Recent Posts by Carol Felsenthal

Not this year: The Clintons cancel their annual gala for world leaders

 For more than a decade, Bill Clinton’s Clinton Global Initiative—his annual meeting/gala/fundraiser–has been staged to coincide with the UN General Assembly meeting in New York.

Not this year.

CGI has other events listed on its website, but not the main event that attracted the biggest names in the world–prime ministers, presidents, secretaries of state, CEOs movie stars, etc.

That was the genius of staging CGI during the UN meeting. People of huge international stature were gathered in New York. The top contributors were, by custom, summoned to the stage for a hug from Bill. Hillary was almost always there, and, of course, Chelsea.

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Quietly Ditched, at least for 2017

It occurred to me a couple of days ago that I haven’t heard any of the usual promotion and media buzz about CGI 2017. It might have been scrapped on purpose because of the sense of certainty in the Clinton camp, in the media, and almost everywhere else, that Hillary would win.

If she were POTUS and Bill were First Gentleman, then it would, by any standard, seem inappropriate. We should probably expect that it’ll reappear during the UN General Assembly meeting in September 2018.

Here’s the CGI meetings link for 2016 which suddenly feels so out of date (link here)

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Will the CGI Gala Resume in 2018?

 I, for one, hope it does, because, as usual with the Clintons, the suspicions and allegations of impropriety overtake the fact that CGI does much good work.

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Carol Felsenthal is much-published author. She has written extensively about CGI in her book on Bill: Clinton in Exile: a President Out of the White House

Besides a long list of magazine credits, she has written a number of acclaimed biographies:

  • Citizen Newhouse: Portrait of a Media Merchant,
  • Power, Privilege, and the Post: The Katharine Graham Story,
  • Princess Alice: The Life and Times of Alice Roosevelt Longworth, and

She is also a contributing writer for Chicago Magazine and the political blogger for their website, Chicagomag.com.

She has taught biographical writing at the University of Chicago and written profiles of everyone from Ann Landers to Michelle Obama.

UPDATE on Michael Cohen, Trump’s Hatchet Man

UPDATE:

Michael Cohen, a lawyer close to the Trump Organization, was the subject of an in-depth post this summer.

It’s time for an update since Cohen’s name just surfaced in newly-released emails about a potential Trump Tower project in Moscow.

The project was not pursued beyond preliminary discussions and was not built.

This post covers the latest news, followed by the profile of Cohen.

What’s New in the Story about Michael Cohen, Trump, and Moscow?

As Trump, in late 2015,  revved up to run for President, his personal attorney, Michael Cohen, and an associate, Russian immigrant/American businessman Felix Sater,  worked to get a Trump Tower built in Moscow.  They failed, but the lines from an email Sater sent Cohen are the stuff of David Mamet. “Our boy can become president of the USA and we can engineer it.”   Or, “I will get Putin on this program and we will get Donald elected.”

Cohen later followed up, sort of,  by attempting to re-rev up the flagging deal,  writing to Trump’s spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov,  using a general email inbox because he didn’t have Peskov’s address.  Nothing came of the project—In a statement released on Monday, Cohen said that Sater was given to “salesmanship”—but Cohen comes off looking like a clueless, contactless rube.  Nonetheless,  it has dropped the Russia collusion story back in the headlines just as Trump is trying to make headlines about his no-one-has-ever-done-it-better performance as the Harvey-Houston-hurricane consoler in chief.

The killer line in the New York Times story (link here) is Sater admitting what he really wanted out of the attempt to put a gleaming Trump Tower in midtown Moscow—“the home run,” in Sater’s words— to be appointed ambassador to the Bahamas. (That makes him no different from rich people—all those Obama bundlers, for example—who buy their glamorous (no war zones or poverty that can’t be hidden) ambassadorships.

I spent many hours earlier this year researching Cohen whose biography is so zany, so colorful that it would make a wonderful novel or screenplay; only problem being that an editor would say, “You can’t use that plot line,  that anecdote, that incident; no one would believe it.”

Here’s my look at Cohen who remains in the clutches of the House and Senate Intelligence committees, which, last May, subpoenaed  his “information and testimony.”

The Bully’s Bully

Roy Cohn? Tom Hagen?

 Michael Cohen made headlines big time, as his boss, Donald Trump, might say, when he was falsely accused in the infamous “dossier,” complied by a former British spy who was paid by Trump’s opponents. Major media outlets reported tales of Cohen, then Trump’s special counsel and executive VP of the Trump Organization, meeting in August, 2016 in Prague with Kremlin representatives to deliver a peace plan for Ukraine that would somehow allow the Trump administration to ease sanctions against Russia.

The story, reported widely in major media outlets, was totally discredited, on many fronts, one of which was Cohen showing that he was in Los Angeles on those dates visiting colleges with his son. Cohen tweeted a photograph of his passport with the hashtag #fakenews and wrote that never in his whole life had he ever been to Prague.

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Some Background

 Cohen, 50, occupied the office beside Donald Trump on the 26th floor of Manhattan’s Trump Tower. Nicknamed Trump’s “pit bull,” he has served as the Donald’s lawyer, top enforcer, and the concocter of the most absurd, outlandish arguments in defense of his boss.

