"Don't discount what he's telling you," Cohen says of Trump's threats. "He's already done it to me"

Michael Cohen says his federal conviction should serve as the crux of Joe Biden’s campaign against Trump

By Brian Karem


Published July 9, 2024 6:00AM (EDT)

Michael Cohen (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)
Michael Cohen (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)

Michael Cohen is a man on a mission.

Donald Trump’s former fixer and longtime lawyer was unceremoniously expelled from the ex-president’s inner circle, prosecuted by Trump’s Department of Justice and sent to federal prison for his involvement in a hush-money case that recently led to 34 felony convictions for Trump.

Cohen’s mission now is to make sure Trump experiences the criminal justice system as intimately as he once did. And in an exclusive interview with Salon, Cohen reveals that he intends to ask the Supreme Court to help him do just that.

Cohen is unquestionably dedicated to making the world recognize that Donald Trump is a grifter unparalleled on the U.S. political stage. His latest book, “Revenge,” explains in great detail how Trump weaponized the Department of Justice during his first administration – and used that weapon to put Cohen in prison. “If he can do this to me, he can do it to anyone. And that should be of concern for everyone.”

It’s Cohen’s mission that leads him to view the recent debate between President Joe Biden and Donald Trump – and the resulting movement to dump Biden from the ticket —as evidence “we're living in an upside down, backward world.”

“See, Joe Biden was concentrating on facts, on legitimacy. Right?" Cohen noted to me. "Donald had no interest in facts. He only cared about standing up there, looking healthy, looking alert. And even though he was alert about the lies, he was still alert. And for whatever the reason is, that is acceptable to the American people.” 

Watch my “Salon Talks” with Cohen here on YouTube.

The following transcript has been edited for length and clarity:

Michael Cohen: Here's breaking news for you only Brian, and your listeners.

Brian Karem: God bless you, sir.

Michael Cohen: On Wednesday, July 10 we’re taking our case to the Supreme Court of the United States. And it’s called a writ of certiorari. 


If you saw that first debate, as I did, everyone's saying that the president had a bad night. But Donald Trump did, too ... How dangerous is this in your eyes?

Oh, dangerous isn't even the word for it. I'm trying to speak to the folks over in the White House to explain to them that the entire topic of the unconstitutional remand of me needs to be put front and center. Because when Donald Trump turns around and says that he's going to use SEAL Team Six as his own private force to incarcerate( to jail) his political opponents, and the comment that people make is, "You know Donald, he just talks stupid shit. He's not going to do anything," the point of the unconstitutional remand of me is don't discount what he's telling you.

He's already foreshadowing what he intends to do. And when you say “That's not possible. He won't do it. He can't do it.” He's already done it to me. It was a practice run. He now knows, Brian, how to do it to you, how to do it ...

To anyone.

... Liz Cheney. How to go after the president of MSNBC. How to go after his former vice president. Why people want to ignore, when the guy is telling you himself what he wants to do, I do not understand. It makes no sense. And this is what the White House needs to put forth to the American people: You cannot sit back and do nothing.

And personally, I don't care about Biden's poor performance. It was a terrible performance. Anybody that wants to tell you it wasn't a bad performance, it wasn't as bad as Democrats and others are making it out to be, they need to go back and watch it again if you want to waste 90 more minutes.

But you are not right and you are not wrong — when it comes to Donald. I don't think it is as simple as you are making it out to be. Did Donald have a bad performance? No, he did not. Trump stood up there, indignant of anything that Biden said, completely disassociated to the question, completely disassociated to reality of the answer. Provided no fact, and in essence lied. And I say that with a capital L-I-E-D, lied about every single thing that came out of his mouth except his name. Now, why do I say that you're right and you're wrong? You're right that we should be circling the wagon and saying, "How do you have somebody running for one of the main seats in our two-party political system, as the head of the Republican Party, hoping to become — again — President of the United States, who has a fundamental problem with truth?" That should scare the living piss out of everybody.

He had no intent, no intent on telling the truth. Which was why there was zero debate prep. As he told his people,I don't need it. I know what I need to say, I know what I'm going to say. I know the answers to everything. The answers don't have to be right. See, Joe Biden was concentrating on facts, on legitimacy. Right? Donald had no interest in facts. He only cared about standing up there, looking healthy, looking alert. And even though he was alert about the lies, he was still alert. And for whatever the reason is, that is acceptable to the American people. But somebody that looked tired, that was definitely off his game, but somehow was on his game enough to be factually accurate on nine out of 10 things that came out of his mouth, that's not okay. We're living in an upside down, backwards world.

I don't disagree with you there. I'll say you're right. And you might be right. It was a performance, and Donald knew it was a performance ... Now, the Democrats with going through this, tearing themselves apart, don't they risk losing this presidency to the very man who would destroy the democracy? 

