Trump: Michael Cohen is no longer my lawyer

I hope someone’s reminded him that any future conversations between him and Cohen are now non-privileged by definition. Evidence of a phone chat in which, hypothetically, Trump invites Cohen to keep his mouth shut in return for a pardon would not be off-limits to the DOJ.

“I haven’t spoken to Michael in a long time,” the president told reporters outside of the White House.

“No, he’s not my lawyer anymore, but I always liked Michael. And he’s a good person,” Trump added.

By “a long time,” he means two months, max. Incidentally, has Cohen received any formal notice that the president is no longer a client or did he find out about the status of their professional relationship through the media? Given the bio on his Twitter page as of noon ET, it must be the latter:

What’s odd about POTUS cutting the cord to Cohen in a public way today is that Cohen’s allegedly weighing whether to cooperate with the feds. ABC reported two days ago that he was thinking about it. Now CNN reports that he’s leaning in that direction:

President Donald Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen has indicated to family and friends he is willing to cooperate with federal investigators to alleviate the pressure on himself and his family, according to a source familiar with the matter.

Cohen has expressed anger with the treatment he has gotten from the President, who has minimized his relationship with Cohen, and comments from the President’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani, the source said. The treatment has left him feeling isolated and more open to cooperating, the source said…

It isn’t known which particular remarks by the President or his allies have irked Cohen — or if it is the totality of them — but tensions have grown since the FBI raid.

What did Trump do to allegedly piss Cohen off? Was it that shot-across-the-bow hit piece from his lackeys at the Enquirer? Or was it the fact that, as Trump claimed this morning, he hasn’t spoken to Cohen in a long time? Maybe Cohen’s been trying to get through to the White House and finding himself stonewalled. Go figure that the president wouldn’t want to get on the line with a guy who’s being monitored by both Mueller’s office and the Manhattan U.S. Attorney.

One theory kicking around is that the leaks lately about Cohen cooperating with the feds aren’t coming from anti-Cohen sources eager to drive a wedge between him and POTUS. They’re coming from pro-Cohen sources who are trying to signal to Trump that he feels cornered and will need some presidential help or else he’ll have no choice but to save his own skin by making a deal. The only conceivable presidential “help” he might receive is a pardon. Pardoning Cohen, though, would be harder politically for Trump than pardoning even close confidantes like Don Jr and Jared Kushner. He could always to try to spin pardons for his kids/in-laws as favors for family, which wouldn’t excuse the corruption but would make it relatable to the public. Plus, Don Jr and Kushner are being targeted by Mueller, whom Trump has spent months accusing of running a “witch hunt.” The family pardons are necessary, he’d argue, because the Russiagate investigation is tainted root, stem, and branch. Cohen’s primary antagonist isn’t Mueller, though, it’s the Manhattan U.S. Attorney. (At least for now.) What’s the “witch hunt” explanation in that case?

Also, if Trump were to pardon Cohen, he might end up having to pardon him twice. It goes like this: Cohen gets pardoned, then Mueller subpoenas Cohen to testify before the grand jury — and Cohen can’t lawfully say no because there’s no longer any risk of self-incrimination by testifying. The pardon nukes his Fifth Amendment right by making it moot. So he’d either have to testify or, as thanks to Trump for the pardon, refuse and be sent to prison for contempt until a judge decides to let him out. How long is Cohen prepared to endure that? Imagine Trump pardoning him a second time on the contempt charge and the resulting political fallout. Hoo boy.

Personally, I’m excited to see what SCOTUS would do with a scenario in which the president pardons a longtime crony for the overt purpose of erasing prosecutors’ leverage over him, to make it easier for the crony to refuse to testify against him in a criminal investigation. The pardon would be legal but could the act of pardoning constitute obstruction of justice? What about the act of dangling a pardon?

Oh, by the way, Cohen filed a motion today in federal court asking for a gag order on Michael Avenatti, to stop him from raking Cohen over the coals every night on CNN. He’s probably going to lose.

Update: Yep, he lost.