Michael Cohen Was a Bluffer, Not a Fixer

He wasn’t involved in the Trump Organization’s core business.

National Review Comments: Pro and Anti-Trump

One wonders why a successful business or enterprise would have a reason to hire a “fixer.” You could poll the executives of the largest US corporations and companies and not find one fixer that needed to be retained do administer company business. The smart business people would subcontract the messy stuff (Facebook paying to have false dirt spread about George Soros comes to mind). For small endeavors, only those who intend to do bad things or cover them up, employ a Fixer. Criminal organizations for instance have them on the payroll. Even Mr McCarthy analogizes using figures in the Godfather. These are not good people. Where there is smoke, there may not always be fire. But where there is a criminal organization, there are always criminals.

.. We have just scratched the surface when it comes to all the “fixes” that Cohen provided for the president. We know about payoffs to porn stars.We know about trips to Russia during the campaign to makes deals for a Trump Tower near the Kremlin (with a $50 million penthouse for Putin to seal the deal). Soon, when the Trump tax returns (“So complicated”) are requested by the House Tax Committee, the story will get even more sorted.

Andrew McCarthy is right about one thing. Mueller is preparing a report. But he has also handed off part of that report to the Southern District of New York. There, they can begin a criminal case; a case that Trump can’t use his Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free card to keep his subordinates quiet. This report by Mueller is just the roadmap, one where others will soon follow up.
.. mtorillion:
.. The Clintons had, and perhaps still have, the bulk of the FBI and Justice Department running and blocking for them. That and the media support gave it an air of “officialdom” the Trump team does not have. The Trump team was all private people, not government fixers and perhaps. In other words, the core of the Deep State. 
.. Trump was elected despite having no friends among the established major figures of either party; he was nominated and elected despite the disdain of many of the elite information organs of the Right. He has far fewer natural vocal allies in conservative circles than any Republican president. It ought make serious conservatives take a second look at their virtuous opposition to him now that it is clear that many of the powers of the State were set in motion against his campaign even before his election and these officials—and the Left—have been tireless, since before his inauguration, in assaulting the legitimacy of his presidency.
Because he campaigned without Republican elites in his inner circle—most of whom would have nothing to do with him—and because he to this day has few strong allies among the Republican establishment, those who have been working most assiduously to destroy this presidency have understood from the outset that without having a firm foundation of support in DC itself, Trump is at special risk.

.. Certain writers at NRO and certain Commenters here are among the far too many conservatives willing to sacrifice this presidency because they despise the man whom people had the temerity to elect. They are determined to separate the rectitude of their judgment about political matters from that of the hoi polloi: the Mueller investigation is, for them, a necessary cleansing agent. Thus they latch onto a vague unsettling that arises from the sordid iniquities of the president, permitting them to set aside elementary constitutional concerns about placing a presidential administration from its inception under an investigative cloud without just cause.
 

You can tell who Trump is through the company he keeps

what the trial reveals is something very damning, in the ethical if not legal sense: namely, what kind of people Trump surrounds himself with.

There was no secret about Manafort’s record as an influence-peddler on behalf of corrupt dictators and oligarchs when he went to work for Trump. On April 13, 2016, Bloomberg columnist Eli Lake wrote a prescient article headlined: “Trump Just Hired His Next Scandal.” Trump couldn’t have cared less. His whole career, he has surrounded himself with sleazy characters such as the Russian-born mob associate Felix Sater, who served prison time for assault and later pleaded guilty to federal fraud charges, as well as lawyer-cum-fixer Michael Cohen, who is reportedly under investigation for a variety of possible crimes, including tax fraud.

.. These are the kind of people Trump feels comfortable around, because this is the kind of person Trump is. He is, after all, the guy who paid $25 million to settle fraud charges against him from students of Trump University. The guy who arranged for payoffs to a Playboy playmate and a porn star with whom he had affairs. The guy who lies an average of 7.6 times a day.

.. And because everyone knows what kind of person Trump is, he attracts kindred souls. Manafort and Gates are only Exhibits A and B. There is also Exhibit C: Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.), the first member of Congress to endorse Trump, is facing federal charges of conspiracy, wire fraud and false statements as part of an alleged insider-trading scheme. Exhibit D is Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who has been accused by Forbes magazine, hardly an anti-Trump rag, of bilking business associates out of $120 million.

.. In fairness, not all of Trump’s associates are grifters. Some are simply wealthy dilettantes like Trump himself

.. Among the affluent and unqualified appointees Trump has set loose on the world are his son-in-law Jared Kushner and his former lawyer, Jason Greenblatt, who are somehow supposed to solve an Israeli-Palestinian dispute that has frustrated seasoned diplomats for decades. No surprise: Their vaunted peace plan remains MIA.

.. ProPublica has a mind-boggling scoop about another group of dilettantes — a Palm Beach doctor, an entertainment mogul, and a lawyer — whom Trump tasked as an informal board of directors to oversee the Department of Veterans Affairs. None has any experience in the U.S. military or government; their chief qualification was that they are all members of Trump’s golf club, Mar-a-Lago. 

.. Beyond the swindlers and dilettantes, there is a third group of people who have no business working for Trump or any other president: the fanatics. The most prominent of the extremists was Stephen K. Bannon, the notorious “alt-right” leader who was chief executive of Trump’s campaign and a senior White House aide. He may be gone, but others remain. They include Peter Navarro, who may well be the only economist in the world who thinks trade wars are a good thing; Stephen Miller, the nativist who was behind plans to lock immigrant children in cages and bar Muslims from entering the United States, and who is now plotting to reduce legal immigration; and Fred Fleitz, the Islamophobic chief of staff of the National Security Council. They feel at home in the White House because, aside from being a grifter and a dilettante, Trump is also an extremist with a long history of racist, sexist, nativist, protectionist and isolationist utterances

Michael Cohen, ‘Ultimate Trump Loyalist,’ Now in the Sights of the F.B.I.