He is, in some ways, the reincarnated Roy Cohn; the disgraced lawyer/bully, who was once chief counsel to Joe McCarthy and later represented the young Donald Trump. (Cohn died of AIDS in 1986, abandoned at the end by the germophobe Trump who had once considered Cohn his closest personal and legal advisor and his “greatest” friend.)

During the campaign, any complaints from political opponents were met with the response that Michael Cohen had nothing to do with the campaign. “I’m not part of the campaign,” Cohen said to every cable host who would have him, and they all had him because he was correctly perceived to be thisclose to Trump.  Politico, last summer, quoted a “Trump insider” as describing Cohen as “….in the room for everything …without exception.”

He left the Trump Organization last January but continues as the President’s personal attorney based in New York.

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From Backstage to Center Stage

 In the last few days, he has taken center stage as the House Intelligence Committee– part of its investigation in alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election–subpoenaed Cohen’s testimony, personal documents and business records. After first saying he would not cooperate, Cohen changed his mind, texting a New York Times reporter, “To date, there has not been a single witness, document or piece of evidence linking me to this fake Russian conspiracy. This is not surprising to me because there is none!” (The NYT story is here.)

A kind of all-purpose consigliere—reporters like to compare him to Tom Hagen, Vito Corleone’s adviser in “The Godfather”–Cohen has been taking on Trump’s enemies since 2006. That was the year he gave up his partnership in a personal injury law firm that had represented Trump and joined the Trump Organization.

During the campaign, he remained Trump’s most reliable surrogate in sparring with cable hosts—CNN’s Chris Cuomo, in particular, couldn’t seem to get enough of Cohen.

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Putting Out Fires, Lots of Them

He does not kill them with kindness

 Last summer, when a reporter described a charge of rape that Trump’s first wife and the mother of three of his children lodged against him in 1993, Cohen hit back hard and mean, threatening a Daily Beast writer with not only a $500 million lawsuit, but also: “… Tread very fucking lightly, because what I’m going to do to you is going to be fucking disgusting….And, of course, understand that by the very definition, you can’t rape your spouse….. And there’s very clear case law.” (In fact, all 50 states have laws that consider nonconsensual sex with a spouse to constitute rape. Cohen later apologized.)

Again, complaints were answered with the convenient disclaimer that Cohen is Trump’s business, not political, counsel.

In reality, Cohen had been up to the knot in his Hermes tie with Trump’s frequent flirtations with running for office.

Cohen relished recalling highlights of past fledging, exploratory campaigns. In 2012, for instance, when he led a “draft Trump” movement, did advance work for Trump, scoped out New Hampshire and Iowa, and created a “Should Trump Run?” website. “I already mapped out everything that has to be done to be an effective candidate,” he boasted, “and what we’d have to do to get on the ballot on all 50 states.” When Trump threatened to mount a third-party run in 2012 to “make American great again,” Cohen, described as Trump’s “counsel and spokesman,” was at the boss’s side.

This cycle, Cohen created the “National Diversity Coalition” to boost Trump’s numbers with minorities. He described the group of mostly African-American pastors as his “vision” and boasted to Chris Cuomo: “We have an enormous amount of African-Americans, Hispanics. He won in New York amongst Hispanics, male and female in New York. This notion that let’s keep knocking Donald Trump. He’s a racist. He’s misogynist. He’s sexist. None of them are true.”

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Tackling Trump’s Critics Head On

 If Trump seems intemperate in confronting his critics, Cohen is, figuratively speaking, foaming at the mouth.

In 2011 Cohen told ABC News, “If somebody does something Mr. Trump doesn’t like, I do everything in my power to resolve it to Mr. Trump’s benefit…..If you do something wrong, I’m going to come at you, grab you by the neck, and I’m not going to let you go until I’m finished.” In 2013, when New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman filed a fraud suit against Trump University, Cohen responded: “The damage to the attorney general is going to be very significant,” he told The New Yorker. “So significant that he will possibly have to resign.” Earlier this month, Cohen told CNN’s Erin Burnett that “Trump University had a 98 percent approval rating…..Why don’t you ask [about]…. the 14-year-old boy who went with his mom and ended up making a million dollars?”

The Daily Mail described Cohen more recently as he “gleefully reminisced about ruining the reputation of former Miss Pennsylvania Sheena Monnin after she suggested Miss USA had been rigged.”

During the campaign, the artist who drew a nude portrait of Trump sporting a tiny penis—relevant only because of the loony Rubio/Trump exchange over hand/penis size—was threatened by Cohen with a law suit. Same for the New York Times, after it ran last month’s story on Trump’s treatment of women.  (Cohen later said he’d settle for a retraction and an apology; he got neither.) Before RNC head Reince Priebus accepted that the GOP was stuck with Trump as its party’s nominee, Cohen blasted Priebus for doing a “terrible” job and meekly implementing the establishment’s plan to prevent his boss from becoming the nominee. Either Trump gets treated fairly,” Cohen blustered, or “this will be a very, very bad thing for the Republican Party….. Woe be on them.”

