Jail reading: Cohen performance review
Donald Trump has already condemned him as a "rat," but a top executive for the president's business empire decided Michael Cohen, the defrocked fixer, deserved a few extra kicks on the way to prison on Monday.
A Trump Organization executive vice president, George A. Sorial, wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed that Cohen, once "my friend," was a lousy lawyer and not much of a deal-maker either. "Trusted executives always looked over his shoulder, and everyone hated mopping up after him," Sorial wrote.
Whatever Sorial's intentions, his version of how Cohen hung on for 10 years doesn't come across as an unambiguous tribute to Trump's judgment.
"Michael was loyal — and if President Trump has an Achilles’ heel, it’s his loyalty to employees," said Sorial. "He was funny, a showman and a bit of a blunt force — and that caught Mr. Trump’s eye … He was hired muscle; a bluffing, boasting New Yorker who could shock people into action."
Sorial also contended that the Trump Tower Moscow project "was a fantasy that no one in the office took seriously." If so, that's too bad for Cohen because one of the reasons he's now incarcerated is that he pleaded guilty to lying about the venture to Senate and House committees. His motive, Cohen said, was to cover for Trump.
Sorial's piece was most revealing in what it left out when he wrote: "Remember, Michael, you're going to prison because you lied to Congress, didn't pay your taxes, and defrauded financial institutions in your personal accounts. There’s no one to blame for that but yourself."
Perhaps it slipped Sorial's mind that Cohen also confessed to violating campaign finance law by arranging hush money payments for Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal — who had alleged affairs with Trump — and working out a plan with others in the Trump Organization to get reimbursed. Federal prosecutors said in a sentencing memo that the Trump Organization falsely accounted for the payments to Cohen as legal expenses.
Cohen's parting words
Speaking to reporters in Manhattan before hitting the road for the federal prison in Otisville, New York, Cohen said, "There still remains much to be told. And I look forward to the day that I can share the truth."
It's not clear what he's waiting for. A book deal? His spokesman, Lanny Davis, said federal prosecutors in New York have rebuffed Cohen's repeated offers since mid-March to provide more information about alleged wrongdoing by Trump and other people in his orbit.
Cohen, sentenced to 3 years, wished aloud for Trump to be out of the White House when he gets out of the big house. "I hope that when I rejoin my family and friends, that the country will be in a place without xenophobia, injustice and lies at the helm of our country," said Cohen, who was a campaign surrogate for Trump in 2016.
Upon arrival at the prison, Cohen took off the blue blazer he wore on the ride and left it with his Cadillac Escalade driver, The Associated Press reported. He is now officially Inmate No. 86067-054.
Janison: Having it both ways
With Trump as president, it's hard to follow the leader. Just try to follow his comments and tweets on seeking a trade deal with China.
On Friday, he said, "We’re getting close to a very historic, monumental deal. And if it doesn’t happen, we’ll be fine, too. Maybe even better.” On Sunday, it was still happening, or not. "The Trade Deal with China continues," he said, "but too slowly, as they attempt to renegotiate."
It's one more stopover in a world of confusion. On Friday, after a long phone chat with Vladimir Putin, he said Russia "is not looking at all to get involved in Venezuela." But Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Sunday that Russia is very much involved and "the Russians have to get out. That remains our view.”
At point of no returns
House Democrats officially got the expected answer Monday from Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin to their request for Trump's tax returns: Go try your luck elsewhere.
Mnuchin wrote Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.) that the panel’s request “lacks a legitimate legislative purpose.” The chief options available to Democrats now are to subpoena the Internal Revenue Service for the returns or to file a lawsuit. As Treasury runs the IRS, a court battle is likelier.
Neal demanded access to Trump’s tax returns under a law that says the IRS “shall furnish” the returns of any taxpayer to a select group of top lawmakers, including the chair of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee.
Countdown to contempt vote
The Justice Department tried to head off a contempt-of-Congress proceeding now set to begin on Wednesday against Attorney General William Barr for not complying with the Judiciary Committee's subpoena for an unredacted version of special counsel Robert Mueller's report and the underlying evidence.
The department offered to negotiate to show lawmakers access to a less-redacted version of the report, in addition to “possible disclosure of certain materials” cited in Mueller’s Russian investigation findings.
ABC News said Barr still believes Mueller should be allowed to testify before Congress, despite Trump's tweeted objection. That report cited a source familiar with the attorney general's thinking.
Also on Monday, more than 400 former federal prosecutors wrote an open letter contending that Trump would have been indicted for obstruction of justice if not for a long-standing Justice Department policy barring the indictment of a sitting president.
What else is happening:
- Administration officials said a U.S. aircraft carrier strike group and a bomber task force were deployed to the Middle East in response to "clear indications" Iran and its proxies were plotting to attack U.S. forces in the region.
- Speaking with more clarity on trade talks than the president himself seemed capable of offering, U.S. trade representative Robert Lighthizer said: "Over the course of the last week or so we have seen an erosion in commitments by China. That in our view is unacceptable."
- Trump said Monday that he wants to allow top athletes from service academies to defer their commitment to military duty — typically five years — so they can play professional sports. He said it would boost recruiting for the academies' teams.
- American Jews are more likely than Christians to say Trump favors the Israelis too much, according to a Pew Research Center survey. Among Jews, 42% thought so, while 47% said Trump struck the right balance. Among Christians, 26% said Trump tilted too far to Israel, while 59% saw the right balance.
- Sen. Bernie Sanders says Trump's handling of North Korea is one area where he doesn't "fault" the current commander in chief. "I think the idea of sitting down with Kim Jong Un is the right thing to do. It is very, very difficult, but clearly they are a threat to the planet," the 2020 contender told ABC News.
- Preparing to welcome Vice President Mike Pence aboard the USS Harry S. Truman, the senior enlisted sailor told his shipmates to "clap like we're at a strip club." The aircraft carrier's public information officer told CNN: "This statement was inappropriate, and this issue is being addressed by Truman's leadership."
- In presenting the Medal of Freedom to Tiger Woods Monday, Trump wasn't just honoring a legendary athlete who made a stunning comeback. He was also rewarding a frequent business partner for more than two decades, The New York Times notes.