I realize I run the risk, by publishing this opinion, of Donald Trump’s thuggish, boorish, dolt of lawyer trying to “mess [my] life up … for as long as [I’m] on this frickin’ planet,” to put it in his well-measured, restrained and professional parlance. Well, so be it. Seldom do we see any lawyer befoul the image and dignity of his profession like Michael Cohen, Esquire, one of Donald Trump’s lawyers, did yesterday responding to a Daily Beast story about the dirty linen aired during Trump’s divorce from Ivana Trump over 20 years ago.
Ivana then compared a sexual encounter with her husband to sexual assault and rape, and The Daily Beast wrote about it, as if Trump wasn’t doing enough already to make any decent American head to the loo at the sight of him. So Trump appointed Cohen as his media spokesman on the matter—just think: he was the best and most professional of the candidates for the job!—and he said this to The Daily Beast…
“I will make sure that you and I meet one day while we’re in the courthouse. And I will take you for every penny you still don’t have. And I will come after your Daily Beast and everybody else that you possibly know. So I’m warning you, tread very fucking lightly, because what I’m going to do to you is going to be fucking disgusting. You understand me? You write a story that has Mr. Trump’s name in it, with the word ‘rape,’ and I’m going to mess your life up … for as long as you’re on this frickin’ planet … you’re going to have judgments against you, so much money, you’ll never know how to get out from underneath it.”
…as well as this:
“You’re talking about the front-runner for the GOP, presidential candidate, as well as private individual who never raped anybody. And, of course, understand that by the very definition, you can’t rape your spouse. It is true. You cannot rape your spouse. And there’s very clear case law.”
The first statement is the kind of incivility and unprofessional conduct that some jurisdictions–not New York, of course—have found to be “prejudicial to the administration of justice” when engaged in during the course of litigation. Cohen is not strictly in breach of legal ethics rules by this kind of talk, which is more appropriate coming from a character in a Robert De Niro film—but it is still unethical, and wildly unprofessional.
The second statement, however, is incompetent. I wonder how many spousal abusers heard this pronouncement and proceeded to rape their wives on the authority of Trump’s legal counsel? You can rape your wife, and it is a crime–rape, in fact— in the vast, vast majority of states. Proclaiming to the media that sexual assault isn’t a crime when it is and has been for a very, very long time? You can’t be a more reckless, irresponsible, incompetent lawyer than that.
Since he was Trump’s choice to speak for him, we can assume, can we not, that Cohen would be at the top of President-Elect Trumps short lists for Attorney General or White House Counsel?
Any self-respecting Presidential hopeful with a respect for the media and the public would have fired this clod within 20 seconds of hearing his embarrassing comments, but you know—Trump. So Cohen got to issue an apology, and goes the full Pazuzu:
“As an attorney, husband and father there are many injustices that offend me but nothing more than charges of rape or racism. They hit me at my core. Rarely am I surprised by the press, but the gall of this particular reporter to make such a reprehensible and false allegation against Mr. Trump truly stunned me. In my moment of shock and anger, I made an inarticulate comment – which I do not believe — and which I apologize for entirely.”
I suppose it is cruel to point out that this is also an inarticulate comment. Charges of rape or racism offend him even when they are legitimate? Is he apologizing for the comment being inarticulate, or for the fact that he didn’t believe it? If he in the habit of saying things he doesn’t believe while practicing law, that is a breach of the ethics rules: it’s called dishonesty (Rule 8.4). Also, what didn’t he believe? That raping your wife isn’t rape, or that he is going to take journalists to court for reporting Trump’s wife’s allegations, or both?
Pazuzu apologies—that is, when someone claims that words escaped their mouth for no apparent reason, as if they were possessed by Linda Blair’s occupant in “The Exorcist,” the demon Pazuzu— are dishonest apologies, making this a bottom of the barrel, Level 10 on the Ethics Alarms Apology Scale. Why would a lawyer emphatically misstate the law in public if he didn’t believe what he was saying was correct? He wouldn’t. Cohen didn’t know what the law is on spousal rape, and believed he was correct.
For anyone who for some bizarre reason isn’t already convinced that Donald Trump is as qualified to be President as the average tolltaker in the Lincoln Tunnel, this is good test. Donald says that he is a tough boss who demands competence and a high level of performance from all employees. If Michael Cohen still has his job by this time next week, you’ll know how seriously to take that claim.