"Did they think I was just going to roll over and die?"

For months, friends and advisers have been telling Cohen that Jared Kushner, Donald Trump Jr., and Rudy Giuliani, among other people in Trump’s inner circle, have been eroding his relationship with the president. People close to Cohen speculated over the weekend whether the release of the recording was part of such a strategy. The recording was deemed privileged by an appointed special master in the S.D.N.Y. investigation, meaning that it would not have seen the light of day if Trump and his lawyers had wanted it to remain private. Giuliani told me on Friday that the president’s legal team waived privilege on the recording (a detail that was confirmed by two people close to Cohen), which effectively allowed the government access to the conversation. Giuliani called it “powerful exculpatory evidence.”…

As the newfound silence between Trump and Cohen turns into a potential cold war, Cohen has told friends that one of his biggest regrets is the embarrassment heaped upon First Lady Melania Trump. This weekend, the First Lady’s spokeswoman said that she was “focused on her role as a mother and as First Lady” and would have no further comment regarding the tapes. Cohen has said he hopes to apologize to her someday. Meanwhile, his feelings toward her husband, and towards those he believes are part of the strategy to discredit him, are chillier. “If they think for a second that the efforts to discredit me aren’t known to me, they are sadly mistaken,” he has told friends. “Did they think I was just going to roll over and die?”

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