Michael Cohen Has Said He Would Take a Bullet for Trump. Maybe Not Anymore.

For years, a joke among Trump Tower employees was that the boss was like Manhattan’s First Avenue, where the traffic goes only one way.

That one-sidedness has always been at the heart of President Trump’s relationship with his longtime lawyer and fixer, Michael D. Cohen, who has said he would “take a bullet” for Mr. Trump. For years Mr. Trump treated Mr. Cohen poorly, with gratuitous insults, dismissive statements and, at least twice, threats of being fired, according to interviews with a half-dozen people familiar with their relationship.

.. “Donald goes out of his way to treat him like garbage,” said Roger J. Stone Jr.

..  Mr. Trump’s lawyers and advisers have become resigned to the strong possibility that Mr. Cohen, who has a wife and two children and faces the prospect of devastating legal fees, if not criminal charges, could end up cooperating with federal officials

.. The trove included documents dating back decades

.. since the raid Mr. Cohen has told associates he feels isolated.

.. Mr. Trump has long felt he had leverage over Mr. Cohen, but people who have worked for the president said the raid has changed all that.

.. “Ironically, Michael now holds the leverage over Trump,” said Sam Nunberg

.. Mr. Nunberg said that Mr. Cohen “should maximize” that leverage.

.. “The softer side of the president genuinely has an affection for Michael,” Mr. Nunberg said. For instance, Mr. Trump attended the bar and bat mitzvahs of Mr. Cohen’s children. “However, the president has also taken Michael for granted.” Mr. Nunberg added that “whenever anyone complains to me about Trump screwing them over, my reflexive response is that person has nothing to complain about compared to Michael.”

..Mr. Stone recalled Mr. Trump saying of Mr. Cohen, “He owns some of the finest Trump real estate in the country — paid top dollar for it, too.” In Mr. Trump’s worldview, there are few insults more devastating than saying someone overpaid.

.. whom he has admired since high school.

.. He has told interviewers that he has never heard Mr. Trump utter an inaccuracy or break a promise.

.. “He clearly doesn’t think that Michael Cohen is his Roy Cohn,” said Tim O’Brien, a Trump biographer, referring to Mr. Trump’s former mentor and the president’s ideal for a pit bull-like defender. “I think his abusive behavior to Michael is animated by his feeling that Michael is inadequate.”

.. Prosecutors have argued that Mr. Cohen did little actual legal work for Mr. Trump

.. When Mr. Trump ran for president in 2016, Mr. Cohen was given no official role on the campaign.

.. Particularly hurtful to Mr. Cohen was the way Mr. Trump lavished approval on Mr. Lewandowski in a way he never did for Mr. Cohen. When Mr. Cohen told Mr. Trump that he believed that Mr. Lewandowski had been behind a negative story about Mr. Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, Mr. Trump dismissed the comments as simple jealousy, and didn’t pay attention, according to two people familiar with the incident.

The Trumpist Gets Trumped

Bannon thinks he created Trump, and Trump thinks he created Bannon. They had a fundamental disagreement about who was using whom, and in any such conflict, the president of the United States is going to win.

.. The Trump statement on Bannon is — of course — exaggerated and overly harsh. It nonetheless nails important things about the former White House official. He was an inveterate leaker and poisonous infighter. Some of Bannon’s energy was devoted to trying to destroy Trump’s notably noncorrupt and nonkooky national security adviser, H.R. McMaster. Most of it, though, was directed at Trump’s children and son-in-law.

.. Bannon also is a flagrant self-promoter. By any reasonable standard, it’s quite a comedown to go from working a few paces from the Oval Office to running a shoddy website devoid of true journalistic interest.

.. his fundraising just got much harder. Part of Bannon’s appeal to candidates was bringing the imprimatur of Trump, and that, too, has been dented.

.. At the beginning of 2016, it seemed that Steve Bannon could be a figure like Karl Rove or David Axelrod, a political strategist with outsize influence over policy who existed at the very top of our national politics for years. Instead, he’s been kicked to the curb more brutally than any presidential aide in modern history.

.. This, obviously, has much to do with Trump himself, who is volatile, jealous of media attention, and insistent that loyalty runs only one way, up to him.

.. He had no idea how to effect his dream of a protectionist, isolationist administration spending massively on infrastructure and raising taxes on the rich. His vision lacked support within the administration and in Washington more broadly.

.. Trump’s base is Trump’s. No one ever voted for Steve Bannon, and now he is on the wrong side of the president in whose name he has presumed to speak.

Trump always lashes out when he’s cornered. He told me so years ago.