In June 2016, Trump tweeted an image of Hillary Clinton with the concocted message that she had “murdered an ambassador,” referring to American ambassador Christopher Stevens slaughtered in a 2012 attack on a diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya.  (The Washington Post headlined the story as “Trump Lawyer Tweets Image Saying Hillary Clinton ‘Murdered’ Ambassador“)

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Fiercely Loyal to “The Patriarch”

 Like Trump—always “Mr. Trump” to Cohen—the American University-educated (college and law school) Cohen will say anything to boost the boss–“an entrepreneur extraordinaire,…insanely bright,” Cohen told CNN’s Jake Tapper. The “best [negotiator] in the history of this world,” Cohen told Chris Cuomo. In January 2013, when CNN reported that Trump was considering buying the New York Times. Cohen weighed in: “Mr. Trump is so smart and so rich that if he wants it, he will get it. ….There is nothing he can’t buy.” (One could argue that Cohen, in making this boast, had the presidency in mind as well.)

For those close to him, Cohen told The Jewish Chronicle’s Sandy Rashty, Mr. Trump” is “… more than our boss. He is our patriarch.”

Cohen was at the ready during this campaign with public defenses of anything Trump might say or do. The boss’s wild gesticulation as he mimicked New York Times reporter Serge Kovalski’s physical disability: “Mr. Trump donates millions and millions of dollars, each and every year in order to combat disabilities.”

Trump’s evidence-free claim that thousands of Muslims celebrated in Jersey City on 9/11 when the Twin Towers came down:  “I can tell you that Mr. Trump’s memory is fantastic, and I’ve never [witnessed] a situation where Mr. Trump has said something that is not accurate.” To bolster Trump’s charge, during an exchange with Jake Tapper, Cohen added that he has heard that the cheers were coming not only from Jersey City, but also from Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn.

Oh, and Trump’s comments about Mexicans—rapists, drug dealers, etc.—his boss “never made any derogatory or disparaging remarks about Mexican immigrants.”

Not only that, he “has a great relationship with Latinos.”

If elected president, Trump, would “go down in history as the Great Unifier,” Cohen told The Jewish Chronicle’s Sandy Rashty,

Another candidate for his party’s nomination might fire an underling who made, for example, the rape remark. Cohen kept his job. In 2011 The Forward’s Josh Nathan-Kazis quoted Cohen as explaining Trump’s indecision about running for president and his shifting views on abortion: “People change their positions all the time, the way they change their wives.”

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Michael Cohen at Home

 Cohen, married and the father of two—see below–is the son of a Holocaust survivor. Raised on Long Island and educated in a Yeshiva there, he calls himself an “agnostic Jew.”

Last month, he tweeted to his 218,000 twitter followers a photo of his “Ivy League” daughter Samantha wearing black stockings and a lacy bra. “So proud…brains and beauty…”

“Jealous?” Cohen responded when one twitter user suggested that the photo was pornographic. (The Washington Post report on that incident is here.)

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Like Trump, A Democrat for Many Years

 Like two of Trump’s children, Cohen was a registered democrat and so couldn’t vote for the boss in New York’s GOP primary. (He registered as a republican last March and joined the RNC’s finance leadership team.)

His democratic roots run deep—once an intern for Massachusetts democratic Rep. Joe Moakley, he also volunteered for Michael Dukakis’s presidential run in 1988, and voted for Obama in 2008. He now calls that vote a mistake, explaining, in true Trumpian terms, that he quickly grew disillusioned. Under Obama, he told ABC News, America has become a “third-world nation.”

Cohen has himself given a whirl to elective politics. In 2003 he ran for a New York City Council seat, losing badly to Success Academy founder/charter school maven Eva Moskovitz. In 2009, he lasted only a few weeks in a run for a New York state senate seat.

Cohen owns several apartments in Trump buildings and mixes with, in Cohen’s words in an ABC interview, “super high net worth people.” He favors Dolce & Gabbana suits and, as mentioned, Hermes ties. (Apparently the loyalty to Trump goes far, but not so far as to wear Trump’s made-in-China ties.)

After severing ties with Trump’s company, Cohen, in typically hyperbolic terms, told the Washington Post, “This is a very unusual president, because there’s never been a president of the United States worth $10 billion, with 600 or 700 corporations that have national and international relations.”

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Cohen’s Loyalty to Trump Runs Deep, and His Role Should Continue to Grow

 As Cohen’s behavior becomes more outlandish—why mention Trump’s hundreds of business ties when he has promised to leave them in the hands of his sons?– his stature in Trump world will likely continue to grow.

Should be both entertaining and alarming to watch.

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Carol Felsenthal is much-published author. Besides a long list of magazine credits, she has written a number of acclaimed biographies:

  • Citizen Newhouse: Portrait of a Media Merchant,
  • Power, Privilege, and the Post: The Katharine Graham Story,
  • Princess Alice: The Life and Times of Alice Roosevelt Longworth, and
  • Clinton in Exile: A President Out of the White House, a look at Bill Clinton’s post presidency

She is also a contributing writer for Chicago Magazine and the political blogger for their website, Chicagomag.com.

She has taught biographical writing at the University of Chicago and written profiles of everyone from Ann Landers to Michelle Obama.

Will Trump Ax Mueller?

 My Hunch: Yes, he will. And the ramifications will be huge

I’m betting Trump orders Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to ax special counsel Bob Mueller.

Trump’s reason—not that he needs one—will be the friendship between Mueller and Trump’s fired FBI chief, Jim Comey.

Trump could get that ball rolling, but then, I predict, shortly after the 2018 midterms, we’ll be calling Mike Pence, “Mr. President.”

