Trump Undermined His Own Attorneys in the Michael Cohen Case

Today the president’s lawyers will appear in court before U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood to make the case that the president himself should personally review documents seized in the raid of Michael Cohen’s offices in order to determine if any of them should be kept from federal prosecutors because they contain information that is subject to attorney-client privilege.

Keep in mind that both Trump and his enablers have been raging about those raids based on the fact that Cohen provided legal counsel to a total of three clients, Donald Trump, Elliott Broidy and Sean Hannity, with the president going so far as to tweet that the result of the raids is the death of attorney-client privilege.

This morning Trump called in for an interview with Fox and Friends. We’ll leave aside his statement that he didn’t get a birthday gift for his wife because he’s so busy with his presidential duties, even as his lawyers will make the case that he has time to personally review documents seized in the Cohen raids. But in the process of trying to softly throw his “fixer” under the bus, he stepped all over the arguments his lawyers will attempt to make in court today.

Here’s what the president said:

Michael is in business, he’s really a business man, and fairly big businesses as I understand. I don’t know his business. But this doesn’t have to do with me. Michael is a business man who practices law. I would say probably the big thing is his business…As a percentage of my overall legal work a tiny, tiny little fraction [was handled by Michael Cohen].

He just made it impossible for his lawyers to claim attorney-client privilege on many documents obtained in the raids by saying that Cohen handled “a tiny, tiny little fraction of his legal work.” Rather than raging about attorney-client privilege, the message Trump wanted to send about Cohen this morning was “this doesn’t have to do with me.”

The problems this caused for Trump’s attorneys have already begun to surface. Federal prosecutors, noting that Sean Hannity has already denied that Cohen did any legal work for him, included this in a letter to Judge Wood this morning:

“These statements by two of Cohen’s three identified clients suggest that the seized materials are unlikely to contain voluminous privileged documents, further supporting the importance of efficiency here,” prosecutors wrote in the letter.

In that clip Trump went on to admit that Cohen represented him in the “crazy Stormy Daniels deal.” That undermines the claim he made three weeks ago that he was unaware of the payment to the adult film actress. So in that clip of less than two minutes, the president stepped all over his legal case twice in an effort to distance himself from whatever trouble is coming Cohen’s way.

This is a classic Trump move. He decides on a point he wants to make and is willing to say anything (even if it contradicts what he’s said previously) to drive it home. Practically every utterance out of his mouth is in service of the delusion he is attempting to promote at the time. He doesn’t even make an attempt to keep his lies straight. That creates the perfect example of what Scottish poet and novelist Sir Walter Scott meant when he wrote, ” O what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.” As we often see with sociopaths, the president simply doesn’t care how tangled the web has become.

It has been noted that Rudy Giuliani was added to Trump’s legal team to reignite the discussion about the president sitting down for an interview with the special counsel’s team. Rather than Mueller setting up a perjury trap, it is this pattern of the president’s that should give his lawyers nightmares about that possibility.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.