Michael Cohen’s New Role As The “Liberated” Liar “Speaking Truth To Power”

Below is my column in the Hill newspaper on Michael Cohen’s emergence as a witness against President Donald Trump. The man who declared that he would take a bullet for the President just took a plea. In the meantime, Trump friend David Pecker has been given immunity and reportedly implicated Trump in knowing about the hush money payments before they were made.  In what could well be the worst development, Allen  Weisselberg, chief financial officer for the Trump Organization, has been granted immunity.  Weisselberg is referred in the tapes Cohen secretly recorded with Trump and could offer highly damaging and detailed evidence of any criminal conduct.

Here is the column:


Listening to Lanny Davis discuss his client, Michael Cohen, one would think he had been airlifted out of the clutches of truly dark, sinister forces. Davis told Rachel Maddow on MSNBC that Cohen is now “liberated to tell the truth” and that we are “going to see a liberated Michael Cohen speaking truth to power.” Given his history of false statements and fraudulent dealings, the “liberation” of the former lawyer for Donald Trump is the most remarkable rescue since the raid on Entebbe in Uganda.

His liberation is being cited as the reason Cohen has implicated President Trump in the knowing commission of federal crimes in violation federal election laws to silence alleged former mistresses. This liberation is the result of what Davis previously described as the “new resolve” of Cohen to “reset his life” and try to “tell the truth.”

The problem for Cohen is playing a credible role as both hostage and hostage taker. If what Cohen said in court yesterday is true, then most of what he said for more than a year was demonstrably false. That hardly makes for a compelling witness. However, this is a new and dangerous development for Trump who is left effectively as an unindicted co-conspirator in federal crimes.

That remains a big “if.” For either an indictment or impeachment, critics will need a lot more than a “liberated” or non-liberated Cohen. The new, improved Cohen already has a shaky record. Recently, he made his big play in releasing a tape that he secretly recorded with his client discussing the payment of money to silence one of Trump’s alleged mistresses. He then claimed Trump knew about the meeting in Trump Tower and approved it in advance. If true, Cohen’s account easily could force criminal charges against Donald Trump Jr. for perjury and false statements to federal investigators. It also would contradict the repeated statements of President Trump and his staff.

The shot at Trump and his son fundamentally changed the stakes in the game. He implicated Donald Jr., the same man Cohen praised on July 11, 2017, in his handling of the allegations over the meeting; back then, Cohen declared on Twitter: “So proud of @DonaldJTrumpJr for being open, honest and transparent to the American people. This nonsense needs to stop!”

One year later, Cohen effectively called Donald Jr. a liar and claimed President Trump gave him a green light to sit down with Russians promising dirt on Clinton. In making this play, Cohen added one notable element that gave it added credibility: He said various top aides were in the room when Trump was briefed on the meeting. If he’s lying, it was a reckless detail since he could have simply said Trump disclosed his knowledge in a one-on-one conversation. That way it would simply be his word against Trump’s.

It is still possible that this is a grand conspiracy and someone in that alleged meeting will come forward to support Cohen’s account. However, Cohen is still one witness short on that claimed conspiracy. Of course, Cohen is not the only person yesterday reshaping reality in an implausible image. In a statement, President Trump’s current lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, declared there was “no allegation of any wrongdoing against the president in the government’s charges against Mr. Cohen.” That is only the case if you ignore the clear import of the government’s filing and the direct implication of Trump by Cohen under oath in open court. Giuliani is correct that the Justice Department went to great lengths not to directly reference Trump either by name or as “the candidate.”

The U.S. Attorney’s Manual encourages prosecutors not to name individuals who are not being indicted, or even implicate such individuals indirectly unless necessary for a complete and accurate narrative. However, the prosecutors did implicate other individuals like David Pecker, CEO of the National Enquirer, who is described as a “chairman” who coordinated with Cohen and members of the campaign to “help deal with negative stories about [Trump’s] relationships with women by, among other things, assisting the campaign in identifying such stories so they could be purchased and their publication avoided.”

