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Opinion What Michael Cohen’s lawyer is really saying

Attorney Lanny Davis in his office in 2013. (Dayna Smith for The Post)

The Post reports on President Trump’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen’s possible value to prosecutors:

Cohen’s attorney, Lanny Davis, suggested on television — and in an interview with The Washington Post late Tuesday — that Cohen had knowledge “of interest” to special counsel Robert S. Mueller III and that his client was “more than happy to tell the special counsel all that he knows.”
Davis said Cohen’s knowledge reached beyond “the obvious possibility of a conspiracy to collude” and included information on whether Trump participated in a “criminal conspiracy” to hack into the emails of Democratic officials during the 2016 election.

A conspiracy to collude might entail before and/or after the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting. It might entail prior knowledge or knowledge after the fact about the Russian hacking of the Democratic National Committee. (“On ‘The Rachel Maddow Show,’ Davis, a veteran of the Clinton White House, said his client had ‘knowledge about the computer crime of hacking and whether or not Mr. Trump knew ahead of time about that crime and even cheered it on.’ It was already clear, Davis said, that Trump ‘publicly cheered it on’ — an apparent reference to then-candidate Trump’s appeal to Russia in July 2016 to ‘find the 30,000 emails that are missing.’ The question that Trump’s former attorney might be able to answer, Davis said, is ‘did he also have private information?'”) The answer might well be “No, he didn’t,” but at this point no one — other than Cohen and his attorneys — knows what Cohen knows for certain. The possibility, however, that Cohen can corroborate Trump’s involvement before or after criminal wrongdoing (accessory after the fact, by the way, is a crime) raises the possibility that he will provide evidence of Trump’s conspiracy to use Russian help to win the election.

On CNN and on NBC News on Wednesday morning, Davis added these tidbits:

1. Cohen will testify without any grant of immunity (suggesting there is a cooperation deal in place that would preclude bringing new charges against him if he cooperates).
2. He is willing to talk to Congress.
3. He won’t accept a pardon.

This is consistent with what an adviser close to Cohen told me Tuesday night: that this is in effect Cohen’s John Dean moment, a new chapter in his life in which he gets to rewrite his legacy. Right now he’s a confessed criminal who has brought financial ruin and psychological anguish to his family. However, he has the opportunity, as Dean did, to go down as a hero who helped undo a corrupt president. For Cohen’s own psychological (and financial, I would add) well-being, the adviser to Cohen explained, it now has to be the end of Cohen as Trump’s “fixer” and the beginning of Cohen as the would-be hero of a new morality tale.

Trump's claim that the Mueller investigation is a 'witch hunt' just got the wind knocked out of it. (Video: Adriana Usero, Kate Woodsome/The Washington Post)

Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III already has Jared Kushner, Donald Trump Jr. and Paul Manafort in the room with the Kremlin-linked lawyer promising to deliver dirt on Hillary Clinton. If their appearance at the meeting signaled to Russians that the campaign would be receptive to help, they have two legal problems: seeking to procure something of value from a foreign national (a campaign finance violation) and an affirmative step that furthers the scheme to interfere in the election. Anything Cohen can tell prosecutors about Trump’s knowledge of the meeting would be useful in justifying both a conspiracy charge and an obstruction charge (i.e. Trump concocting a story about the meeting which he knew to be false).

Republicans should put away the spin, stop listening to Rudy Giuliani (who is both incompetent and a repository of numerous misleading or downright false statements) and think clearly: Are they unwilling to open an investigation into possible criminal wrongdoing by the president in light of Cohen’s plea and facts already known, or will they face the voters insisting that they have no obligation to investigate a president directly implicated in commission of a crime?