As someone who has called for the disbarment of Michael Cohen for well over a year, the belated decision by the New York bar this week to disbar the disgraced lawyer is welcomed news. There are few ex-lawyers that you can say this about, but the removal of Cohen from the bar has materially improved the value of everyone’s license across the country.
The panel of Justices Dianne Renwick, Sallie Manzanet-Daniels, Angela Mazzarelli, Jeffery Oing, and Peter Moulton found that disbarment was warranted by Cohen’s guilty pleas to tax evasion, campaign finance law violations, and lying to Congress.
Notably, the Attorney Grievance Committee filed for disbarment back on October 3, 2018.
As a longtime critic of Cohen, I argued for Trump to sever ties with Cohen at the start of the Administration. Trump instead pushed Cohen into greater prominence and publicly embraced him as his lawyer. In the end, the only concern of Cohen is Cohen himself. When Trump promised access to wealth and power, he was his loyal hatchet man, promising to take a bullet for him. When the special counsel discovered his myriad criminal acts, Cohen became a Mueller man.
Cohen distinguished himself as a thug who threatened journalists, university students, and anyone else deemed a threat to Trump. In 2015, when Harvard Lampoon staffers played a prank on Trump by having him sit in the stolen “president’s chair” from the Harvard Crimson for a photo and an endorsement, Cohen threatened the students with ruin. He is quoted as saying: “I’m gonna come up to Harvard. You’re all gonna get expelled. If this photo gets out, you’ll be outta that school faster than you know it. I can be up there tomorrow.”
Then there was his threat against former Daily Beast reporter Tim Mak, who simply wrote about a biography by former Newsweek reporter Harry Hurt. The biography, titled “Lost Tycoon,” includes allegations in a sworn deposition from Trump’s first wife, Ivana, that Trump raped her. In a phone call recorded by Mak, Cohen told the reporter: “You’re talking about Donald Trump, you’re talking about the frontrunner for the GOP, a presidential candidate, as well as private individual, who never raped anybody and, of course, understand that by the very definition you can’t rape your spouse,” the latter, of course, being legally incorrect. Cohen declared: “Mark my words for it, I will make sure that you and I meet one day over in the courthouse and I will take you for every penny you still don’t have, and I will come after your Daily Beast and everybody else.”
None of these acts seemed to prompt bar action in New York though the action in October was not widely known. It was only after his criminal plea that he was finally and thankfully disbarred.
I will listen to the testimony of Cohen today, though with a considerable level of skepticism. It is not a matter of credibility. Cohen has none. The issue is whether Cohen can support allegations with hard documents and evidence. Otherwise, the testimony will be a useless as Cohen’s word. The one improvement however is that Cohen will not continue to disgrace and degrade the legal profession. He has that distinction with Trump’s other lawyer, Roy Cohn who was also disbarred.
In the end, the White House attacks on Cohen come at a cost. As bad as Cohen was, he was the President’s choice as counsel both before and after the election. Moreover, even a serial liar and crook can do damage in a hearing when he was once your serial liar and crook.