Donald Trump's former personal attorney Michael Cohen talked to Newsy about his new book, "Revenge: How Donald Trump Weaponized the U.S. Department of Justice Against His Critics," and openly shared his opinions of Trump.
The former president recently filed an appeal with the Supreme Court in the legal fight over classified documents seized from his Mar-a-Lago estate.
NEWSY'S JAY STRUBBERG: We're joined by Michael Cohen. He's the former personal attorney for Donald Trump and former vice president of the Trump Organization. Cohen has written a book called "Revenge: How Donald Trump Weaponized The U.S. Department of Justice Against His Critics." It's described as the behind-the-scenes story of what can happen when a president thinks he is above the law and decides to go after his critics. The book will be released Oct. 11. Michael, thank you so much for coming on "Morning Rush." We really appreciate it. Let's get right to the news of the day, with former President Trump asking the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene in this very high-profile case, the FBI seizure of documents from Mar-a-Lago. As a trained lawyer, and one-time member of Trump's inner circle, you have a good idea of his thinking here. What's his strategy? What's your take on this legal maneuver?
MICHAEL COHEN: It's very simple. It's called delay, delay, delay. On top of that, as I'm sure you can imagine, Donald Trump truly believes that being the person responsible for at least three of the individuals on the Supreme Court, that they will do his bidding out of loyalty to him. It's really a very deranged ideology. He truly doesn't care about the facts of this case. I'm actually shocked that anybody would have even taken this case. I don't think the Supreme Court will hear it, but at the end of the day, this is all about, again, what Donald has been doing for years: delay, delay, delay.
NEWSY'S ALEX LIVINGSTON: It's so interesting you bring up the fact you were surprised there was anyone on his team to fight this battle for him because there was a long stretch of time where he was asking lawyers to help him out and no one was accepting for some time there.
COHEN: Do you blame them?
LIVINGSTON: So, your new book is subtitled "How Donald Trump Weaponized The U.S. Department of Justice Against His Critics." What is the most glaring example, would you say, of how he weaponized the DOJ?
COHEN: Well, we can always start with the unconstitutional remand of me back to Otisville, when they lured me down 500 Pearl Street in New York City, when I was legitimately going to have an ankle monitor installed and instead, they gave me a document, which would have prohibited me from publishing, printing, speaking about or using the media to discuss my last book, which is the No. 1 New York Times bestseller called "Disloyal," at which point I brought my lawyer because nothing made sense in that case. But really, I want to tell you: "Revenge" is much bigger than me. "Revenge: How Donald Trump Weaponized The U.S. Department of Justice Against His Critics" is really, a dissection of the most corrupt investigation in U.S. history against a U.S. citizen. It may be the most disgraceful act in U.S. history because what it does is, it demonstrates — using my case as an example — what happens when an autocratic, fascist-minded president elects to weaponize the DOJ to silence a critic. Moreover, what the book is about and what caused me to write it: It's really a call to action on two fronts. First, it's the desperate need for us to overhaul the entire judicial system. We see, on a daily basis, mistakes that were made, people who are spending 20, 30 years in prison because of the corruptness that goes on from prosecutors to the judges. But, secondly, what it also talks about is holding accountable those who violate their obligations and their oaths you know, whether it's prosecutors, whether it's judges, whether it's the attorney general or even the president of the United States of America. Because to do anything less than that will result in the destruction of our democracy.
STRUBBERG: What would you say to someone watching right now who says, "You know what, this guy used to be one of Trump's biggest supporters, a loyalist. And then, you flip the other way, served some time in jail as well. And now, maybe in a critic's view, trying to capitalize on this with this new book. What would you say to them that you're not just trying to use this for financial gain?
COHEN: OK, so first: I don't listen to the critics. Everybody will have something to say. It's irrelevant to me. The pain that I caused my family, the loss of my law license, my family's happiness, my business, the amounts of money that I had lost as a result — the easiest and I'll tell you what I would say to the critics: If I wanted to take the easy route, what I would have done is what (Paul) Manafort, (Roger) Stone and so many others have done. I would have kept my mouth shut and said absolutely nothing. I wouldn't have come into the crosshairs of the president going after me not once, but twice. Instead, what would have happened is he would have pardoned me, just as he'd done to so many other people that were caught up in his mess. So, that would have been the smart thing to do. Instead, what did I do? I cooperated. I cooperated without 5K1 agreements, without cooperation agreements. I did it because I realized that the Donald Trump that I knew for over a decade is not the Donald Trump that became president. He became the worst version of himself imaginable, and honestly, it was not something that I was going to allow my family's name to be villainized for.
LIVINGSTON: So this week, Trump filed a lawsuit against CNN for defamation, among other claims. He's embroiled in countless other cases — at this point, it's hard to keep track — from federal investigations to inquiries in New York and Georgia. You were Trump's lawyer at one time, as we know. So why would he undertake another suit when all these other legal matters are underway? Is this his way of just kicking up dust to kind of, like, distract people from what is really going on right now?
