When it comes to Michael Cohen’s guilty plea in federal court the day before yesterday, let’s ignore Donald Trump for just a moment. There will be plenty of time to talk about The Tangerine Tantrum Machine, but I got my greatest case of the warm-and-fuzzies from a different source. And that source was Cohen’s legal team of Lannie Davis and Guy Petrillo. The Cohen legal team is dancing jigs around Team Trump, and we’re still in the pre-game warm-ups. Right this way, and I’ll show you exactly how Petrillo and Davis are stomping Trump and Giuliani into the mud, and why it’s so important.
Cohen 1 Trump 0
What Lannie Davis has done to Der Gropinfuror and Ghouliani in the last 28 or so hours has been nothing short of obscene. He didn’t just give Ghouliani a TV lawyer wedgie, he gave him an uber wedgie, he yanked the waistband so hard he pulled it over his head and hooked it on his nose. In one sentence, Davis turned Droolinonmi’s own words about “truth isn’t truth” against him, and of course, sucker that they are, Trump and Giuliani went for the fake.
Within 5 minutes of Lannie Davis’s appearance on Rachel Maddow two nights ago, the entire media and online world exploded with the tease that Michael Cohen had “personal knowledge” of Trump’s prior knowledge of the Russian hacking, and possibly cheered it on privately. Just one small problem, Davis said no such thing. When Davis spoke of possible knowledge that Michael Cohen had that “might be of interest to Robert Mueller,” , he slipped in, at the time unnoticed by the media, the three biggest words in the lawyers dictionary, “Including, whether or not Michael Cohen has personal knowledge of Donald Trump’s prior knowledge of Russian hacking.” Davis made no concrete assertion that Cohen possessed such knowledge, only that he might have some interesting things to say to Mueller about that.
Rudy Giuliani is about to find out what “Truth isn’t truth” really means. That assertion by Lannie Davis became the obsessive #1 topic of conversation. It also should have been a slam dunk for Team Trump to handle. “Lannie Davis’s assertion that the President had prior knowledge of Russian hacking is absolutely ridiculous. First of all, the President had no way of knowing about Russian hacking, since he had no contacts with the Russians during the campaign. And second, Michael Cohen played no role in the campaign, so he could have no knowledge of what was going on internally.” Instead, Blarah Flackabee Slanders was reduced to the kind of impotence in her daily briefing that normally requires a “little blue pill” to correct. She was “unaware of any criminal activity” by the President. And the last that I heard, Ghouliani completely ignored the assertion, stating only that Cohen’s plea had “nothing to do with Russia or collusion.”
This is going to be a continuing problem for Trump and Giuliani, basically because Trump himself has the memory retention of a blown circuit. The fact that neither Trump nor Giuliani has come forward to emphatically deny the assertion most likely means that Trump is desperately scrubbing his atom sized brain, trying to remember whether or not Cohen was present during potentially incriminating conversations. And if he has to think about it, then logically this means that such conversations took place. And the best part is that Davis can lather, rinse, and repeat this process at will, just pull some random assertion out of his ass, and then watch Trump and Giuliani flail all over the place, quite possibly making damaging admissions in their wild proclamations of innocence. It isn’t like it hasn’t happened before.
Cohen: 2 TRUMP: 0
Since Cohen’s guilty plea, the media has been flabbergasted at Cohen’s lack of a comprehensive “cooperation agreement” with either the SDNY, or Robert Mueller. They are amazed at the fact that his “plea deal” doesn’t preclude the SDNY from charging him with additional crimes going forward. I don’t understand what all of the confusion is about. It makes perfect sense if you just look at it for what it is, and understand one underlying thing.
First of all, it’s being misunderstood. As far as I can see, there was no plea “deal.” The SDNY filed charges against Cohen, and rather than spend millions on a defense, Cohen said, “OK, you got me,” and pleaded guilty, hopefully in return for leniency at sentencing. Remember one simple ting. This has nothing to do with Trump-Russia, or Robert Mueller, or any of the rest of that. This is about Cohen’s business, and his personal finances. And the SDNY has him colder that a mink coat in storage. They got everything they needed from the FBI raids in April. If Cohen didn’t plead guilty, they’d nail him at trial, and he’d face longer time at sentencing from the jury convictions. Pleading guilty was a way to show good faith, and hopefully stem the bleeding. SDNY didn’t need to “cut a deal” simply because they could bury Cohen without it.