As 10-year-old kids would say, duh.

I mean, it's why I attacked this morning, Jerry Nadler, who I call the Wadler. I mean, this as***le, literally, and I say, this as***le turns around, and is attacking Joe Biden, one: based on his age. Jerry's 78, he's only two years younger. Alright? On top of that, he's calling for Biden to step down. This is the guy who hasn't made a single comment regarding Israel.  A guy who wanted to defund the police. A guy who turned around and helped to push the proposal for congestion pricing, which has now been put on hold by [New York] Governor [Kathy] Hochul, and on and on and on. A guy who doesn't even have an office in New York, in his own district. He doesn't even have one in his own district. I mean, I reached out to him 25 times regarding the FOIA documents that you and I have been working on now for four years.

"He's already foreshadowing what he intends to do. And when you say 'That's not possible. He won't do it. He can't do it.' He's already done it to me. It was a practice run."

Not a return phone call. In four years, four years!

But I do want to bring something up also. Because during the insanely great investigatory work that you did for me so I could write “Revenge”, you actually spoke— and it's a big part of the book, it got a lot of play on Twitter — you spoke to an FBI agent who made a comment about what was going to happen to me, a week in advance. Why don't you tell your own listeners what you ended up uncovering? Because it was spectacular. And again, the fact that the Biden administration is not jumping on this golden ticket, doesn't make sense to me.


And to your point, that's what Biden was saying when he sat down with George Stephanopoulos, the immunity ruling going forward means that the President of the United States has to exercise great deal of character over what they do until that can be overturned. Because in essence, if Donald Trump comes back in office, they've given him the gun to put to the head of democracy, to pull the trigger.

You're not going to get a debate on that one. It is the worst decision that could possibly ever have come out at this time in history. Maybe somewhere down the road, that decision wouldn't have been as devastating as it is. But when you take a horrible, crappy decision, like a president has absolute immunity so long that there is a presidential act behind it —there is no definition for a presidential act, it's an open ad hoc basis — and you have someone like Donald Trump, who has this autocratic belief and an autocratic belief in himself, you couple those two together, right, this is a real problem.

Yeah. Well, you were talking about not telling one single truth when he was up on stage. I mean, he's out today already with emails this morning saying the crooked Biden, nobody's more crooked than Joe Biden. Look, you worked with Donald Trump for years. You know what it's about. What do you think the average person is missing about the danger of Donald Trump?

So the average person is not missing anything. Right now you have a pretty significant portion of this country that just doesn't trust Donald Trump. And that's the entire Democratic Party, the entire DNC. There are no Democrats that are walking away from this Biden administration in order to vote for Donald Trump. Alright? That's a fact.

We need your help to stay independent

The question becomes, what happens between Republicans and independents? That's going to be, of course, the deciding factor. Now, we already have statistics on the Republican Party. There's approximately 30% of the GOP have said that they will not vote for Donald Trump under any circumstance. One, if he becomes convicted of his felonies, which he was 34 times, and two, as a result of E. Jean Carroll, and three, based upon the absurd things that come out of his mouth. So let's even say that that number is not 30%. Let's say it's 20%, okay? The question becomes, can Donald capture enough of the independent voters to offset that 20% loss and to defeat Biden? This is where we have, for example, Gen Z. You also have a significant number of women, Black women, Black men, and Hispanics. Now, I can't understand again why any woman would vote for Donald Trump, based upon the overturning of Roe. 

I can't understand why anyone would vote for Donald Trump.

Well, true. 

But the fact that it's okay. You can't regulate bump stocks. You can't regulate AR-15s and AK-47s, and fully automatic machine guns. But you can regulate a woman's uterus. And the fact that there are any women out there who are willing to vote for a man who doesn't believe that you have enough in you to make your own reproductive decisions, that should be a problem. But not just to the women. It should also be to the men, or their spouses, or their partners, that have faith in their woman. I mean, I don't understand. [...] I could not in good conscience vote for somebody who thinks so little of my spouse. It just doesn't make sense to me.

Then you have somebody who is not just inherently, but he's overtly racist. He's overtly racist in the things that he says, including, and it got lost for whatever reason, where he turns around and he says that he could have resolved the Civil War in 24 hours. There's not enough that was made out of that blatantly racist statement. The only way that you do that, is you let the North remain slave free, and the South can have slavery. And here's the dividing line. All blacks above that line are free, all blacks below remain chattel. This is what he's trying to say. It's because he doesn't care when he starts talking about how "woke" it is to remove the name of Robert. E. Lee from junior high, elementary and high schools.

He's a traitor.

