Column: Michael Cohen and Donald Trump ... err ... Individual-1 met cute. Now the romance is over

Michael Cohen
Michael Cohen leaves court in New York in August.
(Mary Altaffer / Associated Press)

Now it can be told! The story of the rise to power of Michael Cohen, former fixer to President Trump.

The tale — which is also the star-crossed love story of Cohen and Trump — appears in one of the two major sentencing memos that were released to great fanfare Friday evening.

Cohen pulled off some whiz-bang professional machinations some 12 years ago. He displayed in his very first bid for Trump’s attention the same kind of exquisitely craven thinking that got him in his current dire straits.

Cohen’s sentencing documents — one from the U.S. attorney’s office in the Southern District of New York, the other from the office of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III — recommend prison time and asset forfeiture for Cohen on four counts of tax evasion, false statements to banks and Congress, and illegal campaign contributions.


They also detail that Trump-Cohen romance.

The Southern District of New York memo records that, in 2007, Cohen was making an annual salary $75,000 as a personal-injury lawyer. No shame in $75,000. But that wasn’t enough for a go-getter like Cohen. Young Cohen’s heart had long surged with “ambition and greed,” in the words of the memo. So Cohen “seized on an opportunity.”

It seems he had a condo in a building emblazoned with the name of “Individual-1,” who is never named but is identified with some clues. Such as: owner of a Manhattan real estate company. You don’t say.

Seems like Cohen is over Individual-1, especially if he can get favors from his new godfathers.


Anyway, the condominium’s board of directors didn’t, for whatever crazy reason, want Individual-1’s gaudy name on their building — I-N-D-I-V-I-D-U-A-L-1 — in big brass letters.

Eye on the main chance, Cohen managed to overthrow and remove the entire condominium board, and the new board wasn’t averse to keeping Individual-1’s name on the building. Boy, did that endear Cohen to Individual-1.

For Cohen’s services, according to the memo, the lawyer became Individual-1’s vice president and “special counsel.” His salary jumped to $500,000. The American dream!

Man, who the heck is Individual-1?

Another clue comes later in the memo, around the part where Cohen’s charges are named. “On approximately June 16, 2015, Individual-1, for whom Cohen worked at the time, began an ultimately successful campaign for President of the United States.”

An ultimately successful campaign for President of the United States. That narrows it down a bit. Wait: Jimmy Carter?

The Mueller sentencing document offers at least some praise for the beleaguered Cohen. Evidently, in meetings with prosecutors, Cohen has often volunteered to tell the truth, without being coaxed.

This adds up. Former federal prosecutor Mimi Rocah says that mob under-bosses — which is one way to think about Cohen — who are devoted to capos nonetheless often make great cooperating witnesses. They ultimately aim to please investigators the way they once aimed to please their mob dads.


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Here’s an example of Cohen showing his new devotion: At first, he claimed that Individual-1 knew nothing of efforts he made to connect the real estate business owner with Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2015. (Putin doesn’t have to have a code name in the documents; maybe it could have been Individual-uber1.) But once Cohen got more comfortable with the Mueller team, he admitted that, yeah, Individual-1 knew all about those Russia connection attempts.

Seems like Cohen is over Individual-1, especially if he can get favors from his new godfathers.

“Like most who stand before this court for sentence,” says the Southern District of New York memo, “Cohen is neither all good nor all bad.” He’s a mix, then.

But “individual” comes from the Latin individuus, which means “not divisible.” Individual-1, perhaps, is not divided. He’s just one thing.

Unlike most who stand before the court, Individual-1 is looking, increasingly, all bad.

Twitter: @page88

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