The president’s tweets and public remarks will only get wilder as the Russia investigation narrows.

In less than two hours, he managed to criticize his own FBI; peddle a new conspiracy theory; attack James B. Comey, Hillary Clinton and ABC; and draw more attention to the Russia probe that has already implicated several of his aides.
.. As someone who spent hundreds of hours observing Trump so I could write “The Art of the Deal,” I find his increasingly extreme behavior entirely consistent and predictable.
.. For five decades now, Trump’s pattern has been that the more aggrieved and vulnerable he feels, the more intensely he doubles down on the behaviors that have always worked for him in the past.
Sunday’s tweetstorm won’t be the last time the president indulges in self-pity, deceit and deflection. In all likelihood, it will get worse.
.. Trump’s first move in the face of criticism has always been to assume the role of victim. “Unfair” has long been one of his favorite words. He always perceives himself as the victim, so he feels justified in lashing back at his perceived accusers.

.. Here’s how he explained the tactic in “The Art of the Deal”:

“When people treat me badly or unfairly or try to take advantage of me, my attitude, all my life, has been to fight back very hard.”

And this:

“Sometimes, part of making a deal is denigrating your competition.”

In the weeks ahead, Trump will also probably double down on lying, even as he falsely accuses others of being dishonest. Consider his remarkable recent suggestion to aides that his remarks on the “Access Hollywood” tape about assaulting women might not be real — even though he has already publicly acknowledged that they were his, and apologized for them. Trump regularly rewrites his narrative, using what Kellyanne Conway has called “alternative facts,” to fit whatever he wants to believe and convey in any given moment. This is classic “gaslighting” — a blend of lying, denial, insistence and intimidation designed to fuel uncertainty and doubt in others about what’s actually true.

In the time I spent with Trump, I concluded that lying became second nature to him long ago, both because he lacked any conscience about being deceptive and because he discovered that he could get away with it. “Truthful hyperbole” is the sanitized term I gave lying in “The Art of the Deal,” with Trump’s blessing. I have never met someone, before or since, who was untruthful so effortlessly.

In Trump’s mind, he is only doing what’s required to win. Here’s the way he describes himself in “The Art of the Deal”: “Despite what people think, I’m not looking to be the bad guy when it isn’t absolutely necessary.”

.. The more threatened Trump feels by troublesome facts, the more preposterous the lies he will tell.

.. To get the outcome he wants, he’s willing to be scorned, parodied and even reviled in ways most of us are not. “I’m the first to admit,” he said in “The Art of the Deal,” “that I am very competitive and that I’ll do nearly anything within legal bounds to win.” He is willing to flatter, cajole and seduce, or bully, threaten and humiliate, depending on which approach he thinks will work best.

..  I watched him switch between these modes countless times during the 18 months I spent around him.

.. If he was getting what he wanted from someone on a call, he’d invariably sign off with, “You’re the greatest, you’re the best.” If he wasn’t getting his way, he was equally comfortable hurling insults and making threats.

.. The more frequent and aggressive Trump’s tweets become, the more threatened and vulnerable he is probably feeling. But he also knows that this approach can work.

.. The other predictable pattern for Trump is his approach to loyalty. He expects it unconditionally — more so when his behaviors prompt backlash — but he provides it only as long as he gets unquestioning adulation in return.

.. One of the most revealing relationships in Trump’s life was with Roy Cohn, best known as the chief counsel to Sen. Joseph McCarthy

.. For more than a decade, Cohn fought hard on Trump’s behalf and was fiercely loyal to him. They often spoke multiple times in a day. But when Cohn became ill with AIDS in 1984, Trump dropped him immediately.

..  I can’t remember a single occasion during the time I spent around Trump when he seemed genuinely interested in the welfare of another human being, including any of his three then-young children. And at that time, he was under vastly less stress than he is now. If either Jared Kushner or Donald Trump Jr. become Mueller’s next target, I can’t help wondering what Trump will perceive as his self-interest.

 

‘Trump betrays everyone’: The president has a long record as an unpredictable ally

President Trump prepared for the pivotal meeting with congressional leaders by huddling with his senior team — his chief of staff, his legislative director and the heads of Treasury and the Office of Management and Budget — to game out various scenarios on how to fund the government, raise the debt ceiling and provide Hurricane Harvey relief.

But one option they never considered was the that one the president ultimately chose: cutting a deal with Democratic lawmakers, to the shock and ire of his own party.

.. The president was an unpredictable — and, some would say, untrustworthy — negotiating partner with not only congressional Republicans but also with his Cabinet members and top aides.

.. His dealings are frequently defined by freewheeling spontaneity, impulsive decisions and a desire to keep everyone guessing — especially those who assume they can control him.