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An Impossible Triangle?

 

◆ MY ADVICE:

If I were advising Trump, which would be about as likely as my advising Rahm Emanuel, I’d tell him, “Stick with the special counsel you’re stuck with.”

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Does Mueller Have a Conflict of Interest?

Trump’s Allies Now Say “Yes”

◆ MY ADVICE: 

Give up this charge that the friendship between Mueller and Comey represents a “conflict of interest,” especially given that one of your closest cronies (think Newt Gingrich] couldn’t praise Mueller, a 12-year veteran of the top FBI job under both W. Bush and Obama, enough when Rod Rosenstein made the appointment last month. (See The Hill’s article on Trump allies attacking the Mueller-Comey relationship (link here).)

That high praise was bestowed, of course, before leaks seemed to reveal that Mueller’s probe had morphed from Russian collusion to, reportedly, investigating Trump personally for obstruction of justice over his allegedly pressuring Comey to drop an investigation into former National Security Adviser Mike Flynn.  Not only that, but rumors are also swirling that Mueller is looking at Trump’s financial dealings and those of his son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

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“Bobby Three Sticks” and His Friend

Mueller will not destroy his distinguished career and reputation, even for a friend

 Robert S. Mueller III (“”Bobby Three Sticks” to his friends) is close to heading home at the close of a distinguished career.

Among other honors, Mueller, 72,  is a decorated Marine for service in Vietnam.

Mueller is not going to allow a personal friendship with Trump’s (and Hillary’s) enemy #1, Jim Comey, to sully his reputation.

One could argue that the fact that Mueller and Comey are friends will make Mueller more careful about charging Trump with obstruction of justice, etc. in the absence of a rock-solid case.

One could also argue that Mueller should have declined the appointment.   The Hill this morning quotes a “Justice Department statute that says recusal is necessary when there is the `appearance’ of a `personal’ conflict of interest.”

Looking for a way this afternoon to postpone the pain of transcribing an interview tape from last week, I started to search narrowly whether Mueller had ever expressed his affection for Comey.

It took a matter of seconds to find this quote from Mueller in a Washington Post story dated August 23, 2013. (link here). The context is Mueller reflecting on the bittersweetness of leaving the FBI and turning over the job to Comey.  Mueller called Comey a “`good friend,’  an `excellent choice’ and a `superb prosecutor.’”

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Does Anyone on Team Trump Do a Google Search?

 Mueller’s affection for Comey should have been no surprise to anyone who follows Washington politics.  Yet Gingrich tweeted that Mueller was “a superb choice…His reputation is impeccable for honesty and integrity. Media should now calm down.”

Did anyone on Trump’s press team research the relationship?

In 2004, the two men—Mueller then FBI chief and Comey deputy attorney general– survived the kind of experience—a civilian version of combat–that cements friendships.

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“To Be, or Not To Be . . . FBI Director”

Comey, who I think would have been better suited for a career on the stage than in law enforcement–ran up the stairs of the George Washington University Medical Center, to prevent George W. Bush’s attorney general, John Ashcroft, incapacitated after emergency surgery, from signing a reauthorization of a surveillance program.  Mueller, also on the scene, backed Comey, then serving as acting attorney general in the wake of Ashcroft’s surgery, in calling the program illegal.

More important, Mueller assisted Comey in getting to Ashcroft’s bedside by ordering Ashcroft’s FBI agents to let Comey through.  The two men, working together, thus succeeded in preventing Ashcroft from signing a document, thrust before him by W’s White House counsel, Alberto Gonzales, and his chief of staff, Andrew H. Card Jr., that would have reauthorized a program of warrantless domestic eavesdropping.

Comey, showing once more his flair for the dramatic,” called the scene “an apocalyptic situation…” (Washington Post)

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◆ MY FINAL ADVICE: 

Again, if I were advising Trump, I’d tell him to keep his head down, his mouth shut and get on with the business of leading the country, so voters will care if Trump is forced from office because of  what he has described, via tweet, of course, as a “WITCH HUNT.”

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Carol Felsenthal is much-published author. Besides a long list of magazine credits, she has written a number of acclaimed biographies:

  • Citizen Newhouse: Portrait of a Media Merchant,
  • Power, Privilege, and the Post: The Katharine Graham Story,
  • Princess Alice: The Life and Times of Alice Roosevelt Longworth, and
  • Clinton in Exile: A President Out of the White House, a look at Bill Clinton’s post presidency

She is also a contributing writer for Chicago Magazine and the political blogger for their website, Chicagomag.com.

She has taught biographical writing at the University of Chicago and written profiles of everyone from Ann Landers to Michelle Obama.

James Clapper: The Voice of Wisdom? Not so much

 I’ve been amused by the reverent tone with which Barack Obama’s Director of National Intelligence James Clapper is received these days.

He is now hailed as the voice of wisdom and reason.

That wasn’t always the case. Say, six months ago.

Clapper is on my mind especially today as his successor, Dan Coats, testifies before the Senate Intelligence Committee.  

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Clapper: Now Bashing Trump Abroad

In the meantime comes news that  Clapper is bashing Trump in a speech to the National Press Club in Canberra, Australia.

The allegations, as reported by the Australian Broadcasting Company, are very serious, all the more so because Clapper had access to all US intelligence until the Obama Administration left office in late January.

