For years, Michael Cohen delighted in doing an awful job. He cleaned up Donald Trump’s messes. Cohen first came to President Trump’s attention more than a decade ago when a group of apartment owners in Trump World Tower, a glass skyscraper across from the United Nations, accused Trump of “financial impropriety.” Cohen, who was the treasurer of the board, took Trump’s side against his fellow owners and helped quell the revolt. Since then, Cohen has taken pride in declaring himself “the fix-it guy,” and “the guy who would take a bullet for the president.”
In that role, Cohen has reportedly worked with the National Enquirer to buttress Trump’s phony charges that Barack Obama wasn’t born in the United States, he has threatened journalists who reported on the claim that Trump raped his ex-wife Ivana, and he’s allegedly used his own money to pay off Stormy Daniels, who claims she and Trump had an affair. The pattern is clear. Trump acts in some reckless, selfish, sordid, irresponsible, or ugly way. Then Cohen comes along to make sure Trump doesn’t suffer the consequences.
What’s striking about all this is that Trump, by becoming president, has turned a great many federal employees into the functional equivalent of Michael Cohen. Last summer, when Trump called journalists “the enemy of the American people,” Vice President Mike Pence was called on to perform a Cohen. “Rest assured,” Pence declared, “both the president and I strongly support a free and independent press.” Last month, after Trump refused to acknowledge Russian electoral interference during his meeting with Vladimir Putin, the Cohen role fell to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, whose testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, according to The New York Times, “amounted to an elaborate cleanup effort by the United States’ top diplomat for Mr. Trump’s performance in Helsinki.”