In case you’re living under a rock, or more likely, ready to bash your head in with a rock to stop the raging inferno that is the Trump News Cycle from melting your brain, it was revealed this past week that the one of the president’s most trusted “lawyers,” Michael Cohen, is in serious trouble. Sean Hannity is even playing a supporting role in this drama. To quickly recap the Trump Organization executive’s legal troubles (as far as we know):
— The FBI raided Cohen’s home, office, and hotel room, partially looking for evidence around the $130,000 payment that Michael Cohen said he made days before the election to Stormy Daniels in order to buy her silence over an affair with Donald Trump.
— If Donald Trump knew about this payment to the porn star, it’s almost an open and shut case in violation of FEC law. This is why Cohen is preposterously claiming he took out a line of credit on his home to make this payment as a simple favor to his unwitting boss.
— A judge approving a search warrant on a lawyer is extraordinary, as Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of Berkley Law, told the Wall Street Journal:
But being a lawyer doesn’t immunize one from the law or from searches. A federal judge here found probable cause for the search, even though it is of a lawyer. We, of course, don’t know that Mr. Cohen was functioning as a lawyer here. The assumption must be that this is in connection with paying Stormy Daniels $130,000. It appears to be “hush money” and, if nothing else, this raises issues with regard to campaign finance law. There are potential serious crimes here implicating Mr. Cohen, and perhaps, Mr. Trump.
Chemerinsky isn’t the only legal expert who thinks that Trump may have a huge problem on his hands. A seasoned adviser to the president effectively took an ad out in the WSJ to warn Trumplandia of the gathering storm clouds forming above the Oval Office. This isn’t fake news, folks—this is Jay Goldberg, lawyer to the stars, telling the Wall Street Journal on the record what he told Trump.
One of President Donald Trump’s longtime legal advisers said he warned the president in a phone call Friday that Michael Cohen, Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer and close friend, would turn against the president and cooperate with federal prosecutors if faced with criminal charges.
Mr. Trump made the call seeking advice from Jay Goldberg, who represented Mr. Trump in the 1990s and early 2000s. Mr. Goldberg said he cautioned the president not to trust Mr. Cohen. On a scale of 100 to 1, where 100 is fully protecting the president, Mr. Cohen “isn’t even a 1,” he said he told Mr. Trump.
“Michael will never stand up [for you]” if charged by the government, Mr. Goldberg said he cautioned the president.
Here’s how I like to imagine that “15 minute discussion” going:
TRUMP: Jay! It’s Don! Long time! What a great presidency this is, right?
GOLDBERG: Sure, what’s up? I’m guessing you’re calling because of Cohen?
TRUMP: The FAKE NEWS MEDIA wants you to believe that Cohen will flip on me, but he won’t. He’s loyal. Like a dog that one! And I mean that in a good way! Not like Rosie being a dog. Did I ever tell you about the time I humiliated her in front of Ivanka at the Bellagio? You wouldn’t believe the way my daughter looked at me afterwards. I tell ya, if we weren’t related, we would be THE IT COUPLE!
TRUMP: Jay? You still there? What do you think?
GOLDBERG: About what Mr. President?
GOLDBERG: Oh, you’re royally screwed.
TRUMP: What? Why? I’m president! I can do anything!
GOLDBERG: You can’t violate federal election laws. Or really just laws in general. And that’s why you hired Cohen right? To hide things from the law?
TRUMP: What!? No! I hired him because he told me that crime was legal if done through a lawyer. Why do you think I gave him so much to do at the Trump Organization? That’s our brand!
GOLDBERG: Well Mr. President, let me put it this way: Cohen is quite literally made of slime. He’s more of a walking crime than a human. You can’t trust folks like that, especially when they’ve got the legal equivalent of a roto rooter shoved up their colon. On a scale of 100 to 1, where 100 is fully protecting you, Cohen isn’t even a 1.
This is a really really really really bad situation for the president. He’s used Michael Cohen as a “fixer”—which is slang for someone who toes the line of the law (at best) while making problems go away. The feds now own evidence of all those problems. Remember the stories of Trump’s penchant for taping conversations at all his old businesses? He’s not the only one who used that tactic. Per The Washington Post:
President Trump’s personal attorney Michael D. Cohen sometimes taped conversations with associates, according to three people familiar with his practice, and allies of the president are worried that the recordings were seized by federal investigators in a raid of Cohen’s office and residences this week.
Cohen, who served for a decade as a lawyer at the Trump Organization and is a close confidant of Trump’s, was known to store the conversations using digital files and then replay them for colleagues, according to people who have interacted with him.
“We heard he had some proclivity to make tapes,” said one Trump adviser, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the ongoing investigation. “Now we are wondering, who did he tape? Did he store those someplace where they were actually seized?...Did they find his recordings?”
Trump bragged about sexual assault to Billy freaking Bush on the infamous Access Hollywood tape. Just imagine what he told who he thought was his lawyer in private. Grab some popcorn, folks. This is getting good.
Jacob Weindling is a staff writer for Paste politics. Follow him on Twitter at @Jakeweindling.