I love sleazy lawyers. Show me a poorly produced ambulance-chasing commercial filled with images of car crashes, explosions, and infernos with a sweaty man in a suit hollering about bringing down “THE HAMMER!” of justice and I’m over the moon. Maybe it has to do with growing up in Pittsburgh where memorizing a certain ad for Attorney Edgar Snyder was a birthright. Or maybe it’s related to the aspirational eye-searing vibrancy of Saul Goodman’s cheesy suits in Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul.
Either way, this just goes to explain my soft spot for former Trump fixer Michael Cohen. Yes, some people have favorite celebrities–I have favorite Trump-related grifters. I mean, just recall when a post-FBI raid Cohen, who fell from grace like Icarus with wings made of Trump casino chips, Trump hotel soaps, and MAGA hats, meandered aimlessly around Manhattan with a stunned into disbelief hang-dog stare while sporting a blinding blue plaid 1970s sports coat that looked like it came from one of Doug Stanhope’s eBay yard sales.
So of course, once Michael Cohen’s own personal tell-all book Disloyal was published in September, I jumped at the chance to devour all the lurid details of Cohen’s stint earning his “postgraduate degree in sleaze” from “the real real Trump University, not the fake, rip-off school the Boss used to fleece the gullible, but the genuine PhD-level education in manipulation and control…” And boy, it didn’t disappoint.
Disloyal opens with Cohen traveling to Washington D.C. in order to testify in front of Congress in February 2019–yes, the time when he wasn’t committing perjury–and concludes with the Mucinex Monster…I mean, Attorney General Bill Barr…trying to keep Cohen in prison during the COVID-19 pandemic in order to halt the release of this very book. In between, though, the memoir has everything you’d want and expect from a Trump memoir–petty obsessions, underaged lechery, golden shower-themed burlesque acts, copious yelling, rampant racism, Wrestlemania–all filtered through Cohen’s intimate perspective as Trump’s “former personal attorney, confidant, consigliere, and, at least in my heart, adopted son.” Awwww. Yuck. And while yes, you may have already heard some of the stories: the saga of Stormy Daniels, the Russia fiasco, and birtherism, these familiar tacky tales are somehow some of the least interesting parts of the book.
And sure, some may ask: what’s the point of listening to anyone who used to be Trump’s lackey? They’re all slimeballs! He’s a skeeze like the rest. But, Cohen provides perhaps the closest perspective we’ve had of Trump from one of his inner circle. As Cohen writes, “Apart from his wife and children, I knew Trump better than anyone else did. In some ways, I knew him better than even his family did, because I bore witness to the real man, in strip clubs, shady business meetings, and in the unguarded moments when he revealed who he really was: a cheat, a liar, a fraud, a bully, a racist, a predator, a con man.”
Plus, thoroughly chastised and convicted, Cohen comes off as a man with nothing left to lose and in this, he’s a danger to Trump. Why lie when you’re already at rock bottom? He’s basically Saul Goodman mopping the floors in Cinnabon. But rather than a manager in the food court, Cohen, at least until the pandemic, was working at a sewage treatment plant while at Otisville Federal Satellite Camp, where he penned this book on a yellow legal pad. And guess who his dining partner was? Jersey Shore’s The Situation. Talk about a punishment. And Cohen’s been proved right about a lot of things in the time since the book’s publication, from Trump’s tax schemes to Rudy Giuliani’s drunken antics:
I usually do these wrap-ups of Trump-related publications all for you, dearest Filthy Dreams readers, since I digest this country’s failures so you don’t have to. However, this time, I’d highly recommend Disloyal, which rivals Mary Trump’s Too Much and Never Enough as the best of this trash genre. First off, Cohen is a shockingly good writer. And funny. In fact, if Cohen ever wants a writing gig, he’s perfectly welcome here at Filthy Dreams! I mean, just read these lines: “I was reciting the agreed-upon line of nonsense, in the most realistic and convincing way I could, with complete and total commitment to the role, like Robert DeNiro in Raging Bull, and what I was merchandizing was indeed raging bullshit.” Or one of my most beloved: “Fast food, trash TV, leering at attractive women—Trump channeled blue-collar white men because that was part of how he saw life, but also because he knew he could make a buck that way.”
That perfect sentence gets to the heart of Disloyal’s strength. As someone who got sucked head over heels into Trump’s orbit, so much so that he’s now in prison for it, Cohen shows at the individual level how someone could throw all caution and ethics aside in order to please his Dear Leader, mirroring the millions of Trumpers across the country.
