Michael Cohen is special counsel at the Trump Organization, a role in which he occasionally makes media appearances defending his boss. That’s no easy job, as Cohen demonstrated in a CNN appearance earlier this month. When asked about his boss’s awful comment that Mexicans crossing the border into the United States were “rapists,” Cohen said, “[I]t happens to be potentially and partially true.”
That was a moment of media-spin mastery compared with the comments that Cohen gave to the Daily Beast for a story that debuted last night. Under the bylines of Tim Mak and Brandy Zadrozny, the Daily Beast reported on Trump’s biographical baggage in branding others “rapists,” as he did of Mexican immigrants in his campaign kickoff speech last month. Titled, “Ex-Wife: Donald Trump Made Me Feel ‘Violated’ During Sex,” the story notes that a 1993 book — “Lost Tycoon: The Many Lives of Donald J. Trump,” by Harry Hurt III — reported a “violent assault” that occurred after a dispute between Trump and his then-wife, Ivana Trump. The real estate mogul was reportedly peeved that a doctor referred by Ivana Trump had botched his scalp reduction surgery. From the Daily Beast:
What followed was a “violent assault,” according to Lost Tycoon. Donald held back Ivana’s arms and began to pull out fistfuls of hair from her scalp, as if to mirror the pain he felt from his own operation. He tore off her clothes and unzipped his pants.
“Then he jams his penis inside her for the first time in more than sixteen months. Ivana is terrified. … It is a violent assault,” Hurt writes. “According to versions she repeats to some of her closest confidantes, ‘he raped me.’”
The proof goes beyond just a 22-year-old book. Ivana Trump testified in a divorce deposition that her husband had “raped” her. However, Trump and his lawyers presented a statement from her that was printed on the first page of “Lost Tycoon,” as noted in the Daily Beast piece:
“During a deposition given by me in connection with my matrimonial case, I stated that my husband had raped me . [O]n one occasion during 1989, Mr. Trump and I had marital relations in which he behaved very differently toward me than he had during our marriage. As a woman, I felt violated, as the love and tenderness, which he normally exhibited towards me, was absent. I referred to this as a ‘rape,’ but I do not want my words to be interpreted in a literal or criminal sense.”
All that stuff is interesting, though a bit old.
What’s fresh and scandalous, however, is the on-the-record commentary of Cohen in his chat with the Daily Beast. A few excerpts:
“I will make sure that you and I meet one day while we’re 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 that you possibly know,” Cohen said. “So I’m warning you, tread very f[——] lightly, because what I’m going to do to you is going to be f[——] disgusting. You understand me?”
“You write a story that has Mr. Trump’s name in it, with the word ‘rape,’ and I’m going to mess your life up … for as long as you’re on this frickin’ planet … you’re going to have judgments against you, so much money, you’ll never know how to get out from underneath it,” he added.
A “special counsel” goon for a real estate empire shouldn’t be expected to know a thing about media law, and apparently Cohen doesn’t. Not only is Donald Trump a massive public figure for the purposes of libel litigation — meaning he’d have a high bar to clear in court — but the Daily Beast is relying on court records and very public statements in its reporting. There’s just nothing to claim here.
As reported by CNN, Ivana Trump has issued this statement, which only enhances the Daily Beast’s work:
I have recently read some comments attributed to me from nearly 30 years ago at a time of very high tension during my divorce from Donald. The story is totally without merit. Donald and I are the best of friends and together have raised three children that we love and are very proud of. I have nothing but fondness for Donald and wish him the best of luck on his campaign. Incidentally, I think he would make an incredible president.
In defending his boss, Cohen also claimed that “you cannot rape your spouse. There’s very clear case law.” More from Cohen: “You’re talking about the front-runner for the GOP, presidential candidate, as well as a private individual who never raped anybody. And, of course, understand that by the very definition, you can’t rape your spouse.”
That’s legally untrue, thank God, and morally unthinkable.
There are more twists to this one, however. Even though Cohen has been in the media defending his boss against all manner of attacks in recent weeks, Trump has sought to distance himself from his subordinate’s comments:
“Mr. Trump did not know of [Michael Cohen’s] comments but disagrees with them.” Trump on lawyers statements to Daily Beast.
— Katy Tur (@KatyTurNBC) July 28, 2015
And a “campaign source” told CNN, “Mr. Trump speaks for Mr. Trump and nobody but Mr. Trump speaks for him.” Is that so? Then why was Cohen on CNN July 24, July 13, July 12 and July 11 — all the while talking up and defending his boss? Why was he on Fox News’s “Hannity” on July 24: “Donald Trump is the front-runner right now. He’s not a politico. He doesn’t purport to be a politico.” Why was he on Fox News’s “Hannity” on July 23: “He’s not a politico.” Why was he quoted in the National Journal? Has he been going rogue in all these instances?
Now Cohen has apologized, while still lighting up the Daily Beast:
“As an attorney, husband and father there are many injustices that offend me but nothing more than charges of rape or racism. They hit me at my core. Rarely am I surprised by the press, but the gall of this particular reporter to make such a reprehensible and false allegation against Mr. Trump truly stunned me. In my moment of shock and anger, I made an inarticulate comment — which I do not believe — and which I apologize for entirely,” Cohen said in a statement to CNN.
In vaulting to the top of the polls, Trump has traded on his outsider status. Perhaps he needs an insider or two to speak to the media. Or at least a couple of outsiders who know what they’re talking about. “I suppose their media critiques are as lousy as their legal ones,” Daily Beast Executive Editor Noah Shachtman told CNN this morning.