The language of the indictment was carefully crafted to avoid such an implication of Trump by the Justice Department – only to have Cohen do so in open court in a prepared statement. Putting aside the effort to shield the president in the indictment, the import is clear and unsettling for the Trump team: This is no immaculate crime described by the Justice Department. The indictment describes an array of individuals who knowingly participated in an alleged conspiracy to violate federal election laws; that would include Pecker, Trump and potentially others. It would be curious if the Justice Department would indict the lawyer but not the other actors in such a crime, particularly someone like Pecker who actually put up the money to keep former Playboy bunny Karen McDougal silent.

This is why Cohen may be both liberated and a liar but still constitute a clear and present danger to Trump. Today, Trump tweeted that “If anyone is looking for a good lawyer, I would strongly suggest that you don’t retain the services of Michael Cohen!” However, as bad and corrupt as Trump’s team paints Cohen, there is no escaping the fact that this was the guy that Trump wanted as his lawyer. Indeed, it was only weeks ago that Trump called Cohen his lawyer, directed reporters to him regarding the payment to Daniels, and then had a very public dinner with Cohen at Mar-a-Lago.

For now, Trump is facing a liberated, self-confessed liar. That could change. The fact is that this is no longer just Cohen. In filing this indictment, the Justice Department had to certify that it believed the allegations to be true. That means Pecker and others are now at risk and could present additional risks for Trump. It is a cautionary tale for many where one man’s liberation can easily become another’s incarceration.

Jonathan Turley is the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University. You can follow him on Twitter @JonathanTurley.

150 thoughts on “Michael Cohen’s New Role As The “Liberated” Liar “Speaking Truth To Power””

  1. In the interest of allowing Proof by Verbosity to cover all shifts, I’ll let Hollywood continue with the late nite ” proof” until the early AM “proof” arrives.

  2. The obsession with Alex Jones, Hannity, and Fox News seems to affect Hollywood and other clowns like Hollywood.
    It’s likely that it is the TDS-afflicted commentatators here have mentioned the above at least 10 times as much as anyone else here.
    It’s basically a stupid, tiresome gimmick…..but keep using it if it “works for you”.
    Don’t forget those flags, either, Hollywood.

  3. What crime exactly, on Cohen’s allocution, has Trump been implicated in?

    Trump–who can contribute to his own campaign without limit—by his lawyer, Cohen, paid his own campaign, if that’s how the hush money payments are seen, under arrangements whereby Trump repaid Cohen, none of which is criminal.

    Or Cohen paid the money on his own, not to be repaid, (hard to imagine this, but regardless) which may be Cohen’s crime but wouldn’t be Trump’s.

    Not to omit to mention that if Trump had directed campaign funds be used to pay the two women, then the claim would be of his unlawful use of campaign funds for personal expenses.

    “Coming or going” they’d claim they have him. Each side here cancels the other.

    No to omit to mention the case law holding that real non electoral purposes, like saving his marriage and reputation, trump an election based purpose in the law of what is a campaign contribution.

    Not to omit to mention that any number of non axe grinding lawyers of high reputation and pertinent expertise have opined that Cohen’s allocution, after the lifting of all the hellishly hot-take smoke and fog, has caused Trump no real legal jeopardy (as opposed to political jeopardy.)

      1. The crime is that Trump ordered Cohen to break the law. If a client orders his attorney to break the law for him, both of them are guilty of a conspiracy to commit a crime. the attorney is also guilty of the crime as well as the conspiracy.

        If a client tells his attorney to rob a bank and the attorney does it, the attorney is guilty of robbing the bank. Both the client and the attorney are guilty of the conspiracy to rob the bank.

        The pretzel Alan Dershowitz is twisting himself into to defend Trump is amazing.

        I saw him on Fox News saying that Cohen committed no crime, even though the court accepted a guilty plea for this act.

        Why would a judge accept a guilty plea for an action that wasn’t criminal?

        Trump defenders are getting more desperate by the week.

        1. “The crime is that Trump ordered Cohen to break the law.”

          What law? What proof?

          Your example: “If a client tells his attorney to rob a bank and the attorney does it, the attorney is guilty of robbing the bank. Both the client and the attorney are guilty of the conspiracy to rob the bank.”

          The elements of your example. 1)Bank robbery is against the law. 3)The proof would be something on tape, eye witnesses, tracing of money etc.

          I order you to rob a bank. Are you going to rob it?

          Your statement is complete nonsense and your example doesn’t apply.

