The appearance of Michael Cohen in court as a self-confessed felon was as riveting as predictable as scene in this unfolding drama. Indeed, if this is ever made into a movie, it would seem all too formulaic. Cohen is the ultimate red-shirt defendant. In the film industry, “red shirts” are characters in a movie plot that inevitably die (like those red shirted security officers in Star Trek that always seem to face demise by the end of an episode). You can often spot a red shirt in that character who is so over-the-top in reading letters from home or over compensating in the face of a pending battles. They are dead men walking. If you play back the last year, there is one guy who stands out in the red shirt, the guy who has to implode and flip. It is Michael Cohen.
For years, Cohen stood out among sycophants and hanger-ons for his public proclamations of absolute loyalty and love for Trump. He called himself Trump’s fix man and said he would take a bullet for the man. Yup, red shirt. He is inevitably the guy who flips for the government.
Cohen pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations and tax and bank fraud in New York. He will go to jail for up to three years.
The most important charges clearly involve campaign finance violations. When the payments to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal were first disclosed, some of us immediately said that the payments looked like campaign finance violations. It was that obvious. Yet, like so much of his representation, Cohen seemed to blissfully steer himself and his client into the worst possible path in dealing with threats.
Cohen’s implication of Trump in open court yesterday left the President in the position of an unindicted co-conspirator. If the government believes Cohen and believes that this is a crime (as it must to file this material), it must also believe that President Trump participated in same crime with Cohen as well as other individuals referenced in the indictment. While campaign finance charges are rarely prosecuted as crimes, they are crimes and Cohen just confessed to committing them — allegedly with the man who is now President of the United States.
That does not mean that Trump is without defenses. This is difficult crime to prove as shown in the John Edwards trial and Cohen is a dreadful fact witness. If what Cohen said today is true, then what he has said for the last year are lies. That hardly makes for a compelling fact witness. Yet, for the first time, a plea has tied the President directly to an alleged criminal act — and that is always a serious matter.