Really? This is the defense now? That Michael Cohen settled a dispute on behalf of his client Donald Trump without … without informing the client?
Here is Michael Cohen's lawyer and spokesman saying categorically that Cohen negotiated agreement w/o ever telling his client DJT anything abt it and made him a party to the agreement w/o any intention of telling him abt it or having him sign it. @MichaelAvenatti @renato_mariotti pic.twitter.com/xqNLvcx1uX
— Josh Marshall (@joshtpm) March 29, 2018
This is like watching The Three Stooges, Law Edition. Trump is Moe, the guy with the bad haircut poking the other stooges in the eyes. (OK, Trump’s hair actually looks more like Larry’s, but somebody has to be The Leader.) Cohen and his lawyer David Schwartz are Larry and Curly, enduring Moe’s abuse and giving each other some nose honks and head conks along the way, as the Cycle of Stooge Violence plays out in front of our eyes.
Where to start with this?
No, this is not remotely normal.
The scenarios under which it is legal or ethical are highly improbable. https://t.co/z1R2cKYolP
— PhoneEtiquetteMattersHat (@Popehat) March 29, 2018
We’re assuming, of course, that Cohen was acting as Trump’s lawyer in handling the Stormy Daniels matter. In that case, settling a dispute without telling the client — even a dispute in which no lawsuit had yet been filed — is basic legal malpractice. And Schwartz suggested that this happened all the time:
“Michael was the fixer. It could be anything. There were a ton of matters that took place that Michael fixed and Donald Trump wasn’t involved in every single matter,” Schwartz said. He then walked that back, saying he meant business problems in general, and suggesting that business leaders commonly have a fixer authorized to pay people off without their knowledge.
In addition to being malpractice, by the way, this position (if true) potentially vindicates Stormy Daniels’s claim that the agreement is invalid — since the agreement required Trump to agree. Meaning she can talk all the likes without monetary consequence.
But wait! It gets better! Now Cohen’s lawyer/spokeshole is saying Trump and Cohen didn’t even have a lawyer/client relationship. Just one problem there:
"It is not a lawyer-client relationship"
Seriously? Cohen's lawyer just said Cohen's relationship with Trump was not a lawyer-client relationship? Well then I guess Cohen won't be invoking attorney-client privilege. Right? https://t.co/zGVHZSmaWA
— Bradley P. Moss (@BradMossEsq) March 29, 2018
Exactly. So now Cohen can be subpoenaed and asked about his conversations with Trump — and it’s not privileged? Oh, sure, he’s willing to lie, but now all the emails are discoverable too.
If that’s the position Cohen and Trump actually take.
There’s really no scenario in which this plays out well for Cohen. We know that Robert Mueller is looking at some of Cohen’s involvement in Russia-related activities like Trump Tower Moscow. Mueller seems like a thorough guy, and if he runs across illegal activity by Cohen of any kind in the course of his investigation, he can at a minimum refer those matters to the Justice Department, and conceivably take them on himself.
Disbarment might be the least of Cohen’s worries at this point.
Hey, at least he has a good lawyer on board! (Rolls eyes.)