Brian Kilmeade floated this theory almost offhandedly on “Fox & Friends” this morning. There’s no evidence to support it but (a) the Times *did* note in its story that “it received the information contained in the returns from someone who had legal access to it,” which Trump’s former attorney presumably did at one point, and (b) I like it because it fits with my own half-assed speculation that maybe Cohen is trying to squeeze Trump for an unlikely pardon by reminding him how much dirt he has on him and associates like Jerry Falwell Jr.
What better way for him to show Trump that he means business than by leaking on the most sensitive subject in Trumpworld, the president’s tax returns?
There’s a potential problem, though. We now know who it was who leaked the phone conversation to Reuters in which Cohen discussed scandalous photos involving Falwell and his wife. It didn’t come from Cohen himself; it came from Tom Arnold, on the other end of the line. It’s possible, of course, that Cohen gave Arnold that information knowing that he was being recorded, in the expectation that Arnold would use it to turn up the heat on Trump. But it’s also possible that he didn’t know. Maybe this is Arnold going rogue, wanting to punish Trump — and Falwell — and unable to resist using a weapon he had.
What do we make of this?
Arnold said Cohen did not know that he was recording their March conversation at the time, but Arnold said that he subsequently told Cohen that he had recorded it. He said he indicated to Cohen that he would release details about the Falwell portion of their conversation after Cohen went to prison.
“He knows I’m going to help him,” Arnold said, adding: “I said, ‘As soon as you go in: Jerry Falwell Jr.’”
So Cohen didn’t create the recording but maybe knew that it was going to be used against Trump and Falwell and didn’t object. From Cohen’s standpoint, I suppose that’s a no-lose proposition. If Trump gets scared and offers him a pardon in return for convincing Arnold to back off, Cohen wins. If Trump shrugs and Arnold keeps leaking Cohen dirt on Trump’s friends, Cohen at least gets the satisfaction of knowing that he’s damaged Trump after their falling out.
And what do we make of this?
“I had a mission that I needed to fulfill,” Cohen, who once boasted he “would take a bullet” for his former boss, told Tom Arnold, the actor and comedian, in a March 25 phone conversation. “I needed to get the truth out there.”…
“It’s very hard when you spend 10 years taking care of somebody and their family,” Cohen said, referring to his time with Trump, before adding, “look, I always knew, you know, who he was and what he was and so on.”
Maybe Cohen’s on a “mission” to burn down Trumpworld and the instrument of his arson is, ah, Roseanne Barr’s ex-husband. The least likely harbinger of the apocalypse since the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man.
The Falwell tape isn’t the only one Arnold has leaked. He shared audio of Cohen discussing the charges against him with the Wall Street Journal a few weeks ago and shared audio of Cohen slamming RNC chair Ronna McDaniel with the Observer, the paper formerly owned by … Jared Kushner. He’s been boasting since last summer that Cohen “has all the tapes — this dude has everything” and was vowing even then that “We’re taking Trump down together.” (Cohen allegedly said “OK” to that, to which Cohen’s wife supposedly added, “OK, f*** Trump.”) He seems to be proudest of the hit on Falwell, though:
Jerry Jr blocked me 6 months ago but when I saw those tweets I knew he needed a little reminder of what Jesus would do with a 36 min tape of him & Michael Cohen preaching the gospel truth https://t.co/zfLUrFLIUh
— Tom Arnold (@TomArnold) May 8, 2019
In lieu of an exit question, here’s the “Fox & Friends” crew doing their very, very best to turn Trump’s almost unimaginable business losses into a smashing success.
AE: "It's interesting, but I don't think it's going to sway anyone at the polls."
BK: "It intrigues me more, actually."
— Liam Donovan (@LPDonovan) May 8, 2019