Disloyal strikingly reads like a cult memoir. And I should know–I’ve read a lot of them, from Manson family member and fashion icon Susan Atkins’ Child of Satan, Child of God to Deborah Layton’s Seductive Poison, which traces her flight from Jonestown before the super-spreader event. Like those memoirs, Disloyal takes a similar trajectory, exploring the draw to the charismatic cult leader to his eventual escape and post-brainwash reconsideration. As Cohen writes of his introduction to Trump, “It was only the beginning of my tenure with Trump, but this day was etched on my soul—even as I gave that soul over to the man I worshipped, a word that wasn’t too extreme to describe the devotion I was starting to feel.”
Trump’s recent transformation into a late stage Jim Jones, babbling for hours while stoned out of his gourd and luring his followers into self-immolation, just further emphasizes this point. Just add more “Y.M.C.A.”:
Lest you think my Jim Jones rambling has to do with my own personal obsession with the Indiana preacher, his name appears a few times in the book and Cohen mentions that the Trump Organization members would continually reference “drinking the Kool-Aid.” He quips, “The joke wasn’t really a joke, even as we joshed around.”
Cohen is clearly aware of this cult memoir aspect of his book, but he isn’t detailing his Trumpy bear worship just for our amusement or as some sort of penance. Cohen understands that his own attraction and childlike admiration for the man echoes Trump’s takeover of a large swath of the country’s brains. “I was the canary in the coal mine for the millions of Americans who are still mesmerized by the power of Trump,” he analyzes.
So what was it? What would drive someone to, for example, dress their child up like Trump for a rally in Erie? Cohen tries to explain: “I was so vulnerable to his magnetic force because he offered an intoxicating cocktail of power, strength, celebrity, and a complete disregard for the rules and realities that govern our lives.”
Now, I know I know–some don’t like spending all this time on trying to ferret out a reason for Trump’s animal magnetism. But, the only way out I see is to attempt to understand the phenomenon of his rise to power as a representation of the worst impulses American culture and history like Spongebob’s nauseating Nasty Patty of America’s underbelly. Cohen too is conscious of this: “As you read my story, you will no doubt ask yourself if you like me, or if you would act as I did, and the answer will frequently be no to both of those questions. But permit me to make a point: If you only read stories written by people you like, you will never be able to understand Donald Trump or the current state of the American soul. More than that, it’s only by actually understanding my decisions and actions that you can get inside Trump’s mind and understand his worldview. ”
And he’s right. Yes, the Democrats need a Trump expert on their team (you spent all week on debate prep for a spectacle screaming match, Joe…really?!). But even more, without tangling with the hypnotic power Trump holds over the American public as our personal red-white-and-blue Frankenstein monster, how are we ever going to move forward as a country? Let’s face it–Trump might be shocking, but he’s also very predictable. He’s not Superman (I mean, he didn’t even pull off his post-Walter Reed Willy Wonka Superman stunt. How disappointing!). He’s not even a super-villain. He’s not as evil as some like to paint him. He’s a con artist, a huckster, a shyster, a fake businessman who is millions in the hole, a snake oil Regeneron salesman. He faked and failed his way to the top and now, he’s just trying to swindle his way through it. And yet, he does wield a gravitational pull on any and all potential marks.
But without really engaging with what that is and what that says about our country, will we ever learn? Cohen’s book, along with Mary Trump’s, begins that work and it’s up to others who are able to look into the abyss to do the rest.
This doesn’t mean I’m not completely enamored with some of the sordid tales depicted in Cohen’s book. So just in time for tonight’s debate and so you don’t have to read if you don’t want to, I’ve listed my 20 favorite parts of Disloyal:
1. Better than money
Like a frog in slowly boiling water, Michael Cohen’s role as Trump’s consigliere was a slow burn. Living in Trump Park Avenue, Cohen knew bleary-eyed Kendall…I mean, Don Jr., who, at his father’s behest, wrangled Cohen (who they must have pinned as a sleazebag or at least, a good mark) into several projects, which would see Cohen dropping all morals to make the Boss–his future Boss–happy. First, it was fighting with the condo board of the Trump World Tower, who wanted to take Trump’s embarrassing name off their building. Second, it was shutting down Trump Mortgage at 40 Wall Street where Cohen walked in to observe “a crooked logo was hanging on a glass door” (much like America in 2020, huh?). Each time, Cohen’s willingness to humiliate himself and toss off any sort of ethical boundaries impressed the Big Man.