.. He also repeatedly demonstrates that, while he demands absolute loyalty from others, he is ultimately loyal to no one but himself.

.. “It makes all of their normalizing and ‘Trumpsplaining’ look silly and hollow,”

..  “Trump betrays everyone:

  • wives,
  • business associates,
  • contractors,
  • bankers and now,
  • the leaders of the House and Senate in his own party.

They can’t explain this away as [a] 15-dimensional Trump chess game. It’s a dishonest person behaving according to his long-established pattern.”

.. he relished the opportunity for a bipartisan agreement and the praise he anticipated it would bring

.. On Thursday morning, he called Pelosi and Schumer to crow about coverage of the deal — “The press has been incredible,” he told Pelosi

.. The treasury secretary presented himself as a Wall Street insider, arguing that the stability of the markets required an 18-month extension.

At one point, Schumer intervened with a skeptical question: “So the markets dictate one month past the 2018 election?” he asked, rhetorically, according to someone with knowledge of his comment. “I doubt that.”

.. The Republican leaders and Mnuchin slowly began moderating their demands, moving from their initial pitch down to 12 months and then six months. At one point, when Mnuchin was in the middle of yet another explanation, the president cut him off, making it clear that he disagreed.

.. Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.) ..

.. “I support the president, I want him to be successful, I want our country to be successful,” Zeldin said in an interview afterward. “But I personally believe the president had more leverage than he may have realized. He had more Democratic votes than he realized, and could have and would have certainly gotten a better deal.”

.. Trump is a fickle ally and partner, liable to turn on them much in the same way he has turned on his business associates and foreign allies.

.. “Looking to the long term, trust and reliability have been essential ingredients in productive relationships between the president and Congress,” said Phil Schiliro, who served as director of legislative affairs under Obama. “Without them, trying to move a legislative agenda is like juggling on quicksand. It usually doesn’t end well.”

Why Trump’s White House Won’t Stop Leaking

Sorry, Anthony Scaramucci. Your mole hunt is doomed.

Over the past 15 years, I’ve worked in dozens of political organizations that all leaked to varying degrees. In 2008, I was the national press secretary for the Republican National Committee when internal concerns about vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin turned the final weeks of John McCain’s presidential campaign into a gusher of leaks.

.. In contrast, last year I was the communications director on Marco Rubio’s presidential campaign, an organization that proudly rarely leaked.

.. To borrow from Tolstoy: Political organizations that don’t leak are all alike; every one that does leak is leaky in its own way. In some leaky organizations, people leak to advance agendas or undermine opponents. Some leakers seek to enhance their egos or curry favor with reporters. Sometimes people leak without even realizing it, speaking carelessly to journalists or lobbyists, who then repeat the story to others. The common thread is that unauthorized leaks are a symptom of political organizations that have a broken culture: They lack unity, trust and self-discipline.

.. But mole hunts inevitably lead only to more moles, and more leaks.

.. Trump’s White House is not leaky because of a few bad apples. The No. 1 reason why it leaks is because his team lacks unity. It’s not without irony that many of the leaks are about the very staff infighting that is causing the leaks.

..  in the White House, Trump has failed to unite his team (let alone the American people) around an organizing principle that is larger than defending the president’s own reputation. Without a common purpose, factions feel the need to leak against one another.

.. If Trump wants loyalty from his Cabinet and staff, he must recognize that loyalty is a two-way street and show them more respect than he has to date. With his attacks on Attorney General Jeff Sessions, he’s demonstrating precisely the opposite: Even his most loyal supporters cannot expect loyalty in return.

.. The temptation to curry favor with powerful influencers is real, especially for aides with big egos or little experience. Obviously, this White House has plenty of both, which makes it even more important that Trump model the behavior he wants to see in others.

.. Instead, the president’s tweets and interviews show a lack of discipline. It is no secret that he continues to have off-the-record conversations with the news media and sometimes shares more than he should. In this environment, it’s not realistic to expect discipline from staff when the boss sets a poor example.

.. However, his presidential campaign leaked like a sieve for many of the same reasons that his White House does. The problems are more acute now only because his team lacks the shared goal of winning an election.

.. “You are either going to work inside the culture the way the president wants it or you’re gonna be on Pennsylvania Avenue out here selling postcards to the tourists,” Trump’s new communications director, Anthony Scaramucci, said on Fox News this week.

With all due respect, he has it backward. The leaks will stop only if President Trump instills a culture of unity, loyalty and self-discipline in his administration.

