Disloyal – A Review

At one point, [Cohen] reached out to Putin’s press spokesman Dmitri Peskov, but couldn’t get through. It turns out that’s because he meant to email PR_peskova@prpress.gov[.ru] but actually emailed .gof instead, and .gof of course sends you right to the server of the new HBO series Game of Flounder, where powerful flounder families fight for control of the seven sandbars… Another, even more ridiculous case of Cohen bungling contact with Russians involved Dmitry Klokov, a former press secretary to Russia’s energy minister. Klokov’s ex-wife had contacted Ivanka, offering his assistance his assistance to the Trump campaign. So, that is someone with ties to the Russian government offering help to elect Trump. Ivanka forwarded that email to Cohen, who googled Dmitry Klokov and concluded that the person they must be talking about was a former Olympic weightlifter by that name.

John Oliver, “Mueller Report: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver”, Apr 22, 2019. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YMBj_tU7HRU (emphasis mine)

I had to bring this up, because it appears that in the entirety of the memoir Disloyal, by Michael Cohen himself, this error had yet to be even addressed. He devoted a lot of page space to Trump’s efforts to build a Trump Tower in Moscow and ultimately give a penthouse to Vladimir Putin as a way of greasing some wheels (and revealing that Trump admired Putin for being the de facto Tsar of Russia, which is not at all surprising in the aftermath of Jan 6, 2021). I am willing to chalk up “.gof” as a typo he had never noticed, but mixing up a pencil pushing press secretary for an Olympic weightlifter is a bit more far fetched and if you ask me, a lot fucking funnier. (John Oliver notes that Cohen appeared to be mixed up even during his interviews with Mueller for the report, but Cohen’s problems in the book concern his belief that Mueller misrepresented his statements in a footnote.)

Speaking of…

I was going to be truthful, but I also had good reason to be economical with the truth. Because here is the thing: I care for Donald Trump, even to this day, and I had and still have a lot of affection for him.

Cohen, Michael. Disloyal: A Memoir. 2020. pp. 333-4

While this is not the book he had wanted to write in the wake of Fire and Fury (and in conversation with it), and arguably had to change in the wake of his prison sentence and falling out with “the Boss” as he calls Trump, I don’t necessarily believe Cohen did a complete 180 and decided to tell all the dirty details (in fact it’s probably impossible, even for a four-hundred-page book, counting appendices).

(As an aside, if you are like me and do not give a single flying fuck about reality TV, it is on page 358 that you will learn Michael Sorrentino, “The Situation”, was in prison alongside Cohen. According to his wikipedia page, he was convicted of tax evasion. Like Cohen, oddly enough, although Cohen, and this is important, claims to have not done a single thing wrong and been railroaded by Southern District attorneys for the sake of a notch in their belts. Despite spending the entire book laying out the things he had done for Trump and claiming again and again that he was by no means an angel and that his actions were reprehensible, I as the reader was expected to believe this was the one thing that was not his doing. He claims he didn’t lie to his bank, that the “fraud” on his taxi medallions was because of someone else, that the IRS made a miscalculation. It is never his fault.)

Much of the book is about Cohen’s work for Trump as a “fixer” (his word) and what he describes as a slow descent into madness conforming to the Trump worldview. I have grown up with narcissists, those being my parents, and so I have a sense of this process, and I believe not even Cohen himself knows the true extent it had on his psyche. Of course, he was an adult throughout the entire proceedings, so he had that stable foundation (more or less, he did also grow up around and idolize mobsters, even though he was expected to be a good Jewish boy and go to law school). It is easy for people to fall into traps like this: just consider any cult or MLM in existence. Humans are not rational creatures.

But, his being an adult makes him culpable. Just as it made the Manson Family’s members culpable in their attempts to start a race war. He is responsible for his own actions.

He says repeatedly that he is not denying anything he’s written about in the book, from violently screaming at a man that he was fired (on Trump’s behalf) to shady underhanded dealings of all kinds to silence less-than-flattering stories about The Donald in the press (including the National Enquirer, though I don’t know a single soul who takes that seriously). However, this entire thing falls apart near the end. As stated above, he claims innocence of what he was indicted of (and ultimately pled to). I am unsure how true or untrue this is, given as he already mentioned (also above) that a previous version of this very book, then in conceptual stages, involved him being “economical with the truth”. He portrays his entire runaround with conviction, prison (which I noticed was not initially on the table, he’d been told), release, reimprisonment, parole, appeal, and so forth as a witch hunt directed at him personally.

I’ll be honest. It’s a post Jan. 6, 2021, world. We all know the lengths to which Trump supporters are willing to go based on what they believe he said (and, I suspect, The Donald knows this). Trump probably said a few nasty things on Twitter about Cohen, and these people in positions of power took it as license to give Cohen the runaround described. Cohen blames Trump personally because something something “mobster” tactics, but I’m not willing to ascribe to Trump any kind of 4D chess moves like this. I’d much more readily believe that tweets or vague references in speeches got filtered through so many parties that this kind of thing was inevitable. He doesn’t need to say “target this man”, because so many people think he’s the Second Coming of Christ that his words will get interpreted that way regardless.

Is it functionally the same? Well, yes, they both have the same end result. And because the book exists and I read it, and I found it exceptionally engaging learning the “inside secrets”, which despite not shocking me, were fascinating reading… We can all see any attempts to “silence” Mr. Cohen didn’t work.

Read the book. Come to your own conclusions. Here it is on Amazon.