COHEN: That's exactly what he's doing. Let me go back to the three words I said at the beginning of this interview: delay, delay, delay. He will try to figure out how to use this in order to delay the various other investigations that are currently going on, whether it's the attorney general case, whether it's the district attorney case that will be seeing the trump organization on trial at the end of this month, which, again, I've talked about Allen Weisselberg's statements that he refuses to testify against Donald Trump. When you testify against the Trump Organization, you're testifying against Donald Trump because it's one in the same. His autonomous company and he cannot be divided, but that's exactly what he's doing. It's a frivolous lawsuit. One thing that Donald Trump certainly doesn't understand anyone... And look, I was there, I have seen these type of cases done before. They were all real estate-related. This is, obviously, on a much larger scale but his whole intent is to distract and to delay any of the other cases that's currently pending against him. It's not gonna work. And I am shocked that there are lawyers that would slap their name on this type of frivolous lawsuit because chances are, they too will be sanctioned. One of the things that I think that is interesting about the CNN case, is Donald, who likes to play the victim, is claiming defamation. And defamation on what? The fact that CNN continuously refers to Trump and the insurrection, or the result of it, as "the big lie." That's not defamation. In fact, the defense to defamation is called "veracity," which is telling the truth. It is exactly what Donald Trump did. It's exactly what they have: text messages, emails, testimony by hundreds of people all stating that this is what Donald Trump wanted to do. His goal was to prevent, as I stated in 2018, way before it even happened, when I said that if Donald Trump loses that there will never be a peaceful transfer of power. That was Donald Trump's intent and it certainly doesn't fall under defamation.
STRUBBERG: It is worth noting, though, that as far as "The Big Lie" goes, using that verbiage, CNN has tempered its language a bit and it's stopped using that. The question is, is it a result of possible legal ramifications with Trump?
COHEN: I don't think so. I truly don't think so. Why they're doing that? I don't know. But I am certain that CNN's counsel realizes that they will be making a motion to dismiss this case for failure to state a cause of action. That's what will ultimately happen here. It will be dismissed because it's just a frivolous lawsuit. So, why they're tamping it down? Obviously, I don't have insight into their lawyer's strategy, but at the end of the day, this case will go absolutely nowhere.
STRUBBERG: Now, Mr. Cohen, you have spent quite a bit of time before lawmakers. You gave more than 400 hours of testimony to nine different Congressional Committees and law enforcement agencies. Can you give us an inside scoop as to what the exchanges were about, what you said and if any of those agencies have taken actions as a result of your testimony?
COHEN: Well, you may have seen Tish James during her briefing mention my name and thank me and credit the entire A.G.'s investigation for starting with my testimony. One of the interesting things that you also have is, of course, the Allen Weisselberg case. There's a multitude. The belief is that, as a result of my information—and let's not forget the Mueller report; I'm cited more than anyone else in the Mueller report, except for Don McGahn, who was White House general counsel. They say from my testimony and from the various different interviews that I provided to seven different Congressional and one Senatorial House Committee as well as to the district attorney, the A.G. as well, that more than 18 investigations have been opened up into various improper activities. I don't really want to call them illegalities, which is what they are, but we'll just call them, for the time being, improper activities by Donald Trump and others in his inner circle.
STRUBBERG: And just on a personal level, how are you surviving right now? How are you even making a living?
COHEN: Well, it's difficult. I have another company which is called "Crisis X." I also have my podcast, which is called "Mea Culpa," a top 50 podcast. Let me put it to you this way: My life has been altered in a way that I never expected. Every day it's a fight to try to stay sane because of the extent of the chaos that we see on a daily basis. And what can I say? It's difficult. This is not the life that I expected simply by wanting to see somebody become president of the United States, a very different person than the Donald Trump that we all know today, who has tasted power and refuses to relinquish that power, which is something that, obviously, the drafters of the Constitution and our forefathers were always concerned about.
LIVINGSTON: What would be your prediction — there's some rumblings, we don't have an official announcement yet — on the former president running again for president? What is your prediction?
COHEN: I've been saying since day number one, that he will never run again for several different reasons. First, Donald has a very fragile ego. He knows that he lost to Joe Biden but, because he's Donald Trump, how can he possibly, in his mind, lose to someone like Joe Biden? Well, he did and he knows it. He also knows statistically that he can't win. In fact, there have been several polls that show that if Donald Trump announced today, obviously, there are going to be many other Republicans that are seeking the same office. Donald probably won't even win the primary. So, his fragile ego could not allow him to be a two-time loser. And more important than that, he's realized that being the kingmaker, for him, makes more sense than anything, and why? Because he has one Super PAC after another that he keeps creating. And if you read the fine print on that Super PAC, 90% — 90 cents out of every dollar — that you donate to this man's Super PAC, he has total discretion over, which means it's nothing other than a slush fund for him to use at whim. And it doesn't have to be politically related either — only 10% does. So, he's realized taking down hundreds of millions of dollars, that this is probably better suited for him than running for president again and losing.
STRUBBERG: The book is titled "Revenge: How Donald Trump Weaponized the U.S. Department of Justice Against His Critics." It's going to be released Oct. 11. The man is Michael Cohen. Thank you so much for coming on and sharing your perspective. We really appreciate it sir.