Amid myriad hot takes on the 2016 recording of then-candidate Donald Trump and his erstwhile fixer Michael Cohen discussing a pre-election hush-money payment to a former Playboy model, one point seems to be getting lost: There’s now officially a Trump camp and a Cohen camp, and they are disastrously at odds with each other.
“We are right now in the middle of a legal war between Michael Cohen and President Trump’s legal team,” Washington Post reporter Robert Costa told NPR Wednesday. The Post later reported government prosecutors have seized more than 100 recordings Cohen made of his conversations with business associates that could pertain to Trump and his business dealings.
Costa said he experienced that warfare “first-hand” on Tuesday night when the recording first broke. Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s new fixer, was trying to convince Costa the tape proved Trump had just been informed about the deal to buy off the model, Karen McDougal. Meanwhile Cohen’s lawyer, Lanny Davis, was saying Trump clearly already knew everything about the payment.
“Don’t believe me, I’m a Democrat,” Mr. Davis said, addressing “red America” as he stared into the camera. “Believe your own ears.”
By Wednesday morning, Trump himself was grousing, “What kind of a lawyer would tape a client?”
Since the tape surfaced, commentators have been debating whether Trump explicitly supported doing the transaction in cash, if the tape puts Trump in serious legal jeopardy or not, or whether it may also be legally problematic for Cohen.
While all those discussions will have serious implications, the big picture here is that we have definitely turned the corner from Cohen taking a bullet for Trump to Cohen v. Trump. As former federal prosecutor Mimi Rocah said on MSNBC Wednesday, the progression of the case reminds her of “almost every mafia case” she prosecuted during her six years as a U.S. Attorney.
“This is a public break up—he literally needs to have a break up,” Rocah said of Cohen. “The best cooperators in the organized crime world and elsewhere are the people who were the most—were—the most loyal to their supervisors or bosses, because they know the secrets.”
And as Vanity Fair’s Emily Jane Fox told Nicolle Wallace on MSNBC, it’s not about any one specific recording, it’s about “the backstory for all of them.” That’s a backstory Cohen appears to be ready to unload.
This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.