A vitriolic audiotape of a phone call between Donald Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen and a reporter reveals how the lawyer tried to protect his boss with threats and fury. “What I’m going to do to you is going to be fucking disgusting,” Cohen tells the journalist in a rage on the tape aired for the first time Thursday by National Public Radio.
The phone call offers a fascinating glimpse into the way a bristling Cohen dealt with people to get them to back off Trump, establishing his reputation as a “fixer.”
Former Trump political adviser Sam Nunberg said that Trump himself set the aggressive tone he expected Cohen to take. Cohen “was supposed to say and act the way Donald wanted him to act,” Nunberg added. “Michael had even expressed sometimes regret that he did certain things — because it was at the direction of Donald.”
The phone call involved then-Daily Beast reporter Tim Mak, who wrote the NPR story and provided a tape of his conversation with Cohen. He had reached out to former Trump aide Hope Hicks in 2015 for a response to claims made by Trump’s first wife, Ivana Trump, in a 1993 deposition during divorce proceedings that her husband had once raped her. Ivana Trump confirmed that she used the word “rape” but later clarified that she didn’t mean rape in a “literal or criminal sense.” (After the Beast story appeared, she said the story was “without merit” and that “Donald and I are now the best of friends.”)
Mak heard back from Cohen, who first told the reporter, falsely, that by “definition you can’t rape your spouse.” In fact, marital rape is a crime in all 50 states and has been illegal in New York since 1984 (Ivana claimed she was attacked in 1989).
Cohen then became increasingly heated — and threatening.
“Mark my words ... I will make sure that you and I meet one day over 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,” Cohen said. “Do not even think about going to where I know you’re planning on going. And that’s my warning for the day.”
He added: “Tread very fucking lightly because what I’m going to do to you is going to be fucking disgusting. Do you understand me? Don’t think you can hide behind your pen because it’s not going to happen. I’m more than happy to discuss it with your attorney ... because, motherfucker, you’re going to need it.”
Then he suggested: “I think you should go ahead and write the story that you plan on writing; I think you should do it because I think you’re an idiot, all right, and I think your paper is a joke. And it’s going to be my absolute pleasure to serve you with a $500 million lawsuit.”
Mak wrote the story and Cohen never sued. But Nunberg told NPR there were calls among Trump campaign aides for Cohen’s resignation after that because of the way he dealt with the situation. Cohen later apologized for his false claims that spousal rape is not illegal.
Trump also distanced himself from Cohen’s claim about spousal rape, saying: “He’s speaking for himself. He’s not speaking for me, obviously.”
Earlier this month satirical stalwart The Onion printed a threatening email from Cohen in 2013 over a parody article with Donald Trump’s byline headlined: “When You’re Feeling Low, Just Remember I’ll Be Dead in About 15 or 20 Years.” Cohen responded: “The article is an absolutely disgusting piece that lacks any place in journalism, even in your Onion.”