It's fun to mock Michael Cohen's threats to Tim Mak. "He sounds like a third rate mob guy!"
Sam Seder, Michael Brooks and Alex Pareene did a good job of it on The Majority Report show today.
But listening to this recording really disturbed me. For Trump threats work. Intimidation works. Threats are part of Trump's business model. They are a key component of his negotiations. Winners and losers are determined by who has the upper hand when it comes to threats. The person who can threaten others most successfully wins.
After listening to Cohen and reading the article closely. I wondered:
1) Who else was intimidated?
2) Who else was paid off?
3) What types of intimidation were used? 4) Were there threats of violence? 5) How many of these threats were at Trump's direction?
6) How much did Trump know about the implementation of the threats?"
Remember the Donald Trump rape lawsuit right before the election that went away? The accuser claimed he raped her when she was 13 back in 1994.
Reading the story at the time I remember thinking, "Who and what convinced her to drop the case?"
In the NPR Story Michael Caputo, a former Trump campaign aide, defends Cohen.
"People like to paint him as some kind of a thug out of New York. He's an attorney and he knows what he's talking about," said Caputo. "And I think while he might push the bounds of propriety in some people's eyes ... Michael sees the line and doesn't cross it. "
Really? How do we know he didn't cross "the line?" Whose definition of "the line" are we using here? Caputo's?
We know that Cohen used "arrogance and bullying and threats and intimidation."
Avenatti described how Cohen pressured Daniels into signing a document. Avenatti alleged in a March court filing that as news stories about the NDA were beginning to emerge in January, Cohen "through intimidation and coercive tactics, forced [Daniels] into signing a false statement" denying a previous sexual relationship with Trump.
Sam Nunberg, a political adviser close to Trump says Trump cultivated an aggressive environment and that Cohen "was supposed to say and act the way Donald wanted him to act." ("I'm just following orders.")
Powerful people get away with criminal acts by avoiding evidence of their connection to those criminal acts. We have all watched enough police procedurals to know to say things like, "Don't tell me how you did it. I don't want to know."
In the world of politics the old phrase, "plausible deniability" is used to protect the top guy. What if the top guy can't deny something based on hard evidence?
Smart, powerful people don't put anything in writing, especially details of ordering an illegal act. They don't want to know the details of an illegal act. They talk in code because they know they are involved with illegal acts. When Tony Soprano asks Silvio, "Did you take care of the thing with that girl from the place?" he knows that he is being recorded.
What evidence do we have that Trump is smart? Does he moderate his comments when it comes to his vindictiveness? We know he is, but what does he actual SAY about how to carry out his vindictiveness?
So what happens when law enforcement gets evidence that the client knew about the threats and even suggested them? What happens when the general public hears these threats directly?
When you have a history of getting away with threats, what do you do if you are on the verge of being caught? It depends on how much power and money you have.
Trump knows he will be busted someday. Here is what he is doing now to control the damage to himself.
1) Granting pardons. "I will make that illegal thing you did go away. Trust me."
2) Focusing on what are normal legal threats. "It was just saber rattling. It's a bluff, just part of negotiation for deals."
3) Redefine normal. "This is a standard business practice. It's no big deal. Everybody does it."
4) Play the Joker card. "I say a lot of outrageous things. I'm joking! I don't expect people to do exactly what I say."
5) Blame the other guy. "Hey if he broke the law that's on him!"
6) Play the victim card. "This is a unfair! It's a witch hunt. I'm the victim here!"
Threats Work In Multiple Ways
Some people think they wouldn't be intimidated by a Michael Cohen. They have the truth, the law and God on their side. Great. Good for you, but threats scare the crap out of me. Legal threats, financial threats, threats against employment, threats against my family and their employment, vague future threats and physical threats. I'm easily intimidated. I don't have money for lawyers, bodyguards and a PR response team. Most people don't. Trump knows this.
Trump has a long history of screwing people over financially. "Don't like how I forced you to cut your price by 30 percent? Sue me!" How else does he want to hurt people?
Did Trump tell Cohen to have someone hurt? Killed?
What lines didn't Cohen cross for Trump? Did Trump order lines to be crossed?
Let's say, hypothetically, that we hear Trump ordering intimidation, legal threats, coercion and maybe physical violence. What next?
Expect there will be scores of people who will work to define legality, intention and the definition of words and phrases. Alan Dershowitz will be quoted a lot.
Watch for lots of non-related whataboutisms "Well Obama ordered the bombing of... "
The media will include allegations and lies about Democratic candidates actions. "The Clinton campaign and George Soros hired thugs to...
There will be acceptance and ADMIRATION for illegal acts. Especially ones that didn't lead to prison time. This will be surprising to some but it is actually one of the things the base LIKES about Trump. They mock the left for not knowing how to do it.
"Business people play hardball like this all the time. This is just the cost of doing business."
And of course their all time favorite distraction line, "But the Clintons...
The rich and powerful have multiple tools to avoid getting caught and punished. If they can't avoid getting caught, they work to set the expectations of what is normal and acceptable.
What's the counter to this cynical narrative?
Reject the normalization of intimidation tactics in business and politics
Demand that illegal acts be prosecuted now! ( Don't wait until mid-terms and the replacement of complicit Republicans. Put the Republicans on the defensive NOW for accepting illegal acts.
Laws need to be fixed, repealed or recreated. Things that were illegal before and are legal now, can be made illegal again. Start talking about what those law are and WHY they are necessary NOW.
What Was The Intent Of The Bullying and Threatening?
Why people do things matter. I don't like to just focus on legality, since sometimes people break laws for noble reasons. Sometimes people say and do things for the good of their country, their family or their beliefs. Some even break laws that we generally agree with. But they might have an important, understandable reason or noble purpose for doing this. Laws were still broken and consequences accepted but a reasonable person could understand why. .
So let's look at the intimidation actions that Trump ordered or accepted. "What were the reasons these acts were carried out? Who benefited? Were they for a noble cause?"
Some crises bring out the best in people. Others bring out the worst. What happens next isn't just about how Trump reacts, it's about how the Republicans in power act when they hear the voice of a man ordering a retaliation on another for his own selfish reasons.
I wrote this June 1, 2018 4:30 PDT. With time traveling it's not good to reveal too much too soon. So I try to be either one hour early, 24 hours early or 6 days early with my "predictions." so people can put them in context when they happen. Also, I get a cookie from Karoli when I'm right.