Donald Trump’s alleged Russia links will dwarf Watergate scandal, says James Clapper (ABC-Australia)

Mr Clapper said he was bewildered the President was not more hostile to the Russian regime.

“I’ve had a real hard time reconciling the threat the Russians pose to the United States and, by extension, Western democracies in general, with inexplicably so solicitous stance the Trump administration, or others in it, has taken with respect to Russia,” he said.

Mr Clapper’s speech came just days ahead of a highly anticipated Senate committee hearing with sacked FBI director James Comey. –ABC-Australia

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My Less-than-Worshipful Sketch of Clapper in Power

I wrote about Clapper in less worshipful terms for The Hill back in 2013 when he was stuck with the image of being somewhat bumbling, clueless and even disingenuous.
Here’s the heart of that piece (link here). It’s worth remembering, now that Clapper is making charges again.

Strike one: Seeming clueless, during an interview with ABC News’s Diane Sawyer, that 12 men who allegedly had been planning a terrorist attack were arrested in London.

Strike two: As Hosni Mubarak was falling in Egypt, describing the country’s Muslim Brotherhood as “largely secular.”

Strike three: In March 2011, testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee, that the biggest threats to America are Russia and China. Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) begged to differ, suggesting that Iran and North Korea are bigger threats.

For those who think that it’s time for Clapper to go, he should get some points on the latter. In June 2013, given the horror of the ongoing war in Syria, a pretty good case could be made that Clapper was right — at the very least in singling out Russia as a festering problem for the U.S.

–Carol Felsenthal, in The Hill

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Carol Felsenthal is much-published author. Besides a long list of magazine credits, she has written a number of acclaimed biographies:

  • Citizen Newhouse: Portrait of a Media Merchant,
  • Power, Privilege, and the Post: The Katharine Graham Story,
  • Princess Alice: The Life and Times of Alice Roosevelt Longworth, and
  • Clinton in Exile: A President Out of the White House, a look at Bill Clinton’s post presidency

She is also a contributing writer for Chicago Magazine and the political blogger for their website, Chicagomag.com.

She has taught biographical writing at the University of Chicago and written profiles of everyone from Ann Landers to Michelle Obama.

Trump’s Hatchet Man, Michael Cohen

The Bully’s Bully

Roy Cohn? Tom Hagen?

 Michael Cohen made headlines big time, as his boss, Donald Trump, might say, when he was falsely accused in the infamous “dossier,” complied by a former British spy who was paid by Trump’s opponents. Major media outlets reported tales of Cohen, then Trump’s special counsel and executive VP of the Trump Organization, meeting in August, 2016 in Prague with Kremlin representatives to deliver a peace plan for Ukraine that would somehow allow the Trump administration to ease sanctions against Russia.

The story, reported widely in major media outlets, was totally discredited, on many fronts, one of which was Cohen showing that he was in Los Angeles on those dates visiting colleges with his son. Cohen tweeted a photograph of his passport with the hashtag #fakenews and wrote that never in his whole life had he ever been to Prague.

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Some Background

 Cohen, 50, occupied the office beside Donald Trump on the 26th floor of Manhattan’s Trump Tower. Nicknamed Trump’s “pit bull,” he has served as the Donald’s lawyer, top enforcer, and the concocter of the most absurd, outlandish arguments in defense of his boss.

He is, in some ways, the reincarnated Roy Cohn; the disgraced lawyer/bully, who was once chief counsel to Joe McCarthy and later represented the young Donald Trump. (Cohn died of AIDS in 1986, abandoned at the end by the germophobe Trump who had once considered Cohn his closest personal and legal advisor and his “greatest” friend.)

During the campaign, any complaints from political opponents were met with the response that Michael Cohen had nothing to do with the campaign. “I’m not part of the campaign,” Cohen said to every cable host who would have him, and they all had him because he was correctly perceived to be thisclose to Trump.  Politico, last summer, quoted a “Trump insider” as describing Cohen as “….in the room for everything …without exception.”

He left the Trump Organization last January but continues as the President’s personal attorney based in New York.

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From Backstage to Center Stage

 In the last few days, he has taken center stage as the House Intelligence Committee– part of its investigation in alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election–subpoenaed Cohen’s testimony, personal documents and business records. After first saying he would not cooperate, Cohen changed his mind, texting a New York Times reporter, “To date, there has not been a single witness, document or piece of evidence linking me to this fake Russian conspiracy. This is not surprising to me because there is none!” (The NYT story is here.)

A kind of all-purpose consigliere—reporters like to compare him to Tom Hagen, Vito Corleone’s adviser in “The Godfather”–Cohen has been taking on Trump’s enemies since 2006. That was the year he gave up his partnership in a personal injury law firm that had represented Trump and joined the Trump Organization.

During the campaign, he remained Trump’s most reliable surrogate in sparring with cable hosts—CNN’s Chris Cuomo, in particular, couldn’t seem to get enough of Cohen.