Right. It's no different than as the son of a Holocaust survivor. I would not attend elementary, junior high, high school, the Adolf Hitler Elementary School. I just wouldn't do it. Or if I was going to medical school, I wouldn't go to the Himmler Medical School. I mean, I just wouldn't do it under any circumstance. So I understand the pain that that name invokes to the black community. And the fact that Trump can't see it, the fact that he makes fun of it, the fact that he does the things that he does, how could anybody of color vote for this man? 


I want to ask you, Michael, we heard for, what, the last two or three years, that the weakest case against Donald Trump was the Manhattan case that you were a part of. And yet it's the only one that's gone to trial and convicted him 34 times. 34 felony counts, he's guilty of. You were a big part of that. What do you tell people who sit there and go, “Hey, look, you may say it's a weak case, but we got him. If this is the weakest, what are the others going to do if they ever let them go to trial?”

That's another thing that's not discussed enough. First and foremost, I always had an issue and I talked to you about it. We used to laugh about it privately when I said, we treat sometimes Donald's four indictments like it's the Kentucky Derby. We're handicapping, win, place, show, and fourth place. Alright? Why? They are all criminal acts that carry with it a prison sentence. Now, I will acknowledge that campaign finance mixed in with bank fraud or business record fraud, is certainly less ugly of a crime than the theft of top secret nuclear documents, and showing it or selling it to our adversaries, or attempting to overturn a free and fair election or an attack upon our Capitol. I acknowledge that it is not as grotesque. 

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Nevertheless, I went to prison for it. It is a crime that is regularly brought by the Manhattan district attorney who brought it again and was successful. Nine hour deliberation. It's something also, again, there's so much info that's out there that just doesn't get the attention because Captain Chaos throws so much sh*t against the wall every day. Just imagine what the other cases will ultimately hold. But nine hours of deliberation when you had 22 witnesses, 20 for the prosecution, two for defense, alright? 22 witnesses, thousands of documents in evidence. That's a case that should have been deliberated for at least five days.


Four days. Nine hours in total, 34 convictions.

So look, last question for you today. We've kind of danced around the head of the pin here, but what is the press doing wrong about covering all of this? What do we need to do better? What are we screwing up on? You have a better idea than most because you've been at the central part of a lot of this.

So the press has just — I don't even know what the right way to describe it — they've just messed up on so many different aspects of this campaign. From Trump now all the way to Biden to witnesses like myself included. You listen to folks like Elie Honig, you listen to... They would bring on Bill Barr, they brought on Ty Cobb, they bring on a whole bunch of Trump-supporting sycophant idiots who sit there, “Oh, Michael Cohen's going to be a horrible witness. He's going to be bombastic, he's going to be abusive. He's going to be X, Y, and Z. He can't be trusted. He lied.” Here's the funny thing. They went with this as a mantra, and they all got it wrong, and they don't apologize, they don't correct the record. They just move on and they hope that you, the audience, forget what was said. They basically think that all Americans are stupid.

That's a Donald ideology, that they have a 48-hour memory for anything. And what happens is they flood the news with so much nonsense, so much innuendo, so many lies, so many bombastic things, that you do ultimately forget. Unless somebody like myself and Brian start to reiterate it again and again and again. Because these are important topics that you cannot afford to forget. And if you do forget it and nobody brings it back to the forefront, the election is not going to go the way that America's future needs it to go. 

If the question is, do you vote for somebody who looks old, who looks tired, but is doing great things for the country, cares about the country, is completely empathetic, has love for this country, is not running to be President of the United States to save himself, whereas the other one is running solely to stay out of jail and to increase his personal wealth, how is this even a dog fight right now? And that's the whole problem. I mean, this is the problem that we're having. The media does this. The same with the bullshit polls that you've heard me say again and again and again, and I've been right about it, like with CNN, when I said, “Says who?” I was right about it.

I understand the polls and how they work. All of this stuff is designed to keep you the listener, you the watcher, you the reader, connected to their website, to their television station. So that you are glued to your favorite, whether it's Fox, MSNBC, CNN, ABC, NBC or CBS. Doesn't make a difference. Wherever you get your news from, the goal of media right now is not to tell the truth, it is not to be accurate. It is to keep you glued to their station, their paper, so that they could continue to sell advertising, and to keep the revenue flowing as much as possible, so that they can give dividend shares to their shareholders. That's all that this is about. They are complicit in this bul***it for their own self-aggrandizement and for their own financial benefit.

By Brian Karem

Brian Karem is the former senior White House correspondent for Playboy. He has covered every presidential administration since Ronald Reagan, sued Donald Trump three times successfully to keep his press pass, spent time in jail to protect a confidential source, covered wars in the Middle East and is the author of seven books. His latest is "Free the Press."

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