Michael Cohen’s 5 Sleaziest Moments as Trump’s Attack Dog

Mike Segar/Reuters
Mike Segar/Reuters

While he’s perhaps Donald Trump’s arch-nemesis these days, the disgraced attorney Michael Cohen was once the former president’s personal fixer and attack dog for more than a decade, putting out fire after fire while proudly pledging he’d take a bullet for Trump.

Cohen testified in New York City on Monday as the prosecution’s star witness in Trump’s hush-money trial. On the stand, he ditched his typically bombastic attitude and appeared somber as he recalled his time working for Trump.

Below we take a look back at some of Cohen’s sleaziest moments as Trump’s fixer, many of which have been recalled by the 57-year-old himself.

Lying to Congress

Michael Cohen, wearing a suit, walks by dozens of reporters at the U.S. Capitol.

Michael Cohen talks to reporters as he departs after meeting with Senate Intelligence Committee in 2017.


Cohen confessed in a 2018 guilty plea that he lied in front of Congress about a Moscow real-estate deal he helped pursue at Trump’s behest two year’s prior. The lie, which he said he made out of loyalty to Trump, was regarding the ex-president’s hopes of building a Trump Tower in Moscow that would have been Europe’s tallest building. The proposed skyscraper was slated to have Trump’s surname emblazoned across the top, with its $50 million penthouse reserved for Vladimir Putin. As part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into potential Russian influence in the 2016 election, Cohen told Congress that building negotiations were halted by January 2016, early in Trump’s White House bid—testimony that benefitted Trump greatly as he asserted Russia had no influence on his shock election win. That date turned out to be a lie, however, with Cohen later conceding that negotiations in Moscow continued into at least June 2016, after Trump had secured the Republican nomination. Cohen claimed Trump covertly convinced him to lie to Congress about the negotiations and he obliged, with Trump’s legal team reviewing his comments in advance to ensure they stayed in line with his “political messaging.”

That whole hush-money thing

Stormy Daniels speaks into a microphone in 2018.

Prosecutors allege that Stormy Daniels was paid $130,000 by Michael Cohen for the rights to the story about her alleged affair with Donald Trump in 2006.


Perhaps none of Cohen’s work as Trump’s personal fixer is as infamous as the hush-money payments he claims to have made to kill negative stories about Trump. One of those alleged payments, made in 2016 to porn star Stormy Daniels, is central to Trump’s criminal trial. Cohen has alleged that Trump, with the backing of the National Enquirer, dispatched him to purchase the rights to stories of his alleged affairs, ensuring the scandals never went public. This type of strategy, widely known as “catch-and-kill,” was used to bury a story about an affair between Trump and former Playboy model Karen McDougal, who received a $150,000 payout. It also saw Trump allegedly pay a Trump Tower doorman $30,000 to keep quiet about him allegedly fathering a secret child—a story that had no merit but still would’ve caused Trump quite the headache had the claim been made in public. The same plan was used to kill a story about Trump and Daniels’ alleged affair in 2006—within a year of Trump’s marriage to Melania—at a Lake Tahoe resort. In that case, prosecutors say Cohen cut Daniels a check for $130,000 using his own money in 2016 and was later reimbursed by Trump after he’d already moved into the White House. Trump has denied this version of events, and has denied his affair with Daniels.

Nasty threats to journalists

It’s no secret that Cohen was among Trump’s biggest attack dogs well before the reality-TV star made his political aspirations known. In 2011, Cohen infamously spelled out his extreme loyalty to Trump—no matter the circumstance—in an interview with ABC News. “If somebody does something Mr. Trump doesn’t like, I do everything in my power to resolve it to Mr. Trump’s benefit,” he said. “If you do something wrong, I’m going to come at you, grab you by the neck, and I’m not going to let you go until I’m finished.” In the years that followed, Cohen lived up to that dramatic quote. He threatened to sue The Onion in 2013 over an article he claimed was defamatory, ordering the satirical website to remove it immediately or face him in court. “The article is an absolutely disgusting piece that lacks any place in journalism; even in your Onion,” he said. That article, which features a photo of Trump that suggests he’s the author, was headlined, “When You’re Feeling Low, Just Remember I’ll Be Dead In About 15 Or 20 Years.” Despite Cohen’s threat, the article remains online to this day. Two years later, in 2015, Cohen issued a similar nasty warning to The Daily Beast after it reached out regarding rape allegations against Trump. He yelled at reporter in a recorded phone call, “I’m warning you, tread very fucking lightly, because what I’m going to do to you is going to be fucking disgusting.”

Doubling, no, tripling down on Trump lies

Michael Cohen answers his cellphone in public, wearing a plaid jacket.

Michael Cohen takes a call in New York City in 2018.

Getty Images/Gana Paskova

Cohen was an unabashed backer of Trump’s myriad of lies for over a decade. He’d push back against reporters and go on the record himself to defend Trump, no matter how ridiculous—or dangerous—his boss’ comments were. This was epitomized in 2015, when Trump claimed that “thousands” of Muslims had cheered the World Trade Center’s collapse. This, of course, was a massive lie, but that didn’t stop Cohen from attacking reporters who suggested otherwise. “Mr. Trump’s memory is fantastic,” he told CNN in 2015 about the issue. “I have never come across a situation where Mr. Trump has said something that’s not accurate.” As Trump found himself in the press more and more amid his presidential run, Cohen offered more of the same. Some of his Trump defenses were so ridiculous, even Rudy Giuliani conceded it was a bit much. “We’ve got to keep this guy off television,” Giuliani said of Cohen in 2016, reported The Washington Post. “Every time he goes on, it looks like we have a gangster working for us.”

Cleaning up more than ‘500’ of Trump’s messes

Michael Cohen exits a vehicle while speaking with U.S. Capitol staff.

Michael Cohen is greeted by committee staff as he arrives to appear before Senate Intelligence Committee in 2017.


Before being sentenced to three years in prison, Cohen conceded in a New York courthouse in 2018 that he felt it was his “duty” to cover up each of Trump’s “dirty deeds.” The depth of Cohen’s efforts in this role remains unknown, but those in Trump’s orbit have hinted that his big mouth—and long list of rivals—kept Cohen plenty busy in this role. “Michael is very good at killing stories,” Sam Nunberg, a former Trump political adviser, told Frontline in the 2018 documentary Trump’s Showdown. “He’s gotten Trump out of a lot of issues, I would say. And that was his job, and he’s done a good job out of it.” Cohen, having then turned against his former boss, testified to Congress in 2019 that he’d been directed by Trump to threaten people as many as 500 times for a myriad of budding scandals, big and small. “Every day, most of us in the room knew coming in … we were going to lie for him on something,” Cohen testified in 2019. “And that became the norm.”

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