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Putting Out Fires, Lots of Them

He does not kill them with kindness

 Last summer, when a reporter described a charge of rape that Trump’s first wife and the mother of three of his children lodged against him in 1993, Cohen hit back hard and mean, threatening a Daily Beast writer with not only a $500 million lawsuit, but also: “… Tread very fucking lightly, because what I’m going to do to you is going to be fucking disgusting….And, of course, understand that by the very definition, you can’t rape your spouse….. And there’s very clear case law.” (In fact, all 50 states have laws that consider nonconsensual sex with a spouse to constitute rape. Cohen later apologized.)

Again, complaints were answered with the convenient disclaimer that Cohen is Trump’s business, not political, counsel.

In reality, Cohen had been up to the knot in his Hermes tie with Trump’s frequent flirtations with running for office.

Cohen relished recalling highlights of past fledging, exploratory campaigns. In 2012, for instance, when he led a “draft Trump” movement, did advance work for Trump, scoped out New Hampshire and Iowa, and created a “Should Trump Run?” website. “I already mapped out everything that has to be done to be an effective candidate,” he boasted, “and what we’d have to do to get on the ballot on all 50 states.” When Trump threatened to mount a third-party run in 2012 to “make American great again,” Cohen, described as Trump’s “counsel and spokesman,” was at the boss’s side.

This cycle, Cohen created the “National Diversity Coalition” to boost Trump’s numbers with minorities. He described the group of mostly African American pastors as his “vision” and boasted to Chris Cuomo: “We have an enormous amount of African-Americans, Hispanics. He won in New York amongst Hispanics, male and female in New York. This notion that let’s keep knocking Donald Trump. He’s a racist. He’s misogynist. He’s sexist. None of them are true.”

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Tackling Trump’s Critics Head On

 If Trump seems intemperate in confronting his critics, Cohen is, figuratively speaking, foaming at the mouth.

In 2011 Cohen told ABC News, “If somebody does something Mr. Trump doesn’t like, I do everything in my power to resolve it to Mr. Trump’s benefit…..If you do something wrong, I’m going to come at you, grab you by the neck, and I’m not going to let you go until I’m finished.” In 2013, when New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman filed a fraud suit against Trump University, Cohen responded: “The damage to the attorney general is going to be very significant,” he told The New Yorker. “So significant that he will possibly have to resign.” Earlier this month, Cohen told CNN’s Erin Burnett that “Trump University had a 98 percent approval rating…..Why don’t you ask [about]…. the 14-year-old boy who went with his mom and ended up making a million dollars?”

The Daily Mail described Cohen more recently as he “gleefully reminisced about ruining the reputation of former Miss Pennsylvania Sheena Monnin after she suggested Miss USA had been rigged.”

During the campaign, the artist who drew a nude portrait of Trump sporting a tiny penis—relevant only because of the loony Rubio/Trump exchange over hand/penis size—was threatened by Cohen with a law suit. Same for the New York Times, after it ran last month’s story on Trump’s treatment of women.  (Cohen later said he’d settle for a retraction and an apology; he got neither.) Before RNC head Reince Priebus accepted that the GOP was stuck with Trump as its party’s nominee, Cohen blasted Priebus for doing a “terrible” job and meekly implementing the establishment’s plan to prevent his boss from becoming the nominee. Either Trump gets treated fairly,” Cohen blustered, or “this will be a very, very bad thing for the Republican Party….. Woe be on them.”

In June 2016, Trump tweeted an image of Hillary Clinton with the concocted message that she had “murdered an ambassador,” referring to American ambassador Christopher Stevens slaughtered in a 2012 attack on a diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya.  (The Washington Post headlined the story as “Trump Lawyer Tweets Image Saying Hillary Clinton ‘Murdered’ Ambassador“)

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Fiercely Loyal to “The Patriarch”

 Like Trump—always “Mr. Trump” to Cohen—the American University-educated (college and law school) Cohen will say anything to boost the boss–“an entrepreneur extraordinaire,…insanely bright,” Cohen told CNN’s Jake Tapper. The “best [negotiator] in the history of this world,” Cohen told Chris Cuomo. In January 2013, when CNN reported that Trump was considering buying the New York Times. Cohen weighed in: “Mr. Trump is so smart and so rich that if he wants it, he will get it. ….There is nothing he can’t buy.” (One could argue that Cohen, in making this boast, had the presidency in mind as well.)

For those close to him, Cohen told The Jewish Chronicle’s Sandy Rashty, Mr. Trump” is “… more than our boss. He is our patriarch.”

Cohen was at the ready during this campaign with public defenses of anything Trump might say or do. The boss’s wild gesticulation as he mimicked New York Times reporter Serge Kovalski’s physical disability: “Mr. Trump donates millions and millions of dollars, each and every year in order to combat disabilities.”

Trump’s evidence-free claim that thousands of Muslims celebrated in Jersey City on 9/11 when the Twin Towers came down:  “I can tell you that Mr. Trump’s memory is fantastic, and I’ve never [witnessed] a situation where Mr. Trump has said something that is not accurate.” To bolster Trump’s charge, during an exchange with Jake Tapper, Cohen added that he has heard that the cheers were coming not only from Jersey City, but also from Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn.

Oh, and Trump’s comments about Mexicans—rapists, drug dealers, etc.—his boss “never made any derogatory or disparaging remarks about Mexican immigrants.”

Not only that, he “has a great relationship with Latinos.”

