There are many things we will remember about Michael Cohen, but bringing the country back together is not one of them. What does he even mean by that?
The first thing that comes to mind would be to never hire him as an attorney.
Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen pleaded guilty on Wednesday to campaign finance violations, income tax evasion, making a false statement to a bank and making false statements to Congress. He received a sentence of three years.
Understandably, Cohen appeared very worn and very melancholy as he spoke to George Stephanopoulos this morning. The strains of the last eight months have clearly taken their toll on him.
Asked by Stephanopoulos how it feels, he replied, “Like I have my freedom back. Though I have to be honest. It has been very rough to be before the court with my family in attendance, my mother, my father, my wife, my children, my sisters, my brother, my niece, cousins, friends, it was … ummm, it was a very rough day.”
He later said that calling it the worst day of his life would be an understatement.
He expressed remorse for his wrongdoing, and said everything you would expect one to say under the circumstances. He sounded very bitter toward Donald Trump.
Cohen said he was directed by Trump to make the hush payment to Karen McDougal. The video below includes the audio of a conversation between Trump and Cohen about two months prior to the election. This audio was released in July. To me, it sounds very much like Cohen was telling Trump how the payments would be made and what form they would take. Trump asks: Cash? Cohen responds, “No no no no no. I got this. No no no.” The audio is slightly muffled, but Cohen has clearly taken charge of the logistics. And the logistics of the payment would become significant if prosecutors were ever to charge Trump with campaign finance violations.
Here is the audio:
Stephanopoulos then asked him about a tweet in which Trump explained why Cohen had agreed to the plea deal. “Those charges were just agreed to in order to embarrass the president and get a much reduced prison sentence.”
I know which tweets you are talking about. First of all, it is absolutely not true. I did not do it to embarrass the president. He knows the truth. I know the truth, many people know the truth. Under no circumstances do I want to embarrass the president of the United States of America. The truth is, I told the truth. I took responsibility for my actions. And instead of him taking responsibility for his actions, what does he do? He attacks my family. And after yesterday, again being before the court and taking the responsibility and receiving a sentence of 36 months, the only thing he could do is to tweet about my family?
Stephanopoulos asked Cohen about Trump’s remark that “you are lying about him to protect your wife, to protect your father in-law.”
Inaccurate. He knows the truth, I know the truth, others know the truth, and here is the truth: The people of the United States of America, people of the world, don’t believe what he is saying. The man doesn’t tell the truth. And it is sad that I should take responsibility for his dirty deeds.
Trump has said that he never directed Cohen to do anything wrong. Stephanopoulos asked if that was true?
I don’t think there is anybody that believes that. First of all, nothing at the Trump organization was ever done unless it was run through Mr. Trump. He directed me, as I said in my allocution and I said as well in the plea, he directed me to make the payments, he directed me to become involved in these matters. Including the one with McDougal, which was really between him and David Pecker and then David Pecker’s counsel. I just reviewed the documents … in order to protect him. I gave loyalty to someone who truthfully does not deserve loyalty.
When asked about his part in the wrongdoing, Cohen answered:
I am angry at myself because I knew what I was doing was wrong. I stood up before the world yesterday and I accepted the responsibility for my actions. The actions that I gave to a man, who, as I also said in my allocution, I was loyal to. I should not be the only one taking responsibility for his actions.
It was a blind loyalty. It was to a man I admired, but I do not know the answer to it. And I am angry at myself. My family is disappointed that they’ve taught me, my mother, father, right from wrong. And I didn’t display good judgment.
Note: Interestingly, Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz commented that “former Trump attorney Michael Cohen doesn’t seem to understand the difference between what’s wrong and what’s illegal.” Dershowitz has said on numerous occasions that there’s a difference between a sin and a crime and this was a sin.
Cohen told Stephanopoulos that Trump has changed since he became President.
I think the pressure of the job is much more than what he thought it was going to be. It’s not like the Trump organization where he would bark out orders and people would blindly follow what he wanted done. There’s a system here, he doesn’t understand the system, and it’s sad because the country has never been more divisive. And one of the hopes that I have out of the punishment that I’ve received, as well as the cooperation that I have given, I will be remembered in history as helping to bring this country back together.
When asked if he believed the President was telling the truth, Cohen said no.
Finally Stephanopoulos asked, “If he were sitting in this chair right now, what would you say to him?”
Cohen responded, “Lay off Twitter, run the country the way that we all thought that you would, be able to take the Democrats, Republicans, bring them together and bring the country together instead of dividing the country.”
So, no real surprises in there. It certainly didn’t change anything for Trump one way or the other. So much for taking a bullet for Donald Trump.
The full transcript can be found here.