During the presidential campaign, Michael D. Cohen got a Google alert for a breaking story: “Russian President Vladimir Putin Praises Donald Trump as ‘Talented’ and ‘Very Colorful.’”

For most American politicians, that article in December 2015 would hardly have been welcome news. But Mr. Cohen, whose role as personal lawyer and fixer for President Trump has been firmly rooted in the transactional world of his boss, saw opportunity. He emailed an old friend who had been talking about seeking Kremlin support to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, and sent him the article.

“Now is the time,” Mr. Cohen wrote. “Call me.”

.. Mr. Trump values few things more than loyalty, but secrecy is one of them. For years, to keep the circle of people involved as small as possible, he chose to have Mr. Cohen serve as his legal attack dog from a perch inside Trump Tower in Manhattan instead of having outside counsel deal with his problems, according to two people familiar with their relationship.

.. In private, Mr. Cohen has compared himself to Tom Hagen, the smooth consigliere to the mafia family in the movie “The Godfather.”

.. The lawyer seemed to relish his reputation as Mr. Trump’s “pit bull” and embraced an aggressive — some say bullying — approach to solving problems.

.. he never got a senior administration job, which people who know him say he expected

.. Another payment that the F.B.I. is said to be investigating, for $150,000, was made by American Media Inc., the parent company of The National Enquirer.

.. Mr. Trump, who was from Queens, and the Bronx-born Mr. Pecker viewed themselves as outsiders looking in at an elitist Manhattan establishment.

.. Several people close to A.M.I. and Mr. Cohen have said that the lawyer was in regular contact with company executives during the presidential campaign, when The Enquirer regularly heralded Mr. Trump and attacked his rivals.

.. A.M.I. had shared Ms. McDougal’s allegations with Mr. Cohen, though the company said it did so only as part of efforts to corroborate her story, which it said it could not do.

.. The Times reported that the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, was looking into$150,000 donation to Mr. Trump’s charitable foundation from a Ukrainian billionaire that was solicited by Mr. Cohen during the 2016 campaign.

.. Mr. Mueller has examined Mr. Cohen’s postelection role in forwarding to the administration a Ukraine-Russia peace proposal pushed by a Ukrainian lawmaker.

.. Mr. Cohen wasted no time, arranging for Mr. Trump to sign a letter of intent for the Moscow tower deal. But the project seemed to stall in the coming months.

Rather than let it go, Mr. Cohen reached out directly to Mr. Putin’s press secretary in January 2016, asking for assistance. Later, he asserted that his effort was unsuccessful.

Trump Lawyer Michael Cohen Described as a ‘3 a.m. Break-the-Glass Call’

Donald Trump’s personal attorney finds himself on a big legal stage—with the headlights squarely on him

In the summer of 2015, Mr. Cohen took the lead when a media company approached Mr. Trump’s office to discuss old pictures it obtained of Mr. Trump moving with a pen in hand toward a woman’s bare breast, as if to autograph it.

Jeremy Frommer, the chief executive of  Jerrick Media Holdings ,  said in an interview that in their first phone conversation about the pictures, Mr. Cohen began “cursing like a maniac,” and threatened to sue the company and destroy it. “I never had had anybody in my life talk to me that way,” Mr. Frommer said.

.. Mr. Cohen also serves as a fixer for other well-connected friends.  Anthony Scaramucci —a founder of SkyBridge Capital and briefly President Trump’s communications chief—has called Mr. Cohen the “3 a.m. break-the-glass call” for about 150 people. Mr. Scaramucci said: “If I had a problem, someone broke into the house, or drunk driving, he would be there in a minute.”

Tools of Trump’s Fixer: Payouts, Intimidation and the Tabloids

To protect his boss at critical junctures in his improbable political rise, the lawyer relied on intimidation tactics, hush money and the nation’s leading tabloid news business, American Media Inc., whose top executives include close Trump allies.

..  in the summer of 2015, when a former hedge-fund manager told Mr. Cohen that he had obtained photographs of Mr. Trump with a bare-breasted woman. The man said Mr. Cohen first blew up at him, then steered him to David J. Pecker, chairman of the tabloid company, which sometimes bought, then buried, embarrassing material about his high-profile friends and allies.

.. a female former Trump business partner had accused him of sexual misconduct, Mr. Cohen released a statement suggesting that the woman, Jill Harth, “would acknowledge” that the story was false. Ms. Harth said the statement was made without her permission, and that she stands by her claims. It was not the last time Mr. Cohen would present a denial on behalf of a woman who had alleged a sexual encounter with Mr. Trump.

.. American Media publications, which include The National Enquirer, Star, Us Weekly and Radar.

.. July 2015 when Mr. Cohen received a phone call from Jeremy Frommer, a hedge-fund manager turned digital entrepreneur, who had obtained photos of Mr. Trump appearing to autograph the breasts of a topless woman from the estate of Bob Guccione, the founder of Penthouse magazine.

.. “He was in a rage,” Mr. Frommer said in an interview. “He’s like, ‘If you show those photos, I’m gonna take you down.’”

.. It was a job Roy Cohn, a New York lawyer best known for advising Senator Joseph McCarthy, had done decades earlier for Mr. Trump.

.. Mr. Pecker and Mr. Trump, a staple of the American gossip media since the 1980s, have a friendship that goes back decades. The relationship benefited Mr. Trump throughout the campaign as The Enquirer lionized him and hammered rivals like Ted Cruz, Ben Carson and, finally, Hillary Clinton.