If elected president, Trump, would “go down in history as the Great Unifier,” Cohen told The Jewish Chronicle’s Sandy Rashty,

Another candidate for his party’s nomination might fire an underling who made, for example, the rape remark. Cohen kept his job. In 2011 The Forward’s Josh Nathan-Kazis quoted Cohen as explaining Trump’s indecision about running for president and his shifting views on abortion: “People change their positions all the time, the way they change their wives.”

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Michael Cohen at Home

 Cohen, married and the father of two—see below–is the son of a Holocaust survivor. Raised on Long Island and educated in a Yeshiva there, he calls himself an “agnostic Jew.”

Last month, he tweeted to his 218,000 twitter followers a photo of his “Ivy League” daughter Samantha wearing black stockings and a lacy bra. “So proud…brains and beauty…”

“Jealous?” Cohen responded when one twitter user suggested that the photo was pornographic. (The Washington Post report on that incident is here.)

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Like Trump, A Democrat for Many Years

 Like two of Trump’s children, Cohen was a registered democrat and so couldn’t vote for the boss in New York’s GOP primary. (He registered as a republican last March and joined the RNC’s finance leadership team.)

His democratic roots run deep—once an intern for Massachusetts democratic Rep. Joe Moakley, he also volunteered for Michael Dukakis’s presidential run in 1988, and voted for Obama in 2008. He now calls that vote a mistake, explaining, in true Trumpian terms, that he quickly grew disillusioned. Under Obama, he told ABC News, America has become a “third-world nation.”

Cohen has himself given a whirl to elective politics. In 2003 he ran for a New York City Council seat, losing badly to Success Academy founder/charter school maven Eva Moskovitz. In 2009, he lasted only a few weeks in a run for a New York state senate seat.

Cohen owns several apartments in Trump buildings and mixes with, in Cohen’s words in an ABC interview, “super high net worth people.” He favors Dolce & Gabbana suits and, as mentioned, Hermes ties. (Apparently the loyalty to Trump goes far, but not so far as to wear Trump’s made-in-China ties.)

After severing ties with Trump’s company, Cohen, in typically hyperbolic terms, told the Washington Post, “This is a very unusual president, because there’s never been a president of the United States worth $10 billion, with 600 or 700 corporations that have national and international relations.”

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Cohen’s Loyalty to Trump Runs Deep, and His Role Should Continue to Grow

 As Cohen’s behavior becomes more outlandish—why mention Trump’s hundreds of business ties when he has promised to leave them in the hands of his sons?– his stature in Trump world will likely continue to grow.

Should be both entertaining and alarming to watch.

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Carol Felsenthal is much-published author. Besides a long list of magazine credits, she has written a number of acclaimed biographies:

  • Citizen Newhouse: Portrait of a Media Merchant,
  • Power, Privilege, and the Post: The Katharine Graham Story,
  • Princess Alice: The Life and Times of Alice Roosevelt Longworth, and
  • Clinton in Exile: A President Out of the White House, a look at Bill Clinton’s post presidency

She is also a contributing writer for Chicago Magazine and the political blogger for their website, Chicagomag.com.

She has taught biographical writing at the University of Chicago and written profiles of everyone from Ann Landers to Michelle Obama.

Will Trump Resign?

 Enough of the Ridicule

 Enough of the Investigations

 Enough of the Hard Word of Governing

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Good foreign trip, but now he’s landed–and so have his troubles

I’m betting that sometime before the midterms, President Donald J. Trump will resign.

Stick with me as I explain why.

While Trump’s tour of the Middle East and Europe was not the “homerun” of which he boasted, it did go surprisingly well, at least on Trumpian terms.

But that’s over now.

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Five Congressional Investigations . . . plus a tenacious Special Counsel, Robert Mueller

Pres. Trump returned to the White House on Sunday to face the “I” words—indictment and impeachment, both fueled by a lengthening list of Russia-related leaks and charges. Not only those, but also the dark Nixonian (and Clintonian) phrase, “obstruction of justice.”

He returned to await next week’s public testimony of his fired nemesis, former FBI director Jim Comey—that “nut job,” as Trump described him during an Oval Office meeting in which the commander in chief shared highly classified “code word” info with the Russian foreign minister and ambassador and volunteered that firing Comey relieved “great pressure.”

Now he is stuck obsessing about five congressional probes looking into alleged Russian ties; about subpoenas for Oval Office tapes, about depositions, indictments, anxiety that someone caught in law enforcement’s grip will turn state’s witness and finger Trump—could it be Mike Flynn or Paul Manafort? Was winning favor with Flynn the reason Trump allegedly asked Comey to lay off the former and fired NSA chief. (Trump denies doing so).

Why did Trump ask two other top American intelligence chiefs to tamp down Comey’s Russian collusion probe? For at least one of them, there’s a “contemporaneous” memo.

Special counsel Robert Mueller, III, impeccably ethical FBI head III, and friend of Jim Comey, now charged with looking for criminal behavior, will be sure to study that memo and every other piece of evidence.

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The Bad News Will Keep Coming

The bad news stories never stop. Ivanka’s husband, Jared Kushner, the golden boy and presidential favorite—Trump’s senior advisor–could face, thanks to the FBI investigation, public humiliation and, worse yet, indictment. A back channel communication with Russia? What was Jared thinking and why wasn’t he fully forthcoming about his meetings with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S.

