- Aaron P. Bernstein/Reuters
- Michael Cohen has been one of Donald Trump’s closest associates for years.
- On Monday, the FBI raided Cohen’s office, apartment, and the hotel room he was staying in.
- Their unique relationship has come under scrutiny amid the Stormy Daniels controversy, as Cohen admitted to paying the adult-film actor $130,000 days before the presidential election.
- She says the payment was to keep her silent about a 2006 affair she says she’d had with Trump.
- But that wasn’t the first time Cohen stood up for his boss.
There is perhaps no one more loyal to President Donald Trump than his personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, known as Trump’s “pit bull.”
“It means that if somebody does something Mr. Trump doesn’t like, I do everything in my power to resolve it to Mr. Trump’s benefit,” Cohen told ABC News in a 2011 interview. “If you do something wrong, I’m going to come at you, grab you by the neck, and I’m not going to let you go until I’m finished.”
Cohen’s brazen words endear him to Trump, who is known to obsess over loyalty.
For more than a decade, Cohen has been by Trump’s side, first as the treasurer on the board of Trump World Tower in New York and now as his personal attorney.
On Monday, the FBI raided Cohen’s office in Manhattan, reportedly on a tip from the special counsel Robert Mueller in an apparently separate FBI investigation into possible bank fraud and election law violations, according to The New York Times and Washington Post.
Cohen’s fascination with the Trump brand began in back 2001, when he bought his first Trump apartment.
Five years later, while working at a law firm, managing several side businesses, and still living in New York, Cohen met Trump through his eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., according to Vanity Fair.
After Cohen advised Trump on some legal matters, Trump reportedly became so impressed with Cohen that he invited him into his office and offered him a job.
Cohen would quickly become one of Trump’s most ardent supporters.
‘I’d never walk away’
In 2011, Cohen helped launch a website, called Should Trump Run, to gauge public opinion about whether the reality-TV host and real-estate mogul would have a shot at winning the presidency.
Trump passed on the opportunity that year, despite Cohen’s pressure.
But in 2015, Cohen was back at it again, pushing Trump toward the White House.
Over the next several years, through all the controversies – Trump describing Mexican immigrants as rapists, the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape, and Trump’s equivocating comments about neo-Nazi protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia – Cohen never blinked.
“I’m the guy who protects the president and the family,” Cohen told Vanity Fair. “I’m the guy who would take a bullet for the president.”
“I’d never walk away,” he added.
Even during the 2016 campaign, when Cohen could have made millions writing a tell-all book about his experience working for Trump, Cohen said there was “no money in the world that could get me to disclose anything” about the campaign, Vanity Fair reported.
David Schwartz, who is one of Cohen’s longtime friends and personal lawyer, told CNN that Trump called his right-hand man at “every dinner” the two have had together.
“He took care of a lot of things for Mr. Trump without Mr. Trump knowing about it,” Schwartz said, adding, “He’s the guy that you could call at 3 in the morning when you have a problem and you need something taken care of.”
Cohen’s porn-star problem
- Reuters/Eduardo Munoz
Perhaps no one has tested Cohen’s loyalty to Trump more than Stormy Daniels, the adult-film actor and director whom Cohen admitted to paying $130,000 just days before the 2016 presidential election.
Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, said the money was to keep her quiet about an affair she said she’d had with Trump back in 2006. Cohen and other Trump representatives have denied the affair.
During an interview on CBS News’ “60 Minutes” that aired Sunday, Daniels described her account of the affair in lurid detail.
While the more salacious claims about her sexual encounter with Trump grabbed most of the headlines, one startling accusation may have implicated Cohen.
In 2011, weeks after she agreed to tell a sister publication of In Touch magazine about what she described as a yearlong relationship with Trump, Daniels said a man approached her in a Las Vegas parking lot.
She said the man told her to “leave Trump alone” and “forget the story.” She then said he leaned in, looked at her infant daughter, and said, “That’s a beautiful little girl – it’d be a shame if something happened to her mom.”
After the “60 Minutes” interview, Daniels’ lawyer, Michael Avenatti, told NBC News that the man she said threatened her “had to be someone that is related to Mr. Trump or Mr. Cohen.”
In response, Cohen’s lawyer demanded Daniels cease and desist and apologize for the suggestion that Cohen was behind the incident.
While there is no evidence suggesting Cohen was responsible for the threat, Daniels’ claim isn’t the first time someone close to Trump has been accused of making threatening or intimidating remarks.
On two other occasions – neither of which involved Cohen – BuzzFeed News reported that Trump associates were accused of threatening people to keep quiet about information that could hurt Trump’s business.
Not concerned about party affiliation
Cohen’s political support for Trump is rooted more in his personal admiration for the president than in ideological foundations.
Cohen once voted for Barack Obama, and he didn’t officially become a Republican until March of last year, nearly two months after Trump’s inauguration.
— Michael Cohen (@MichaelCohen212) March 9, 2017
In 1988, Cohen volunteered for the Democratic presidential candidate Michael Dukakis, according to ABC News. He also worked as a legislative intern for Joe Moakley, the longtime Democratic congressman from Massachusetts who died in 2001.
But Cohen, like Trump, isn’t easily boxed into political positions.
When ABC asked whether his previous support for Obama and his advocacy for Trump made him a hypocrite, Cohen replied:
“I’m more concerned now about my children, future grandchildren, nieces and nephews, and everybody’s children and families,” he said. “I’m more concerned about them than I am about party affiliation.”