Michelle Goldberg: Cohen a cautionary tale for Republicans

Donald Trump’s former fixer now regrets the loyalty he paid to his boss. Are others paying attention?

By Michelle Goldberg / The New York Times

On a day when Michael Cohen, Donald Trump’s former fixer, testified about the price of loyalty to Donald Trump, a group of Republicans, including House Speaker Mike Johnson, Gov. Doug Burgum of North Dakota, and Vivek Ramaswamy, a former presidential candidate, showed up at the courthouse to demonstrate their loyalty to Trump.

Sitting in the courtroom Tuesday on my first day at the trial, I kept wondering what they were thinking as they heard Cohen, seeming every bit the weary, reluctantly reformed TV gangster, testify about his mafia-like interactions with Trumpworld.

He described how, after his home and office were raided by the FBI, Trump encouraged him, both through a “really sketchy” lawyer and through his own Twitter posts, to, in Cohen’s words, “Stay in the fold, stay loyal, don’t flip.” He described how, once he decided “not to lie for President Trump any longer,” the then-president publicly attacked him.

Cohen now seems like a man whose life has been essentially wrecked; he went to prison, lost his law license, had to sell his New York and Chicago taxi medallions and is still on supervised release. Although his implosion has been particularly severe, he is far from alone; many people who’ve served Trump, no matter how faithfully, have been ruined in various ways by the experience.

Nevertheless, as Trump runs for reelection, Republicans are climbing over one another to get as close to him as possible. Toward the end of his testimony for the prosecution, Cohen was asked about his regrets.

“To keep the loyalty and to do things that he had asked me to do, I violated my moral compass, and I suffered the penalty,” he said. I’d like to know if Johnson, hearing this, had even a flicker of foreboding.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

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