So clearly, Trump paid him accordingly, right? WRONG! Like most people who have been so unlucky to enter a contract with Trump, Cohen got zip. Nada. Nothing. Zilch. Cohen figured “that working for free was a way to ingratiate myself and offer Trump no reason to complain or get rid of me.” But he did receive a present for intimidating the Trump World Tower condo board:
A few days later, I received a package containing my speech, now in a gilt gold frame, with a note from Trump in his usual dense handwriting on the page saying, ‘You are a great speaker and a great friend. Donald.
Just what every professional person wants and needs! No not a check. No not your normal hourly rate, but a Marshall’s framed, Sharpie-scrawled discarded speech you wrote yourself from a person with a hundred word vocabulary (great! Great!)!
2. What if he’s a LOSER?! Or a SUCKER?!
Throughout Disloyal, Cohen tracks the frequent verbal abuse endured by the Trump kids by Big Daddy himself. You actually almost start to feel bad for them. ALMOST. Other than Tiffany who both Trump and his dead-eyed icy femme-bot daughter Ivanka both agree was too ugly to intern at Vogue–I mean, “doesn’t have the look,” our park coke-fueled motor-mouthed number 1 boy Jr. gets it the worst, even though he’s the scion. Cohen cites Trump telling Jr. numerous times (a few of which we’ll feature here) that he has no sense (even a broken clock is right twice a day). But, Trump’s hesitation about his son started even earlier:
Over time, I would come to learn that his father held him in extremely low esteem. “Don has the worst fucking judgment of anyone I have ever met,” Trump would often tell me, adding that he’d been reluctant to bestow his first name on his first-born son. He didn’t want to share his name with a “loser,” if that was what his son turned out to be.
Isn’t that everyone’s concern after having a baby? Who would want to share a name with a LOSER? Clearly this is a holdover from Trump’s own daddy issues with his papa Fred and his own deadbeat Kendall-esque brother Freddy. Freud, you’ve got a call from Patient 0!
3. “Hey asshole…put your fucking pants on”
It’s no secret, faithful Filthy Dreams readers, that I revel in the lurid details oozing out of the rotten Trump family and their minions like a leaking garbage bag. But, some of my favorite parts of Disloyal concern Cohen’s own formative experiences as a teen working in his uncle Morty Levine’s “swanky catering hall and mob hangout,” the El Caribe. As a suburban Long Island kid, Cohen not only looked up to his uncle, but also to the criminal cast of mob characters that hung around the El Caribe from the Gambino and the Lucchese crime families. And if this sounds like it’s right out of Goodfellas to you, it’s because it is. Literally. The adolescent Cohen saw these wise guys as the pinnacle of New Yorker masculinity–street smarts, ill-begotten wealth, the unspoken threat of homicide, disappearance or maiming, and packing heat (which Cohen would inevitably do after being threatened one too many times working with Trump), which influences his later adoration and admiration of Trump’s somewhat more inefficient and bumbling mob tactics.
A few scenes from El Caribe are notable, but the pool incident during the summer of 1980 stands out:
The food and booze were plentiful and some folks were getting more than a little tipsy, with this one guy floating around in the pool on his back, obviously drunk, when he decided it would be hilarious to take off his swimsuit. The exhibitionist was floating around butt naked, thinking he was funny, until a short, stocky, muscular Italian-looking man wearing a white wife beater-type shirt with a huge, primitive tattoo reaching from his shoulder to his elbow took offense.
“Hey, asshole,” the wise guy said. “Put your fucking pants on. My wife and kids are in the pool.”
The drunken idiot just laughed and rolled over to display his lily-white bare ass. The wise guy was standing right next to me and I knew immediately that the drunk had made a major mistake. I admit I was scared because I could tell something was going to happen. Sure enough, in the blink of an eye, the wise guy pulled a handgun from his pocket and shot the drunk in the ass. Holy shit! There was pandemonium as everyone panicked and I went to the loudspeaker to tell members to get out of the pool. There was a streak of blood in the water as the drunk floated in the pool moaning and the police and an ambulance were called.”
Afterward, another wise guy tapped Cohen on the shoulder and told him he saw nothing. Cohen, being smart enough to go along and get along, repeated that proclamation to the police to a later reward:
“A couple of days later, as I was working at the pool, a tough-looking man I had never seen before turned up at the El Caribe and caught my eye and motioned for me to talk to him. I walked over to a private area in a hallway off the pool. I knew exactly what he wanted to talk about.
“I said nothing,” I said.
“I know,” he said, patting me on the shoulder. “You’re a good kid.”
