publicly reckoned with the weight of the crimes he says he committed at Trump’s behest, he and Trump have turned against each other. On Wednesday, Cohen publicly testified before the House Oversight Committee, calling Trump a “con man” and a “cheat.”
Here’s a look at how the two men’s relationship was formed and eventually fell apart.
Cohen’s fascination with the Trump brand began in back 2001, when he bought his first Trump apartment.
Cohen would quickly become one of Trump’s most ardent supporters – but has since become one of the biggest legal threats to the Trump presidency.
Five years later, while working at a law firm, managing several side businesses, and still living in New York, Cohen met Trump through his eldest son, Donald Trump Jr.
Source: Vanity Fair
After Cohen advised Trump on some legal matters, Trump reportedly became so impressed with Cohen that he invited him into his office and offered him a job.
Cohen helped Trump throughout his campaign for president.
In 2011, Cohen helped launch a website, called Should Trump Run, to gauge public opinion about whether the reality-TV host and real-estate mogul would have a shot at winning the presidency. Trump passed on the opportunity that year, despite Cohen’s pressure.
Over the next several years, through all the controversies — Trump describing Mexican immigrants as rapists, the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape, and Trump’s equivocating comments about neo-Nazi protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia — Cohen never blinked.
“I’m the guy who protects the president and the family,” Cohen told Vanity Fair. “I’m the guy who would take a bullet for the president. I’d never walk away,” he added.
Source: Vanity Fair
Even during the 2016 campaign, when Cohen could have made millions writing a tell-all book about his experience working for Trump, Cohen said there was “no money in the world that could get me to disclose anything” about the campaign, Vanity Fair reported.
Source: Vanity Fair
David Schwartz, who is one of Cohen’s longtime friends and personal lawyer, told CNN that Trump called his right-hand man at “every dinner” the two have had together.
“He took care of a lot of things for Mr. Trump without Mr. Trump knowing about it,” Schwartz said, adding, “He’s the guy that you could call at 3 in the morning when you have a problem and you need something taken care of.”
No one tested Cohen’s loyalty to Trump more than Stormy Daniels, the adult-film actor and director whom Cohen admitted to paying $US130,000 just days before the 2016 presidential election, with federal prosecutors saying it was done “at the direction of” and “in coordination with” Individual 1, referencing Trump.
Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, said the money was to keep her quiet about an affair she said she’d had with Trump back in 2006. Cohen and other Trump representatives have denied the affair.
While the more salacious claims about her sexual encounter with Trump grabbed most of the headlines, one startling accusation may have implicated Cohen.
In 2011, weeks after she agreed to tell a sister publication of In Touch magazine about what she described as a yearlong relationship with Trump, Daniels said a man approached her in a Las Vegas parking lot.
She said the man told her to “leave Trump alone” and “forget the story.” She then said he leaned in, looked at her infant daughter, and said, “That’s a beautiful little girl — it’d be a shame if something happened to her mum.”
After the “60 Minutes” interview, Daniels’ lawyer, Michael Avenatti, told NBC News that the man she said threatened her “had to be someone that is related to Mr. Trump or Mr. Cohen.” In response, Cohen’s lawyer demanded Daniels cease and desist and apologise for the suggestion that Cohen was behind the incident.
While there is no evidence suggesting Cohen was responsible for the threat, Cohen said in his congressional testimony that he threatened people, including “nasty reporters” at least 500 times at the behest of Trump.
Cohen’s political support for Trump was rooted more in his personal admiration for the president than in ideological foundations.
Cohen once voted for Barack Obama, and he didn’t officially become a Republican until March of 2017, nearly two months after Trump’s inauguration, when he was named deputy finance chair of the Republican National Committee.
In October of 2018, Cohen changed his official affiliation back to the Democratic party and encouraged Americans to vote in the 2018 midterms.
Cohen’s work for Trump led to a slew of legal troubles. His office was first raided by the FBI in April of 2018, with federal agents seizing hundreds of thousands of documents.
In August, Cohen pleaded guilty in the Southern District of New York to tax fraud, bank fraud, and campaign-finance violations related to the Daniels payments and a similar payment to kill a story about an alleged affair between Trump and model Karen McDougal.
Federal prosecutors said in their December sentencing memo for Cohen that he made the payments “in coordination with and at the direction of” Trump, establishing the president as an unindicted co-conspirator in the case.
On November 30, Cohen struck a deal to plead guilty to one count of lying to Congress in exchange for cooperating with Robert Mueller, the special counsel leading the investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 US presidential election.
Cohen is now turning on his former boss and mentor. In his congressional testimony on Wednesday, Cohen called Trump a “racist,” a “cheat,” and a “con-man” who engaged in criminal conduct while in office.
Source: Business Insider
Cohen levied several bombshell accusations against Trump in the statement. For instance, Cohen said Trump had previous knowledge of Wikileaks’ plans to release a trove of hacked emails from the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee days before the Democratic National Convention in 2016.
Cohen said he not only made the illicit hush-money payments at the direction of Trump, but testified that Trump directed him to threaten news outlets and others with litigation “at least 500” times — even threatening the schools Trump attended not to release his grades or SAT scores.
“I am ashamed of my weakness and misplaced loyalty — of the things I did for Mr. Trump in an effort to protect and promote him,” Cohen said in his testimony. “I am ashamed that I chose to take part in concealing Mr. Trump’s illicit acts rather than listening to my own conscience.”
Source: Business Insider
Trump has also turned on Cohen, calling him “a rat” for pleading guilty and implicating him in federal crimes and cooperating with the government, and tweeting shortly before the hearing that Cohen “did bad things unrelated to Trump,” and accused him of “lying in order to reduce his prison time.”
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