Michael Cohen Star | Vanity fair

Like he turned his back Donald Trump villain fixer for the past few years, Michael Cohen has developed a public profile and some degree of cachet. Once a relatively private lawyer for the former president, his opposition to his former boss has turned him into an avatar of Trumpworld exile, as well as a cultural curiosity—a the gloomy face with the thick Long Island accent at the center of a national scandal

During Trump’s hush money trial, Cohen spent many evenings taunting his former boss. TikTok. When you prepare stand up as a witness last Monday, Rosie O’Donnell texted him, “You did great.” Last weekend, Page Six reportedhe walked around shaking hands at the members-only Casa Cipriani club in Manhattan.

Trump has pleaded not guilty to 34 counts of falsifying business records stemming from payments Cohen made to the porn star Daniels storms in 2016. As it has over the past few weeks, the trial has reintroduced to the national stage a host of figures from Trump’s early presidency who once dominated news cycles. Daniels does witness about her claim that she and Trump had sex in 2006, which he denies, and the money she received for keeping quiet about it; before National questioner publishing company David Pecker told the tabloid’s methods of suppressing negative stories about his old friend and fabricating dirt about his opponents; And Hope Hicks, former White House communications director, broke down in tears on the stage when discussing his time working at the Trump Organization.

This is a succession of characters at the porous border between politics and celebrity who, through a combination of outsized personalities and transactional exuberance, have become players in a play The play has been thoroughly rehearsed. Much of what was litigated in Trump’s trial in Manhattan was covered in detail in 2018, the year the FBI raided Cohen’s office and hotel room, albeit without his apparent involvement. public opinion of the participants for many hours. Cohen, as the prosecution’s final witness, is the star of the production and perhaps the person best positioned to offer the best perspective on the context in which the criminal case arose. born. Trump was “showing me that he was living in a different kind of reality,” he wrote in his 2020 memoir, Unfaithful, “a world he would share with me alone, a world filled with wonder, excitement, power, intrigue, and admiration.”

During four days of testimony, Cohen demonstrated well-studied self-control. At some point, Trump’s hulking chief lawyer Todd Blanche, Slightly hunched over in a tight suit, seemingly trying to lure him out. He is taking on the role — aggressor on Trump’s behalf — that Cohen once had. On Thursday, in the trial’s most controversial exchange, he claimed that Cohen misrepresented a key 2016 phone call in which Cohen claimed to have received Trump’s approval for the loan. silent payment.

“That’s a lie,” Blanche exploded, stepping away from the microphone to express her outrage. “I can admit that.”

But Cohen is formal and considered at every turn. “No, sir,” he said. “I can not.”

This was not the hothead described elsewhere in the trial. Cohen was a prominent figure in the proceedings before he took the stand. His former banker said he was chosen to work with Cohen because of his “ability to handle individuals who can be a bit difficult”; Daniels’ attorney said he tried “frantically to avoid talking to him.” Hicks, who has probably had to deal with all kinds of stalking of Trump, recalls that she “once said he liked to call himself ‘the fixer’ or ‘Mr. Let’s fix it’ and that’s just because he broke it the first time.”

Earlier in his career, Cohen worked in personal injury and medical malpractice law and invested in taxi medallions. He was a sharp operator, well-established in Trump’s world before he knew Trump — he testified last week that he met Pecker at an event on Long Island before meeting his old friend tabloid king. In 2006, Trump liked what he saw when Cohen, who lived in one of the developer’s buildings, sided with management in a dispute with the condo board. Cohen was soon living a dream. “If you do something wrong,” he told ABC News in 2011, “I’ll come at you, grab you by the throat, and I won’t let you go until I’m done.”

The punished, weathered posture that Cohen has adopted over the past few weeks represents a reversal. He seems to be practicing penance, at one point reflecting, “I’m even angry at myself.” His adherence to this position, steadfast in the face of Blanche’s provocations, is a distinct sign of his intensity. He will be as fully committed to his new public face as he was to his old face. Cohen told Trump, he testified, that he obtained the initial denial from Daniels of an affair “to get the credit for expressing that I was continuing to make sure he was protected.” guard.” He wanted his boss to see that he was “loyal.”

Trump does according to the report unhappy at some points with his new lawyer, but appears cheerful during the more hostile back-and-forths of Blanche and Cohen. During one comment on the ongoing trial in the courthouse hallway, he asked Blanche, who was standing next to him, “Is that a good statement, Attorney General?”

“Yes,” his lawyer replied, smiling a little.

And if next to him isn’t Blanche then it is Vivek Ramaswamy or J.D. Vance, or Lauren Boebert or Matt Gaetz. The later stages of the trial — the prosecution is expected to rest its case after Cohen’s testimony, with final arguments due next week — have seen a host of characters at stake. trying to gain a place in Trump’s orbit. For weeks, the jury heard what that gravitational force felt like and what kind of people were attracted to it. Blanche asked Cohen, in an effort to suggest that the witness had acted out of spite, whether he wanted a job in the White House as Trump’s chief of staff. “I want to be seen for ego purposes,” Cohen sadly replied.

Everywhere along the personal arc he was describing on the stand, Cohen was either overtly attracted to Trump or explicitly repelled by Trump. Every day he testified, photographers waited to see him walk out of the apartment building he had lived in since the early 2000s, still called Trump Park Avenue.

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