Donald Trump the presidential candidate said lots of things that have turned out to be rather inconvenient for Donald Trump the president. Ranking high on that list are the things Trump said pertaining to legal proceedings. And as Trump and those around him get into deeper legal crises, few have offered more damning commentary about what that means than Trump himself.
Trump's longtime personal lawyer/fixer Michael Cohen has now indicated that he intends to plead the Fifth Amendment in the civil case involving his hush-money payment to porn star Stormy Daniels, citing the fast-materializing criminal case stemming from that same payment.
And 2016 Trump would suggest that makes Cohen guilty.
“The mob takes the Fifth,” Trump said after Hillary Clinton aides invoked their right against self-incrimination. “If you’re innocent, why are you taking the Fifth Amendment?”
He added at his first debate with Clinton that pleading the Fifth is “disgraceful.”
“When you have your staff taking the Fifth Amendment, taking the Fifth so they’re not prosecuted, when you have the man that set up the illegal server taking the Fifth, I think it’s disgraceful,” he said.
Trump in June 2016 even speculated that a Clinton aide who took the Fifth might be informing on her — another comment with particularly eerie parallels for Trump today, since some have speculated Cohen could cut a deal with prosecutors and work against Trump (though Cohen has assured he'd never do such a thing).
Trump has also, of course, said that merely being under investigation is a very bad thing. Late in 2016, he suggested a criminal investigation would handcuff the next president and hurt the country. It was to be avoided at all costs.
“That will be impossible with Hillary Clinton, the prime suspect in a massive far-reaching criminal investigation,” he said. He added another time: “She will be under investigation for years, she will be with trials. Our country, we have to get back to work, right?”
Top aide Kellyanne Conway also suggested merely being under investigation meant you aren't honest.
And now-White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders once said that attacking the FBI — as Trump is now doing with regularity — suggests you're in a bad spot.
Trump has also suggested in the past, during the Bill Cosby saga, that being silent about something suggests you’re guilty. Today, Trump has said very little about Daniels and is still considering whether to talk to special counsel Robert S. Mueller III in the Russia investigation.
So what can we all infer from this? That Trump and Co. never planned to be under investigation — or that Trump's lawyer would have to plead the Fifth, of course. And also that's he's perhaps quite nervous right about now, judging by what he thinks that means.