We knew that Michael Cohen had implicated President Trump in a felony. But on Wednesday, Cohen took things much, much further than that.
Before he was handed a sentence of three years in prison, Trump’s former personal attorney gave a statement in which he described not just a president who was involved in the commission of a crime but one almost completely without a moral compass. Cohen compared working for Trump to “incarceration” and suggested it involved constantly covering up Trump’s “dirty deeds.”
“Recently, the president tweeted a statement calling me weak,” Cohen said, according to CNN’s Shimon Prokupecz. “And it was correct, but for a much different reason than he was implying. It was because time and time again I felt it was my duty to cover up his dirty deeds.”
Cohen invoked Trump repeatedly, including by name. He described his personal weakness as “blind loyalty to Donald Trump.”
Despite facing years in prison, Cohen said the sentencing represented his liberation, because he was rid of Trump.
“Today is the day that I am getting my freedom back,” he said, according to Adam Klasfeld of Courthouse News. “I have been living in a personal and mental incarceration ever since the day that I accepted the offer to work for a real estate mogul whose business acumen ... I deeply admired.”
The fact that Cohen went down this road isn’t completely surprising. He rather publicly expressed a desire to atone for his misdeeds after initially pleading guilty to eight counts, including an illegal hush-money payment he and federal prosecutors in New York now say was directed by Trump (and that Trump himself covered up). It’s also undoubtedly a good strategy to suggest you were personally corrupted by someone else — rather than admitting you were a rotten person to begin with.
But Cohen seemed to go above and beyond in attacking Trump. And so did his attorney, Guy Petrillo, who said Cohen “had the misfortune to be counsel to the president” and seemed to make a glancing reference to Trump’s failed business ventures.
Cohen spokesman Lanny Davis also said Cohen would keep speaking out against the president, even though his sentencing is complete.
The question is whether the speech was bluster or suggestive of something to come. Cohen suggested he covered up “dirty deeds” almost routinely, which makes you wonder what else he might have told special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s team about such deeds.
The Southern District of New York prosecutors didn’t appear particularly thrilled with his cooperation, it bears noting, but Mueller’s team has said Cohen was a helpful witness. Just two weeks ago, Cohen pleaded guilty in Mueller’s probe to lying about his pursuit of a Trump Tower in Moscow during the 2016 presidential primaries. The fact that Mueller sought a plea about that specific event — and not all the others Cohen has apparently lied about — suggests it was an event of substance in the collusion investigation and could be a focal point going forward.
Was the “dirty deed” just lying to cover up Trump’s ongoing pursuit of the project? Or could there be something more? We don’t know, but Mueller probably does.