From ‘a fine person’ to ‘terrible.’ Donald Trump’s shifting position on Michael Cohen

President Donald Trump and his advisers once described Michael Cohen as “a very fine person” and an “honest, honorable lawyer.”

But their comments changed when Cohen, who once served as Trump’s personal attorney and so-called “fixer,” began cooperating with prosecutors looking into the president’s dealings.

Cohen has pleaded guilty to tax fraud, making false statements to a bank and campaign fraud while working for Trump, The Washington Post reported. He faces a three-year prison sentence.

He has been cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into allegations of campaign fraud and Russian influence in the 2016 election, according to USA Today.

Cohen began testifying before Congress on Tuesday in a closed session, CNN reported. He will testify before two other Congressional panels on Wednesday and Thursday. The session Wednesday will be public.

He’s expected to accuse Trump of “racist language, lies about his wealth and possible criminal conduct,” The New York Times reported.

Ahead of Cohen’s testimony, White House officials and Trump advisers have been scathing in their criticism of him.

Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s current personal attorney, once called Cohen an “honest, honorable lawyer” but later said he has “lied all his life,” CNN reported.

Giuliani also has called Cohen a “scumbag” and a “very bad guy,” comparing him to Benedict Arnold, The Guardian reported.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Tuesday called Cohen a “disgraced felon” who “is going to prison for lying to Congress and making other false statements,” Newsweek reported.

“Sadly, he will go before Congress this week and we can expect more of the same,” Sanders said, according to the publication. “It’s laughable that anyone would take a convicted liar like Cohen at his word, and pathetic to see him given yet another opportunity to spread his lies.”

The president once had plenty of warm words for Cohen.

In 2017, Trump said “Michael Cohen is a very talented lawyer,” according to a transcript by The Washington Post. “He’s a good lawyer in my firm.“

In June, Trump said Cohen was no longer his attorney but said he “always liked Michael,” The Hill reported. “And he’s a good person.”

Trump also posted frequently about Cohen on Twitter, particularly once investigators began looking into his dealings, but the president’s tone began to shift as his former attorney moved closer to cooperating with prosecutors.

‘A fine person’

In an April 21 series of Twitter posts attacking The New York Times for a story reporting Cohen could cooperate with federal investigators, Trump called him “a fine person with a wonderful family” whom he has “always liked and respected.”

“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,” Trump predicted in his tweet.

‘Very common’

In a series of posts on May 3, Trump argued that Cohen’s dealings with porn star Stormy Daniels on a non-disclosure agreement over her reports of an affair with Trump were “very common” and entirely above-board.

“Mr. Cohen, an attorney, received a monthly retainer, not from the campaign and having nothing to do with the campaign, from which he entered into, through reimbursement, a private contract between two parties, known as a non-disclosure agreement, or NDA,” Trump wrote.

“These agreements are very common among celebrities and people of wealth,” Trump continued, arguing the agreement was needed to stop “false and extortionate” claims.

‘Perhaps illegal’

In a July 21 post on Twitter after an FBI raid on Cohen’s New York office seized a recording of Trump secretly made by his former attorney, the president called it “inconceivable that the government would break into a lawyer’s office (early in the morning) — almost unheard of. Even more inconceivable that a lawyer would tape a client — totally unheard of & perhaps illegal.”

‘Don’t retain the services of Michael Cohen!’

In Twitter post Aug. 22, one day after Cohen pleaded guilty and pledged to cooperate with the Mueller investigation, Trump suggested his former attorney wasn’t such a great hire.

“If anyone is looking for a good lawyer, I would strongly suggest that you don’t retain the services of Michael Cohen!” Trump wrote on Twitter.


On Dec. 3, following news that his former attorney had sought a reduced prison term based on his cooperation with prosecutors, Trump tweeted, “You mean he can do all of the TERRIBLE, unrelated to Trump, things having to do with fraud, big loans, Taxis, etc., and not serve a long prison term?” Trump asked. “He lied for this outcome and should, in my opinion, serve a full and complete sentence.”

‘He is supposed to know the law’

On Dec. 13, in a series of Twitter posts after Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison for pleading guilty to tax fraud, making false statements to a bank and campaign fraud, Trump wrote, “I never directed Michael Cohen to break the law. He was a lawyer and he is supposed to know the law.”

“As a lawyer, Michael has a great liability to me,” Trump concluded.

‘One of many lawyers who represented me (unfortunately)‘

On Wednesday, Trump posted to Twitter to distance himself from Cohen hours before his former lawyer was set to testify publicly before Congress.

Don Sweeney has been a newspaper reporter and editor in California for more than 25 years. He has been a real-time reporter based at The Sacramento Bee since 2016.