With Sessions, Trump Is Picking on the Wrong Guy

Donald Trump and Jeff Sessions, the Queens-born developer and the Alabama lawyer, are finding that similar positions on political issues can mask deep differences on underlying principles.

For Mr. Trump, who has excoriated his attorney general on Twitter and reportedly discussed firing him, what matters most is personal loyalty to him, or rather loyalty to whatever he thinks his needs are at any particular moment. For Mr. Sessions, fealty to the law trumps all. For Republicans nationwide, it’s an acid test: side with a mercurial president who demands devotion, or with the attorney general, who insists on probity and the letter of the law.

.. For better or worse, Mr. Sessions sees the world in black-and-white, law-and-order terms — criminals on one side and trustworthy law enforcement on the other. That’s one reason he has re-expanded the use of civil asset forfeiture, drawing intense (and deserved) criticism from across the political spectrum. He takes the same approach with illegal narcotics.

.. Moreover, he has deep faith in the American political system and its institutions. He is deeply trusting of the Justice Department’s criminal division; his highly regarded deputy, Rod Rosenstein; and the professionalism of the F.B.I. rank and file. In Mr. Sessions’ mind, removing himself from the equation put Mr. Trump in no more or less legal danger than before, because the facts and the law would lead where they would lead, regardless of his participation.

.. As a prosecutor, Mr. Sessions had a distinguished record of going after Republican officials accused of misdeeds and of declining to pursue Democratic officials he thought (correctly, as it turned out) were wrongly charged.

..  If he thought he was getting a lackey, a wingman or the political equivalent of a capo, he was sorely mistaken.

.. But any fair-minded person must grant that unlike his boss, Mr. Sessions has the courage of his convictions. He believes illegal immigration hurts low-skilled American workers. He believes illegal narcotics ruin lives. He believes (wrongly) that trade protectionism helps American workers. He backed Mr. Trump last year, despite concerns about Mr. Trump’s bombastic disregard for social norms to which Mr. Sessions himself adheres, because he saw Mr. Trump as a fellow believer who, for all his flaws, had the actual ability to achieve those ends.

.. They clearly are appalled by Mr. Trump’s one-way loyalty test.

.. But those statements of support for the attorney general were the easy part. How they follow through in the coming weeks, especially if the president fires him, will determine whether they are remembered as principled lawmakers or craven pols.

.. If Mr. Trump knifes rather than protects his friends, soon no friends will remain to watch his back.

Who in the White House Will Turn Against Donald Trump?

this concocted dumb show of loyalty only served to suggest how unsustainable it all is.

.. The reason that this White House staff is so leaky, so prepared to express private anxiety and contempt, even while parading obeisance for the cameras, is that the President himself has so far been incapable of garnering its discretion or respect. Trump has made it plain that he is capable of turning his confused fury against anyone in his circle at any time.

.. blamed the Deputy Attorney General, Rod Rosenstein, for the legal imbroglio that Trump himself has created.

.. The President has fired a few aides, he has made known his disdain and disappointment at many others, and he will, undoubtedly, turn against more.

Steve Bannon, Kellyanne Conway, Jared Kushner, Jeff Sessions, Sean Spicer–––who has not yet felt the lash?

.. Trump’s egotism, his demand for one-way loyalty, and his incapacity to assume responsibility for his own untruths and mistakes were, his biographers make plain, his pattern in business and have proved to be his pattern as President.

.. Veteran Washington reporters tell me that they have never experienced this kind of anxiety, regret, and sense of imminent personal doom among White House staffers

.. by retailing information anonymously they will be able to live with themselves after serving a President who has proved so disconnected from the truth and reality.

.. Pat, who on vacations resided separately from the President.

.. making sure that Henry Kissinger was no longer seated at state dinners next to the most attractive woman at the occasion.

.. Nixon, who barely acknowledged, much less touched, his own wife in public, resented Kissinger’s public, and well-cultivated, image as a Washington sex symbol.

.. Incident after incident revealed Nixon’s distaste for his fellow human beings, his racism and anti-Semitism, his overpowering personal suspicions, and his sad longings. Nixon, the most anti-social of men

.. It was all for the sake of “history,” Nixon said.

.. Kennedy and Johnson had taped selectively, but Nixon wanted it all for the record––his own records––but no one was to know.

.. there is little evidence that the show of bogus loyalty performed last week has any basis in real life.

.. Will Bannon, Spicer, Conway, Sessions, Kushner, and many others who have been battered in one way or another by Trump, keep their counsel? Will all of them risk their futures to protect someone whose focus is on himself alone and the rest be damned? Will none of them conclude that they are working for a President whose honesty is on a par with his loyalty to others?