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Thursday, June 14, 2018

Tilting at Trump Tower

by digby

I wrote about the Cohen news for Salon this morning:

President Trump assured us on Wednesday that his personal chemistry with Kim Jong Un is so powerful that North Korea is no longer a nuclear threat. And we learned that the Department of Homeland Security is tightening up security at the Canadian border so that we are prepared to repel any invasion from our new enemies to the north. So now we can once more focus on the important issues of the day. Over the past week everyone has been so focused on the trivia of President Trump blowing up the G7 and fawning over Kim Jong Un like a schoolboy with his first crush that we missed the news that the White House is in nuclear meltdown over Michael Cohen.

Gabriel Sherman reported in Vanity Fair a couple of days ago:
According to a source close to Cohen, Cohen has told friends that he expects to be arrested any day now. (Reached for comment, Cohen wrote in a text message, “Your alleged source is wrong!”) The specter of Cohen flipping has Trump advisers on edge. “Trump should be super worried about Michael Cohen,” a former White House official said. “If anyone can blow up Trump, it’s him.”
With Trump feeling his power from the international incidents of the past week, they are all very worried about how he's going to react. Sherman writes that Trump seems to be "relishing the freedom to act on his impulses, flying by feel and instinct" which one source describes as “exactly like the Trump Organization.” That's not good.

On Wednesday morning, MSNBC's Katy Tur reported that her sources confirmed the report that Cohen expects to be arrested imminently. She said that a source close to Cohen said "his lawyers got a call from lawyers at the Southern District of New York saying they were preparing paperwork."

Salon's Shira Tarlo ran down all the various stories that cascaded through the morning reporting that Cohen and his lawyers were parting company reminding everyone of the recent events surrounding Paul Manafort's lieutenant Rick Gates who also changed lawyers just before he decided to cooperate with the Special Counsel in the Russia investigation. There are many rumors flying that Cohen is indeed ready to cooperate which would undoubtedly require him to tell what he knows about Donald Trump:

Vanity Fair's Emily Jane Fox who seems to be well connected to Michael Cohen and his circle filled in the blanks, reporting that Cohen is feeling isolated and pushed away by the Trump inner circle and rejected by the family.  Cohen believes he has been dealt an injustice telling Fox, “I feel like Don Quixote. It’s ruining my children’s lives. It’s ruining my wife’s life. It’s worse than a pit in your stomach.”

According to the New York Times
all this has Trump tied up in knots too:
Mr. Trump himself has told people he is angry at Mr. Cohen over the messiness of the situation — especially those aspects involving Ms. Clifford. But the president has also indicated to allies that he is worried that if he pushes Mr. Cohen away too hard, it could increase the likelihood that Mr. Cohen will offer information to the government.
One would guess that last little tid-bit certainly whet the appetites of the prosecutors in both the New York case and the Russia probe.

Cohen changing lawyers is where the story gets murky. Sources close to Cohen have told reporters that now that the document production is almost complete, Cohen needs a criminal defense attorney who is familiar with the Southern District of New York and his current lawyer Stephen Ryan works out of Washington. There are also reports that some members of Ryan's firm, McDermott Will and Emery, are uncomfortable representing Cohen in some of this New York unpleasantness which sounds as though there must be something really unpleasant about it.

But the real issue appears to be about money. Ryan was originally hired to represent Cohen in the Russia probe and $228,000 worth of fees were paid by the Trump Campaign for services rendered in 2017. The representation in the New York matter so far, especially the document review to ensure that the attorney client privilege isn't breached in the case, is costing a fortune. The firm has had lawyers and analysts working around the clock to make this Friday's deadline and that doesn't come cheap.

As it turns out The Trump family is footing much of the bill for that and according to the New York Times, they aren't happy about how much it's costing and it's widened the rift between Cohen and Trump.  You would think the president would be happy to pay it since the document review is being done on his behalf to protect attorney client privilege. Indeed, as far as we know all the lawyers involved in this process have been sharing the information giving him a window into the case he would otherwise not have. Instead, he's being as cheap as when he refused to pay vendors at his Atlantic casinos and demand that they drop the agreed upon price or take him to court. The man can't even leave a penny on the sidewalk.

On the other hand, the articles don't specify exactly what the payment dispute is, so it's also possible that it's about an appearance of conflict of interest for Cohen's attorney, Stephen Ryan. He's been paid a lot of money by the Trump campaign and now by Donald Trump personally --- if Michael Cohen is about to turn states evidence, he probably cannot continue to represent him.

Whatever the case, it's pretty clear that something is about to happen in the Cohen case and that the president is very concerned about it.  On MSNBC on Wednesday, Vanity Fair's Fox said that many people in Trumpworld are speculating to journalists that this is why he is acting even more erratically than usual.  At least he'll always have Singapore.

Right now the lawyers are shaing info. The president likely knows everything that Cohen's lawyers know. When they stop sharing we will know he flipped.

Lots of

"the issues concern the payment of legal bills to his lawyers..." which mcould mean a lot of things, not just that he can't pay. His lawyers are also financially involved with Trump and we may be looking at a conflict of interest problemif Trump and Cohen are at odds.

Maggie Severns Politico Trump campaign payments ....

"I think that the Trump organization has reason to distance themselves from Michael Cohen right now."

— @emilyjanefox, a senior reporter from Vanity Fair has spent months talking to Trump's fixer and now says Cohen is feeling "isolated" by the president.

I think part of is that these lawyers have ties to Trump World -- they were paid by Trump campaign for repping Cohen on the Mueller probe earlier this year and last fall.

That makes sense. It may be a conflict of interest for them to represent a client who is adverse to Trump and Trumpworld.

"The issue is primarily over payment of the legal bills of one of his lawyers, Stephen Ryan, according to a person familiar with the discussions."

"The issue" could refer to the fact that Ryan has been paid hundreds of thousands of dollars by the Trump campaign, as Zach noted, which would create a conflict if Cohen is flipping. Or not. It's awfully hard to tell.


The Trump campaign has spent nearly $228,000 to cover some of the legal expenses for President Trump's longtime attorney Michael Cohen, sources familiar with the payments told ABC News raising questions about whether the Trump campaign may have violated campaign finance laws.

Federal Election Commission records show three payments made from the Trump campaign to a firm representing Cohen beginning in 2017. The "legal consulting" payments were made to McDermott Will and Emery — a law firm where Cohen's attorney Stephen Ryan is a partner — between October 2017 and January 2018.

Gabe Sherman "I need help"

Is the Trump org paying?

Issue with payment for lawyers also being paid by RNC paying for Trump?

Who flipped Sammy the Bull?

What's happening with Trump and Cohen's personal relationship? Everyone knows that he has no loyalty. Has treated Cohen like shit for years.

Emily Fox: VF --- Don Quixote, family etc...