President Donald Trump’s past statements that only guilty people take the Fifth Amendment have come back to embarrass him now that his personal attorney and “fixer” Michael Cohen is about to clam up, too.
Cohen declared in a court filing Wednesday, in support of his motion to halt the civil case concerning a payout to alleged Trump mistress and adult film star Stephanie Clifford (aka Stormy Daniels), that he would invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination in connection with all proceedings in that case.
His reason? The ongoing criminal investigation he’s involved in, led by the FBI and the US attorney for the Southern District of New York, which executed the April 9 raid on Cohen’s home, office and hotel room. The criminal referral to the Southern District reportedly came from special counsel Robert Mueller, who’s investigating whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russians in an effort to influence the 2016 election.
Cohen’s civil case in California concerns the now infamously bungled nondisclosure agreement between Clifford and Essential Consultants LLC, a Delaware limited liability company that Cohen created and that was used in both the $130,000 payment to Clifford and also implicated in the $1.6 million payment offer to a former Playboy model who allegedly had an affair with top Republican National Committee official Elliott Broidy (who has since resigned).
I’ve written about how the Stormy Daniels story is merely one example of a coordinated pattern and practice, on the part of Trump associates, to silence those with potentially embarrassing information about the President, in the days and weeks leading up to the 2016 election — including payments to Clifford and to Dino Sajudin, a former Trump World Tower doorman allegedly paid by American Media Inc., publisher of the National Enquirer, in late 2015 for a story the tabloid never published.
And then there’s Karen McDougal, 1998 Playmate of the Year, and now the second-most-famous alleged Trump mistress, who also received a payout, and who settled her case against American Media recently, but specified in the agreement that she still may sue Cohen for his involvement in the alleged scheme.
This most recent example of Cohen’s invocation of his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination (which is, by the way, a well-advised and predictable response to his civil case), bears that out.
It prompted Trump to speak publicly about the Russia investigation Thursday on “Fox & Friends”, repeating his mantra that the entire investigation is a “witch hunt against the President of the United States” and declaring that Cohen has only done a “tiny, tiny little fraction of my overall legal work.”
Trump also stated he is “very disappointed” in the Justice Department and declared that “I won’t be involved” (while adding the caveat that “I may change my mind at some point.”)
Whether or not the President was referring to a much-anticipated and often speculated upon face-to-face interview with investigators from Mueller’s office remains to be seen. Of course he may take a page out of Cohen’s playbook … and plead the Fifth.