Here’s the other reason it makes all of the sense in the world. When he appeared on All In with Chris Hayes last night, Davis said something very important. When Hayes asked him why he’s doing this media blitz, Davis replied that Guy Petrillo was handling Cohen’s legal work with the SDNY, Davis was there to start the process of rehabilitating Cohen’s image, to show that he accepted responsibility, felt remorse, and wanted to wipe the slate clean with the truth. And, as Rick Gates proved at the Manafort trial, people don’t give you much credit when you roll over on a pal to save your own ass. Copping to a cooperation agreement with Mueller tars Cohen even further, and it makes it possible for Trump to auto defend himself against Cohen, simply by saying that Cohen is lying like a cheap Persian rug just to save his own ass. Cohen’s arguments and testimony against Trump are much more compelling, and difficult to defend against if he’s not getting anything in return in advance. Which is important because;
He doesn’t actually need to get it in advance. As a former prosecutor in SDNY, Guy Petrillo is a known and highly respected figure at SDNY. He is also a highly competent attorney. Petrillo can tell SDNY prosecutors, and even Robert Mueller, “Look guys, my boy is going to lay it all out for you, he wants to come clean, no bullshit, and we’re trusting you to do the right thing at sentencing if he’s able to help.” People always like to say “A mans word it his bond,” and both Petrillo and the prosecutors have that level of trust in each other by the looks of it. Just because Cohen doesn’t have a signed cooperation agreement, that doesn’t mean that further SDNY charges against him can’t be quashed, and if he delivers the goods, that the SDNY prosecutor, or even Robert Mueller can’t call Cohen’s judge and tell him, “Look your honor, Cohen pleaded guilty, and he knows he’s going to have to be punished. But at the same time, he really provided valuable evidence in several ongoing investigations, all of his own volition, with no promise of leniency, so we’d really appreciate it if you’d take his cooperation into serious account when you pass sentence.” Maybe Cohen gets 6 months instead of 6 years, and he didn’t sell what’s left of his dignity to get it.
Legal “expert” talking heads are also flummoxed by the way that Lannie Davis is handling Cohen’s offers to “tell the truth” so publicly. They can’t understand why Lannie Davis is going on every panel show that will book him, publicly offering the Cohen Fire Sale on information, instead of quietly picking up a phone and calling Robert Mueller. Oh, I 100% understand it. It isn’t that hard if you look at the objectives that it serves.
First, it plays nicely into Davis’s narrative about Cohen wiping the slate clean, he’s willing to bare his soul, no strings attached, and if it brings down His Lowness, well, it couldn’t happen to a nicer dipshit. And look what’s already happened in response to this info blitz offer. Senate chair Richard Burr is already indicating that they want Cohen to come back for another session in committee. And even more importantly, New York State announced that they want him to testify to a grand jury about the Trump family business operations, and what he may know about any illegal activities going on therein. Think that little golden nugget is going to give The Cheeto Prophet some sleepless nights? Trump can’t pardon his way out of state charges for himself or his family, and serious criminal charges against his company could drive it out of business, especially if RICO is invoked.
And most importantly, this is going on because Robert Mueller is allowing it to go on. Cohen’s fate ultimately rests in Mueller’s hands, after all, it was Mueller who referred the investigation over to SDNY when he found no potential crimes that fell under his mandate from Rod Rosenstein. If any of what is currently going on could damage Mueller’s investigation, he’d get word to SDNY, and SDNY would tell Petrillo and Davis to cool it if they didn’t want the prosecutor asking for the max at sentencing.
So, why is the secretive, reclusive Mueller just fine-and-dandy with this public display? Because Mueller is the one who is playing 3 dimensional chess. If the SDNY has access to pretty much every last microscopic particle of Michael Cohen’s business, as well as personal dealings with Trump, then that means that Mueller has access to it too. Cohen may be able to connect the dots, and having him unlock his Blackberry would certainly be beneficial, but as the Manafort prosecution proved very nicely, documents don’t lie. And neither do e-mails, texts, and secret audio recordings.
Look at it from Robert Mueller’s point of view. This has the potential to be a fishing expedition unrivaled in history. For over a year now, Mueller has had to sit there, keep his Marine mouth shut, and have shit dumped all over his head by Trump and Giuliani. He’s had to suffer through the lies, the mis-characterizations, and the personal slander because that’s what the job entails, it’s what he signed up for. He has been unwilling, and professionally prohibited from releasing any documentation or evidence that could prove the value of his work.
But not anymore. Michael Cohen isn’t his defendant, he belongs to the SDNY. And as such, he isn’t a part of the Mueller investigation, and not subject to the Labor Day blackout. Besides, he was charged and pled guilty in August, before the deadline, and his sentencing is in late December. If Michael Cohen and Lannie Davis want to shoot their mouths off all through September and October, it’s no skin off of Mueller’s nose, those aren’t leaks taking place in his investigation, and they aren’t covered by the DOJ policy. Besides, Cohen is already convicted and awaiting sentencing, what are Mueller and the SDNY going to do, slap a gag order on him? And if Michael Cohen or Lannie Davis wants to go on TV, and expose allegations against Trump and/or others in the campaign regarding possible Russian collusion, or possibly criminal behavior in the Trump organization, the responses of Trump and Ghouliani could provide pretty damn compelling viewing for Robert Mueller and his investigators. Trump and Giuliani seem to have a rather long standing habit of throwing some very uncomfortable, unintentional truths into their exculpatory bullshit. And don’t forget, Washington DC is one of the places that Michael Cohen is free to travel to and from while he’s awaiting sentencing. I wonder how many day trips he’ll make up there after Labor Day to enlighten Mr Mueller about some things that “he may be interested in.”
So, I’m really not sure why so many legal big brains are so shocked at the way that all of this is playing out. Maybe it’s because I don’t have the cumbersome burden of all of that finely tuned legal knowledge in my head. But what Michael Cohen and Lonnie Davis are doing makes perfect sense to me, and maybe it would to the talking heads if they just forgot about the law for a minute, and used common sense.