          1. Partisan Democrats might learn the difference between criminal solicitation and conspiracy. That aside, they might learn that something is against the law because it’s in the statute, not because it’s convenient for partisan Democrats that it’s against the law. A prosecutor tried this ..creative interpretation of campaign finance law to try to bag John Edwards. Didn’t work. (And, of course, any criminal prosecution for campaign finance violation is suspect from the get-go, since these violations are almost never addressed with criminal prosecutions. One of the few which was was the blatantly political abuse of Dinesh D’Souza).

            1. TS to Dance,…
              There are a number of “almost never” tactics evident in the approach of the Special Counsel team.
              No-knock predawn raid are “amost never” executed in white collar crimes.
              The residence, office, and hotel room of a lawyer are “almost never” raided, with their contents hauled away.
              In the joint appearance of FBI Dir. Wray and IG Horowirtz, Sen. Grassley made some interesting observations about the contrasts between the investigation. / whitewash of one candidate, and the tactics employed in the investigation of the other major candidate.
              Grassley and a large percentage of Americans probably still have some quaint notions about equal treatment under the law.

        2. What law did Trump direct Cohen to break? You beg that question: you assume there is such a broken law without demonstrating what it is.

          1. Marry doesn’t seem able to answer rationale questions and her analogies are obvious fallacies.

  4. Mueller’s raison d’etre is to find a crime against Trump, and make it stick, period. He has no other reason to breath, eat, sleep, etc. Same for him and his entire crew of DNC operatives on his team.

    Meanwhile, about 12-15 DNC operatives including those working in the FBI, CIA, etc., including HRC, committed obvious major felonies, and Mueller could not care less, has absolutely no interest in any of it.

    If they do manage to take down Trump, the price paid by many shall be significant. I don’t think this is going down as easy as these swamp creatures plan.

    I am not saying Trump is squeaky clean. What I’m saying is that the prosecution of Trump, if he did do wrong, is too one sided. The gate keepers at the alphabet departments themselves are felons, a good number anyway.

    Mueller is a close personal friend of Comey. Rosenstein is a witness who signed the Court documents for the FISA warrants against Trump’s team, IOW, Rosenstein confirmed (a blatant felony lie) with his signature that the evidence was confirmed and true. The FBI purchased the fake Steel dossier, filled with lies. Steel is a foreign agent. Connect the dots, the only collusion is DNC collusion. Proof there’s no Trump collusion is that ADAM SCHIFF HAS NOT LEAKED THE EVIDENCE, and if you deny that you’re a liar and/or naive.

    If libs think this coup is going down smoothly, I doubt that’s correct.

    Sessions/Mr Magoo should have been fired ages ago.

    1. Thanks for checking in with today’s Pravda Faux News talking points. It must be a tough row to hoe for you, your ilk, the gullible rubes, dupes, klan-wannabees, pocket traitors and grifters on the make as the rudderless ship that is the day glo bozo begins to settle as the water keeps pouring in. So sorry for your loss.

      this is to “I have a ‘hannity was here’ tattoo across my lower back” joey

      1. Speaking of the Klan, instead of arguing about this stuff, go see “BlacKkKlansman.” Powerful stuff.

      1. “Schiff has not leaked. Nunes the liar has.”

        Hollywood, How do you know that? There is no proof of who leaked information but a lot of the evidence leads to Adam Schiff. What has Nunes lied about? You didn’t like his memo? What in the memo was a lie?

    2. JoJo said, “Proof there’s no Trump collusion is that ADAM SCHIFF HAS NOT LEAKED THE EVIDENCE, and if you deny that you’re a liar and/or naive.”

      I concede that Adam Schiff has not leaked any evidence that proves that Trump conspired with Russia to interfere in the 2016 election. I further concede that Captain Cook did not discover Antarctica. And yet I simply must insist that Cook’s negative proof for the supposed non-existence of Antarctica is formally analogous to JoJo’s negative proof for the supposed non-occurrence of Trump’s conspiracy with Russia to interfere in the 2016 election. The difference is that, while Antarctica was eventually discovered and has long since been known to exist, Trump’s conspiracy with Russia to interfere in the 2016 election is still being obscured by dense fog–albeit, a fog from which occasionally emerges a blood-drenched ice floe atop which a leopard seal feasts upon a penguin. Curious. No?

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