Donald Trump’s genius has always been his ability to capitalize, literally, on his fame—to use his celebrity as a vehicle to enrich himself, even when he didn’t have the accomplishments or knowledge or business prowess (or the cash) to back up what he claimed.
Since his entry into politics, plenty of his hangers-on have attempted the same thing, hoping that Trump’s fame could prove their meal ticket, too. And while some of these figures have found success, several of them also find themselves in serious legal jeopardy, demonstrating once again that what works for Trump is often extremely dangerous for other people.
The glaring current example is Michael Cohen, the longtime Trump fixer. In the last few days, there’s been a surfeit of new information about Cohen’s manner of doing business, both before and after the election. Cohen is often said to have been closer to the president than anyone else, and to have the best understanding of how he thought, and he seems to have pursued the purest version of the Trumpian scheme: Make big promises, pull in big money, underdeliver big-league.
As the public learns more about Cohen’s questionable business dealings before the election, it’s unclear the extent to which he might have modeled himself on Trump’s business practices, which have also sometimes put him afoul of the law. But after an enigmatic disclosure from Michael Avenatti, the lawyer representing Stormy Daniels, news outlets have managed to piece together a great deal of Cohen’s post-election activity. (Some of what Avenatti claimed has proven to be sloppy and incorrect, too.) Cohen hoped for a White House job, but, finding himself shut out, set to hauling in money instead.