On top of that, yesterday’s news, Michael Cohen, Trump’s long-time personal lawyer, his self-described “pit-bull,” has received a subpoena for his “testimony, personal documents and business records” from the House Intelligence Committee.

Anyone in Trump’s position would feel some level of self pity, but Trump is known for wallowing in it. “…the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history!”

“No politician in history…has been treated worse or more unfairly.” (That one while delivering the commencement address all about himself to Coast Guard Academy grads.)

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Campaigning, now that was fun. Governing, not so much

Trump, my hunch, is back to asking himself, “Who knew that being president would be so hard? So complicated? So much boring work?”

Is he sick and tired of all those embarrassing photos focusing on the protruding belly and hairweave blowing in the wind as he boards Marine One?

Oh for the days when Trump could be Trump.

In the fog of cascading scoops, Trump can’t be Trump, not if he wants to serve his full term, much less run for a second. For Trump, things can only get worse—and that could happen long before 2020.

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If the Democrats win the House in 2018, governing will be downright unpleasant

And home cooking will start to look a whole lot better

Take the 2018 midterms: The Democrats take back the House, Nancy Pelosi becomes Speaker, and impeachment proceedings commence.

Trump, again my hunch, likely entertains “They’ll be sorry when I’m gone” fantasies as he returns to linger alone in his White House bed; that very bed from which he tweeted a warning to Jim Comey to keep his mouth shut because there could be tapes of their conversations. Who knew that Comey kept detailed, contemporaneous notes of their meetings? Who knew that a special counsel would be reading them? Who even knew that “White House tapes” carried negative connotations and a special place in presidential history.

At those moments, does he grow nostalgic about the campaign trail when he could belittle the policies of Obama and Hillary and make grandiose promises about bringing back “jobs, jobs, jobs” (Oops! Breaking news on Carrier sending jobs to Mexico) and bombing the hell out of ISIS, about building that “beautiful wall” and all the rest of his “drain the swamp” applause lines?.

If I could get inside his head, I hear him getting down to even less lofty thoughts. Why think of affairs of state when I could be thinking about real estate? I hear him telling himself, I’m sick of this rundown White House. I miss my $100 million Trump Tower penthouse. I miss the marble and 24-carat-gold Palace-of-Versailles-inspired décor. I miss my bed, my linens, my pillow, my loyal housekeepers, my valet.

And the Oval Office? The thrill is gone. It’s not CEO-sized and I miss gazing at my Trump Tower office walls festooned with framed magazine covers featuring me. I miss my unfailingly discreet secretary. I miss not having to obsess over leaks. And leave it to Time to report that I insist on two scoops of vanilla ice cream with my chocolate cream pie while everyone else gets one, and that my boy scout vice president requests a fruit plate.

Air Force One? Like the Oval, a thrill the first time, but not nearly as cool as my 757, its leather seats embossed with the Trump family crest.

So long as he remains a resident of 1600, Trump might think, leaked details about his morning cosmetic prep are just a matter of time. The concocted hair, the unnatural stiffness of its several sections: Does he use an aerosol spray? Does Aqua Net still exist? Can Trump claim his very own ozone layer hole?

And more.

How long before the “failing” New York Times, likely relying on a leak from some White House staffer, or some other “fake news” source, reports that he skips the daily intelligence brief in favor of reading Breitbart News while his people apply the bronzer and the concealer and the pancake makeup to prepare him for another day in hell?

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If he toughs it out, he still could lose a re-election bid

Why not leave on his own terms?

If he sticks it out there’s the indignity, for starters, of not getting a second term. Obama got two; Clinton got two. Not fair. But possible, as financial backers run scared. And Republicans, worried about reelection and rushing to microphones to applaud the appointment of Mueller, are keeping their distance, a few even muttering the “I” (impeachment) word.

And what about those polls that show cracks in his base of support? And the Wall Street Journal editorial page, of all places, hectoring, “Loose Lips Sink Presidencies,” calling the state of his presidency “perpetual turbulence” and calling him “inexperienced” and “impulsive.” And that Politico headline, “Conservatives begin to whisper President Pence.”

On the bright side, he exits the White House on his own terms, Melania at his side, if not holding his much ridiculed hand, barely hiding her relief. He emerges as the most famous man in America, the misunderstood, abused hero who tried to drain the swamp and make America great again, but who was blocked at every turn by the elite in politics and academia and the press.

If he hangs around, he could end up, like Richard Nixon, shamed, shunned and on the precipice of impeachment, having to accept a pardon from his VP. Does Trump understand the difference between himself and Nixon; that the late President might have been a crook, but he was also an intellectual, and, in forced retirement, a wise man on international politics? For Trump, another reality TV show, just not one filmed at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, awaits.

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Carol Felsenthal is much-published author. Besides a long list of magazine credits, she has written a number of acclaimed biographies:

  • Citizen Newhouse: Portrait of a Media Merchant,
  • Power, Privilege, and the Post: The Katharine Graham Story,
  • Princess Alice: The Life and Times of Alice Roosevelt Longworth, and
  • Clinton in Exile: A President Out of the White House, a look at Bill Clinton’s post presidency

She is also a contributing writer for Chicago Magazine and the political blogger for their website, Chicagomag.com.

She has taught biographical writing at the University of Chicago and written profiles of everyone from Ann Landers to Michelle Obama.

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