Why don't Trump's friends and associates pretend to think everything he did with Michael Cohen was above board?

Yana Paskova/Getty ImagesIs that a … ‘flip’ … phone?
  • There’s an odd, unspoken assumption among President Donald Trump’s allies when they discuss his legal troubles.
  • The latest example comes from public concern that Michael Cohen will “flip” and cooperate with federal investigators.

The headline in Politico is “Trump allies worry Cohen will flip.”

And the story supports the headline. It’s full of quotes from advisers to President Donald Trump – some anonymous, but several on the record – discussing two possibilities: that Michael Cohen will remain “loyal” to Trump, or that the threat of criminal prosecution will cause Cohen to “flip” and cooperate with federal prosecutors against Trump.

“They’re going to threaten him with a long prison term and try to turn him into a canary that sings,” the Harvard Law School professor Alan Dershowitz said.

But what if Cohen doesn’t know the words?

That feels like the third possibility we should be discussing: that Cohen has nothing of value to tell federal prosecutors about Trump, because they never engaged in criminal wrongdoing together.

Of course, that’s not my working theory of the case. But isn’t that a possibility the president’s advocates and defenders should want to pretend is plausible?

Yet they don’t. And it reflects a weird, unspoken assumption in discussing the president’s legal troubles, going back at least to the president’s declaration that his personal business interests outside Russia are a “red line” the special counsel Robert Mueller must not cross.

Why must an investigation into the president’s family business be prevented? Because everyone assumes there were crimes there.

There is a very live and sincere dispute over the question of whether Trump or his associates committed any crimes related to Russia or the election. The president calls that stuff a “hoax,” and his defenders agree. But the rest of it is more of an “Eh, what can you do?” situation.

It’s weird.

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