The subject of loyalty keeps bubbling up out of Donald Trump's peculiar ecosystem.
For years Michael Cohen, his fixer-lawyer, kept audio recordings of his phone conversations with his famous client. Cohen has yet to explain why.
Under pressure from federal crime investigators, the Long Island-raised Cohen said in a televised interview earlier this month: "My wife, my daughter and my son have my first loyalty and always will. I put family and country first."
Forget forever his earlier claim he'd "take a bullet" for Trump. Now it is the job of another Trump lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, to run to TV studios to say things that pass for damage control.
Former FBI Director James Comey said the president privately told him inside the White House: "I need loyalty. I expect loyalty." Comey has likened this in writing to "Sammy the Bull's Cosa Nostra induction ceremony." Not coincidentally Comey's book was called "A Higher Loyalty."
Steve Bannon, the political operative who credits himself with the 2016 victory, was quoted as calling "treasonous" and "unpatriotic" a June 2016 campaign-team meeting with Russians at Trump Tower. He never denied the quotes printed by author Michael Wolfe.
True, he'd left the White House, but Trump still spoke with him afterward. Why would Bannon say such a thing after trying to promote the GOP president as the second coming of Andrew Jackson? Was Old Hickory a masochist unbeknownst to historians?
Expressions of disloyalty or the perception of it can be a two-way street. Over the weekend the New York Times reported that Trump has several times said, presumably as a joke, that he “could have had Tom Brady” as a son-in-law, but that "instead, I got Jared Kushner.”
Stranger still, the enforcement of fealty in Trump's White House appears far from airtight. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson remained secretary of state for eight months after angrily calling Trump a moron following a Pentagon meeting with Cabinet officials. Finally fired in March, via Twitter, Tillerson circulated a note thanking his department staff but never mentioning the president.
Now add to the surreal landscape that alienated former Trump adviser Omarosa Manigault is promoting a tell-all book called "Unhinged," due out next month. She has cryptically urged Trump to "come clean."
When political dirty trickster Roger Stone told the Times that "Donald goes out of his way" to treat Michael Cohen "like garbage," Trump tweeted that Cohen was a “fine person with a wonderful family" whom Trump said he has "always liked and respected."
Once his own distance from Cohen became apparent, however, Trump tweeted a different tune.
When indications arose from the Cohen camp that the president-to-be knew in advance of the Russian-Tower meeting, he tapped: "Sounds to me like someone is trying to make up stories in order to get himself out of an unrelated jam (Taxi cabs maybe?)," clearly in reference to Cohen's longtime dealing in taxi medallions.
For Trump, demanding loyalty is one thing. Giving and getting it is quite another.