Lawyer Roy Cohn was, for years, one of the top advisers to the former president, who has proved to be a skilled student.
Following his legal problems, former President Donald Trump has demonstrated that his style hasn’t changed in decades, originating in McCarthyism and the anti-communist witch hunts of the 1950s.
It’s the style perfected by a lawyer as brilliant as he was perverse, Roy Cohn, who was Trump’s mentor when he was a young businessman in the golden age of 1970s New York.
Cohn was one of the harshest, most unethical and amoral characters in United States history. Described as a homophobic homosexual, he formed part of the “communist busting” legislative committees of Richard Nixon and Joseph McCarthy. He immigrated to New York, where he distinguished himself as a litigator and advised Mafia organizations — who, coincidently, controlled the construction unions.
For years he was one of the top advisers to the former president, who proved to be a skilled student.
According to some authors, Cohn taught Trump three principles: 1) Never reach an agreement and never surrender; 2) counterattack and counterclaim immediately; and 3) never admit defeat and always claim victory, no matter what happens or how bad it gets.
If you look closely, those principles are present in Trump’s defense strategy in the three trials he now faces and probably in the one that will follow for trying to pressure Georgia state officials to “find” him the votes needed to flip the election results and cut into the lead that was already held by Joe Biden.
Trump has still not stopped declaring victory in the 2020 election and insists he was robbed; if he is to be believed, it would have been a conspiracy involving tens of thousands of election workers, vote-counters, observers and elements in favor of both his Democratic opponents and his Republican supporters.
According to some analysts, his strategy involves undermining the credibility of his opponents, pressuring witnesses, diverting attention and using distractions, and creating public opinion in his favor.
Cohn’s fingerprints are all over this process.
Trump and Cohn had a long working relationship, and along the way, the businessman-turned-politician learned how to ensure privacy, if not secrecy, in his dealings to pressure his counterparts with his wealth and to negotiate from a position of strength.
It is a strategy that has been quite successful in more than 4,000 financial and real estate deals, and is now transitioning to the realms of politics and public opinion.
It has evidently been successful among Republicans, and some fear it will go further, even to his reelection. But it’s also worth remembering that Cohn died broke, disgraced and sick with AIDS.