In terms of the he said/he said controversy between President Trump and his former attorney/fixer Michael Cohen, all we have so far is the unverified statements of two people who are credibility challenged.
In the court-of-public-opinion, Cohen currently has the upper hand because the magistrates of that court – the media – have stepped down from the high bench — where they should be presiding over the case with impartiality and fairness — to join the prosecution. In doing so, they abrogate their important role as a free press and actually disserve the public interest they purport to uphold – but that is a whole ‘nother story.
After his rather light sentencing, Cohen has hit the media trail to sell his version to the #NeverTrump media, who treat his comments as if they were facts – flipping their opinion of Cohen from sleaze-bag lying lawyer to courageous patriot as he flipped from Trump defender to accuser.
According to Cohen, Trump ordered him to pay off the bimbos solely for the purpose of saving his campaign – and that Trump knew what he asked Cohen to do was illegal. Unless Cohen has a tape of Trump saying, “I know it is illegal, but the ONLY reason you have to do it is to save the campaign,” Cohen’s testimony will not be enough. Supposedly, there is corroborating testimony from the National Enquirer’s David Pecker. In that case, Pecker would have to testify or produce physical evidence that Trump – not Cohen – said, “The ONLY reason I need you to buy and bury the story is to save the campaign.”
You will notice that in both hypothetical statements, the word “only” was emphasized. That is a critical point. If the payoffs to the women are to be violations of federal elections, Trump must know that the actions are illegal, and the money must serve ONLY that one purpose. If Trump is unaware of the law – and/or the money can be seen as serving any non-campaign purposes, there is no violation.
Even if Trump told Pecker that the revelations would hurt the campaign, that is not proof that it was the only reason – just one of the reasons he shared with Pecker. Trump could have told another person that the payoffs were to avoid a family problem and not mention the campaign.
Obviously, keeping the trysts from his wife and young son – or hoping to avoid public embarrassment as a celebrity – seem like reasonable “other” purposes. Unless Trump has stated in writing or recording that saving the campaign was the ONLY reason, there is no way to refute his statement in a real court-of-law.
In a real court, credibility can play an important role when there is no hard physical evidence. Trump’s credibility is not good, to say the least. His propensity of saying things that are provably untrue is perhaps his most self-damaging personality flaw. Why he does that is a question – a mystery – that has never been adequately resolved.
While the liberal media is eager to believe Cohen – and give him an imprimatur of credibility – a Trump defense lawyer will not be so kind – or so biased. Cohen has huge credibility problems. First and foremost, he is an established liar on a grand scale. When it came to benefitting himself, Cohen committed crimes and lied, lied, lied. Is it too much to believe that now that he is between a legal rock and hard time, he would lie, lie, lie? One of the untoward aspects of these “plea deals” is that it provides strong incentive to lie. This is especially true in he said/he said situations such as this.
What gets lost in the media’s biased spin is that Cohen has been charged and confessed to a number of personal felonies that have nothing to do with Trump. They have to do with his own personal business practices – and may have involved his wife and father. In fact, it is on those points that the prosecutors have accused Cohen of not being credible and forthright, as his plea agreement required. In Cohen’s case – unlike that of Manafort – the prosecutors did not choose to break the agreement for lack of cooperation. Why? It would seem that getting Trump was more important than getting justice for those other crimes.
In his interview with George Stephanopoulos, Cohen said it was unfair that he should take the fall for Trump. A more objective view could be that he is greasing the skids for Trump to take a fall in order to get out from under the prison sentence he deserves, which would get him a good 10 to 15 years behind bars. As it is, with all the legal nuances, Cohen could serve less than six months of his three-year term.
The one thing we seem to know about Cohen is that when it comes to taking care of himself – whether enriching himself under Trump or saving himself as a neo-#NeverTrumper– he will do just about anything — from breaking the law to lying. If prosecutors are going to make the hyped-up campaign finance violations carry in court, they will need more than the verbal testimony of Michael Cohen.
So, there ‘tis.