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Trump vs. Cohen: the breakup of a relationship in New York

WASHINGTON – He spent months in his Park Avenue apartment, stuck to cable news, his bills growing and federal prosecutors gathering evidence against him that they would use as a means of pressure .

He saw his former friend and former boss, who became president of the United States, dirty him on Twitter and make vague public threats about his family.

His work for Donald J. Trump and the lies he has told send him to jail for years.

On Tuesday, his license was revoked.

On Wednesday, Michael D. Cohen has avenged himself.

It was a nasty public break-up of a relationship established in New York over the last ten years – as described by Cohen and his associates – a mixture of a father's bond with his son, the professional distance between lawyer and client, and the blind loyalty of a mafia man to a crime leader.

"I regret the day I said" yes "to Mr. Trump," said Cohen at a busy hearing of the House's oversight committee. "I regret all the help and support I have given him along the way."

In a grim morning of testimony, the lawyer and fixer of the formerly loyal president swore an account of his years of service with Mr. Trump. He recalled shady business and racist remarks, and spoke devastatingly and uncomfortably of his private conversations with the man he had idolized.

He was responsible for the implementation of Mr. Trump, a role he once seemed to enjoy.

"If anyone does something that Mr. Trump does not like, I'm doing everything in my power to solve it for Mr. Trump's benefit," he said. said an interviewer in 2011. "If you do something wrong, I will attack you on the neck, and I will not let you go until I finish."

More recently, after Mr. Cohen agreed to disclose hidden cash payments to prosecutors prior to the 2016 election, the president in turn used a mafia description of his former loyal loyal assistant. He called it a "rat".

This was the vernacular language that the two men perfected over the years, navigating in New York's precarious but potentially lucrative industries – construction, real estate and taxis.

The day Mr. Cohen was the star witness at a congressional hearing designed to unearth the president's past, Mr. Trump was thousands of miles away. a summit meeting with the North Korean leader, he hoped that this would give seriousness to his beleaguered presidency and divert from what was happening at home.

For Mr. Cohen, a man who used to walk in the corridors of the Trump Organization with a gun attached to his ankle and seemed to bask in Mr. Trump's glory, Wednesday was a moment to absorb the light.

"Michael would describe this as a kind of cult," said Donny Deutsch, advertising director and friend of Mr. Cohen. "Michael's done having it. And his life is in ruins because of that. And he is the first to say it. "

The relationship between the two men began in much the same way as many of Mr. Trump's relationships: with an act of loyalty.

In 2006, residents of the Trump World Tower – a sparkling glass tower close to the United Nations – were trying to wipe Mr. Trump's name off the building and take control of his direction.

Mr. Cohen, a former personal injury attorney who had made millions of dollars in taxis in New York, stepped in after Trump's son Donald Jr. asked for help. Mr. Cohen had already bought several condominiums in Trump's buildings, persuaded his family and friends to do the same, and had read Mr. Trump's book "The Art of Dealing" twice. . a blow that took away the revolting tenants of the council of co-ownership. Mr. Trump has read.

In some respects it was an unequal relationship between two men of different ages, different education and very different financial conditions. Mr. Cohen, son of a Holocaust survivor, was only 40 years old when he started working for Mr. Trump, a much older son of a real estate mogul who would inherit millions of dollars money from his father.

But Mr. Cohen had a comfortable education in Lawrence, on Long Island, just 13 miles from home in Queens where Mr. Trump had been raised. And, like his future boss, Mr. Cohen has combined his business management know-how with the help of a family member – in his case, his stepfather – in order to stand out in neighborhoods outside of Manhattan.

Mr. Cohen soon became an employee of the Trump Organization, charged with disparate elements of Mr. Trump's business empire. In 2008, he became Chief Operating Officer of Affliction Entertainment, a company Trump launched to offer mixed martial arts fights to a pay-per-view audience.

"I'm almost speechless, knowing that Mr. Trump and Affliction trust me for an event featuring Mr.M.A.'s largest gathering. fighters for a show in M.M.A. history, "Cohen said in a statement announcing his new duties, adding that the upcoming event looked like" having Ali, Frazier, Tyson, Holyfield and other heavyweights among all on the same map boxing. "

Working for Trump, he told lawmakers on Wednesday, he was "intoxicating".

"When you were in his presence, you have the impression of being involved in something bigger than you: you are changing the world.

