I’ve been blogging about the self-evident influence on Donald Trump of red-baiting mob lawyer Roy Cohn for some time – see The Root of All Evil. Cohn was the evil genius, the infante terrible, behind Joe McCarthy’s red scare in the 1950s. For years he made his living as a feared mob lawyer who operated outside the confines of law and ethics. Cohn was totally ruthless, experienced in manipulating the legal system and the press, adept at the use of fear and intimidation. Cohn would stop at nothing to win. His style was terrifyingly effective and while he was ultimately disbarred, that came only after the damage was done. His legacy lives on because, as such, he mentored Donald Trump and many of the Trump old-time loyalists. Cohn provides the necessary filter with which to view Trump. Anyone tempted to underestimate what lengths Trump will go to, or what depth he will descend to, should think twice.
I’m not the only one focused on the Trump-Cohn axis. Consider this article by Jack Shafer in Politico, “Week Four: The President Summons the Ghost of Roy Cohn.” This is from Shafer’s lead: “Although he dumped Cohn, Trump never ceased playing the role of the dirtbag attorney’s parrot. Since inauguration, and especially since the scandal with no name has inflicted bleeding wounds all over his presidency, Trump has only become more Cohnian in his persona. He rains his fury down on his opponents, just like Cohn. He breaks rules and bullies all who get in his way. He does whatever it takes to win. When Trump’s mouth forms the words, it’s really Cohn speaking from the grave.”
Shafer brings content to the charge that Trump is playing the Cohn card, detailing, for example, how Trump’s efforts to undermine Mueller’s investigation are straight from the Cohn playbook. Another Shafer excerpt: “How well Cohn taught Trump the basics of media and legal warfare! Cohn acolytes like Trump learned the value of raising disagreements to disputes, disputes to legal threats, threats to lawsuits, and lawsuits to war, and war to burned-earth siege, a progression Trump has been playing on his smartphone’s keypad for weeks. Cohn also taught Trump to shrug off IRS audits, deadbeat his personal debtors, lie whenever expedient, and file complicated, retaliatory lawsuits to pour sand in the gears of his opponents. ‘Over a 13-year-period, ending shortly before Cohn’s death in 1986, Cohn brought his say-anything, win-at-all-costs style to all of Trump’s most notable legal and business deals,’ Politico’s Michael Kruse wrote last year. ‘Cohn’s philosophy shaped the real estate mogul’s worldview and the belligerent public persona visible in Trump’s presidential campaign.’”
And this: “Observing no limits has been Trump’s operational philosophy for as long as anybody can remember, one that informs his current legal defense and the conduct of his administration. Trump’s new Cohn is his long-time personal lawyer Marc Kasowitz, who also feels unbound by reality. Following James Comey’s testimony, Kasowitz issued a Cohnian statement that made a mash of the chronology and the facts. As the Atlantic‘s Matt Ford wrote earlier this month, Kasowitz sought ‘to shift the investigative cloud away from his client and onto [Comey] the man all but accusing him of obstruction of justice—a task it does not accomplish.’ Roy Cohn would be so proud!”
Shafer has much more, all worth your time. But for the future, when The Donald tweets, or speaks, or slanders, delays, or insinuates, remember to see that devil Roy whispering in his ear.