President Donald Trump woke up on Saturday morning at his Florida estate and club Mar-a-Lago. His wife, First Lady Melania Trump, was preparing to attend the Texas memorial service for Barbara Bush, the recently departed matriarch of the Bush political dynasty. And there was nothing pressing—in fact, nothing at all—on his own public schedule.
So Trump went golfing. But on his way to Trump International Golf Club in suburban West Palm Beach, he checked his phone first, looking down into the device as he sat in the back of his motorcade. And then, as is his want, he rage-tweeted.
“The New York Times and a third rate reporter named Maggie Haberman, known as a Crooked H flunkie who I don’t speak to and have nothing to do with, are going out of their way to destroy Michael Cohen and his relationship with me in the hope that he will ‘flip,’” President Trump posted to Twitter. “They use........non-existent ‘sources’ and a drunk/drugged up loser who hates Michael, a fine person with a wonderful family. Michael is a businessman for his own account/lawyer who I have always liked & respected.”
Two Trump associates and one White House official who The Daily Beast asked about these Saturday morning posts all deduced, based on interactions with the president, that the “drunk/drugged up loser who hates Michael” to whom Trump referred was Sam Nunberg, a former political adviser and aide who was prominently quoted in the recent Times article that irked the president. Nunberg did not respond to inquiries from The Daily Beast. Neither did the White House press shop.
President Trump concluded his tirade by tweeting, “Most people will flip if the Government lets them out of trouble, even if........it means lying or making up stories. Sorry, I don’t see Michael doing that despite the horrible Witch Hunt and the dishonest media!”
While public outbursts are hardly new for this president, the one that took place on Saturday was uniquely loaded in its legal and political implications. The tweets may have been directed at Haberman. But their intended audience was largely Cohen.
Trump’s personal attorney and notorious fixer finds himself in legal crosshairs after his office and residence were raided by the feds. And over the past week, there have been several reports that close Trump allies and senior White House aides are actively concerned about, and trying to game out, what to do if Cohen flips.
Jay Goldberg, one of Trump’s longtime legal advisers, even told The Wall Street Journal that he spoke with the president in recent days about Cohen and specifically cautioned Trump about putting his trust in Cohen to stay loyal if there are criminal charges.
Three different officials and associates in Trumpworld independently expressed worry to The Daily Beast this month that Cohen could quickly become just another “snitch.”
The premise that there is something to “snitch” about was simply taken for granted. And it’s infused public commentary about the issue too.
“Is [Michael Cohen] wilting under the feds’ pressure tactics? Why is he giving [interviews] to news outlets hostile to @realDonaldTrump? We address that & much more—10p ET @FoxNews,” host Laura Ingraham—a close ally to the Trump family who interviewed for the job of Trump's White House press secretary—tweeted on April 10.
Multiple sources who have spoken with Trump about this insisted to The Daily Beast in recent days that the president is not completely losing his faith in Cohen’s loyalty. At least not yet.
In private conversations, Trump has emphasized his deep annoyance and fury over federal investigators and authorities who he believes have gone beyond the pale in probing his inner circle, his business empire, and his family. When it comes to how Cohen will stand up—or fall down—under pressure, several people close to President Trump have noticed him uttering a familiar refrain and vocal tic: “We’ll see.”
Cohen, for his part, has long held himself out as an unbreakable ally to the president, even though there are numerous questions about how the president treats and feels about him.
“I’d rather jump out of a building than turn on Donald Trump,” Cohen reportedly said earlier this month.
Those close to the president—as well as, and perhaps especially, the president himself—are watching closely to see how strongly that statement holds.
“How tall is the building?” one senior White House official asked.