He tried to appeal to his boss by embodying the qualities that Mr. Trump had admired in his own mentor, Roy Cohn. A lawyer born in the Bronx, Mr. Cohn distinguished himself by working for the anti-communist crusade of Senator Joseph McCarthy, then spent years as a lawyer for Mr. Trump. Like Mr. Cohen, he was struck off for unethical conduct.

"Roy was brutal, but he was very loyal," Trump told a biographer. "He brutalized for you."

Over time, Mr. Cohen learned how Mr. Trump liked to do business.

"He does not ask you questions, he does not give you any order," he said on Wednesday. "He speaks in code and I understand him because I've been around him for a decade."

In 2011, Mr. Cohen began exploring the prospects of another fight, a possible presidential election led by Mr. Trump in 2012. He traveled to Iowa and accompanied Mr. Trump to a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference, where he acted as a bouncer of bars. reporters away from his celebrity boss. Mr. Cohen has created a website called ShouldTrumpRun.org.

He does not have it. But almost immediately after the end of the presidential race, Mr. Cohen began compiling information for his boss for next time. He kept a thick binder on his desk at the Trump Tower, containing information on filing deadlines in different states for the 2016 election and other campaign details.

But he was dismissed early in the campaign, prevented by Mr. Trump's children and other political agents from making day-to-day decisions. He pursued other commercial activities for Mr. Trump, including the ambitious idea of ​​building the tallest skyscraper in Moscow bearing the name Trump.

Trying to gain access to influential figures in Moscow, Mr Cohen turned to Felix Sater, a Russian immigrant, felon and F.B.I. informant who had helped Mr. Trump conclude other development projects and had explored various companies in Russia.

Robert S. Mueller III, the special council, examines Russia's attempts to sabotage the 2016 elections and the role played by Trump's advisers in coordinating with Moscow. And the lies Mr. Cohen has told about the negotiations put him even more at risk on the legal front.

On Wednesday, he apologized to legislators for lying to another congressional committee in 2017, when he said the Trump Tower talks in Moscow ended in January 2016, before the first presidential primaries. In fact, they continued for months more.

"To be clear," he said, "Mr. Trump knew about it and was running the Trump-Moscow negotiations throughout the campaign and lied about it." He lied because he was not sure. He was also lying about it because he was preparing to earn hundreds of millions of dollars on the Moscow real estate project. "

"And I lied about it too," he added.

After winning the election, Mr. Trump brought many of his longtime confidants to the White House, but Mr. Cohen was left behind. He was disappointed but remained a loyal MP, raising funds for Trump's re-election fund and publicly attack celebrities like Snoop Dogg and Johnny Depp for their anti-Trump comments.

At Wednesday's hearing, the Republicans tried to turn Mr. Cohen into an embittered former aide who was trying to recover his money after being expelled from a job at the White House. On Twitter, Eric, Mr. Trump's son, said that Mr. Cohen was known in the campaign for looking for a job.

Over the past two years, Mr. Cohen has insisted – and reiterated on Wednesday – that he had no interest in moving to Washington, uprooting his family, and relinquishing his position as a personal lawyer to Mr. Trump. He said that Mr Trump had wanted him for a job at the White House and that he was upset when that did not work out.

Whatever the circumstances, Mr. Cohen's absence from the administration created a distance between Mr. Cohen and Mr. Trump that would become a chasm.

When F.B.I. The agents raided Mr. Cohen's office and apartment last April, retrieving documents, e-mails and other documents dating back many years. Mr. Cohen relied on his first instinct: he did not want to reverse it.

He took at least one call from Mr. Trump, who invited him to stay strong. His lawyers developed a strategy with the President and Mr. Trump congratulated him and insisted that his former counsel and counsel would never cooperate with prosecutors.

That would change in July as his legal problems increased and his friends urged him not to take Mr. Trump's fall. He changed his Twitter biography page, removing any mention of being Mr. Trump's personal attorney, a move that his relatives say of his own free will is a deliberate sign of his independence.

Around this time, officials of Mr. Trump's company began to hesitate to pay a portion of Mr. Cohen's attorney fees.

In August, he pleaded guilty to financial crimes and, in his guilty plea, involved his former boss in a ploy to pay money to two women before the 2016 election.

It was an extraordinary turn for a once dedicated soldier – a decision that Mr. Cohen described Wednesday as catharsis.

"I've been lying, but I'm not a liar. I've done bad things, but I'm not a bad man, "he said in front of a silent room.

"I have repaired things. But I'm no longer your repairman, Mr. Trump.

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