He handed me two envelopes, one thick with cash, the other less so. “One is to cover the cost of the cleanup,” he said. “And this one is for you.”
“For what?” I asked.
“For being loyal,” he said.
With that, the tough guy left, and I never saw him again. As I counted my money—$500 in twenties, major cash to a kid—I was hooked on everything that gesture contained, in my well-off white suburban teenage boy way. ”
4. Deadly sweater
Since I’m not satisfied with just one sordid El Caribe story, let’s enjoy a second one. This time, Cohen rides along with mobster Anthony Senter, “part of the Gemini Lounge outfit, a crew attached to the Lucchese crime family and Gaspipe Casso that was responsible for as many as 200 murders over the years.” “…one of the most lethal of the wise guys,” Cohen writes. Cohen expresses his awe at Senter as he steals or more accurately, collects debts from a series of stores in Mill Basin:
That day, Anthony was pure glamour to me as I followed him into a fine clothing store. It was a high-end menswear place, with thousand-dollar ankle-length leather jackets and merino sweaters starting at prices over $500 apiece. I’d never seen clothes that expensive, so I was amazed when Anthony started building up a big pile of jackets and suits and sweaters. He was a decade older than me, but a really sharp dresser who prided himself on his appearance: slicked-back hair, tight silk suit, Italian designer shoes shined to a gleam. I couldn’t believe that he would spend so much money in one place on clothes, until I discovered that he wouldn’t. The anxious, probably terrified owner was watching Senter carefully, fetching him different sizes and colors and making sure he was pleased, until the mobster decided he’d had enough and he ordered me to take tens of thousands of dollars in merchandise outside and put them into the trunk of the Mercedes—without pulling out his credit card or even hinting that he was going to pay.
I was standing flabbergasted on the sidewalk when Anthony told me to pick a sweater for myself; we were around the same size. Then he handed me a full-length black Armani leather jacket, worth at least a grand.
“It’s a gift from me for you,” Anthony said.
“I can’t,” I said, not sure what to do or say. Clearly there was some kind of racket going on: extortion, protection money, maybe a gambling debt, who knew? Should I take part in this shakedown, an impressionable Jewish teenager who was indeed very impressed?
Senter gave me a hard look. “Listen, kid, if someone gives you something you take it. Understand?”
Which would you rather have: a mobster sweater or a Sharpie-soaked speech?
5. The IRS is so stupid!
We all know the aftermath of the 2020 election is going to be contentious. And that’s an understatement. I can’t even begin to predict what kind of chaos will happen in the next few weeks. But I’ve got the popcorn ready! I already voted so all I have left now is to enjoy the ride. However, I do know that Trump has to win. I mean, he HAS to win. Otherwise, he’s probably getting carted off to prison for, at the very least, tax evasion. Trumpy bear wouldn’t do well in prison. No bronzer! No Tresseme hair spray! What would he do? He’d basically wither away and die. Good thing he’s already Superman, immune to COVID!
I say he’s probably headed to the slammer like his lawyer buddy Michael because as those of you who read the New York Times’ bombshell taxes leak know, Trump did everything in his power not to pay taxes or to pay as little as possible, forking over just $750 in taxes two years in a row. He also managed to avoid taxes by running his businesses right into the ground (an act that I’m not sure was for tax purposes) and writing off $70,000 in hair styling. Who knew that was an option? Why am I only learning this now when I’ve been hacking at my hair with those orange-handled junk drawer scissors for months?
Another tax point of contention is a hefty refund check he received…with copious joy, according to Cohen:
I remember sitting in Trump’s office on the 26th floor when a tax refund check for $10 million from the government arrived. He held the check up for me to see, flabbergasted but also delighted.
“Can you believe how fucking stupid the IRS “is?” Trump asked. “Who would give me a refund of ten fucking million dollars? They are so stupid!”
The IRS just loves being called idiotic by a Very Stable Genius, I’m sure.
6. That’s a girl slap!
Though rarely cited, the rise of Trump should always be understood within the context of the national white trash influence of one man and one man alone: Vince McMahon. That’s right–the over-the-top CEO of WWE! Our white trash royalty! In fact, Trump’s outsized ego, faux business acumen, and gold-dripped ladies man schmaltz has always seemed like a poorly constructed replica of Vince McMahon, like a gradually melting, creepily off wax figure. Trump should really have learned a thing or two from Vince for his Wrestlemanias, I mean, rallies. His nearly emotionless face, perpetually stuck in a clenched butthole grimace or a sneering grin, needs more Vince McMahon dynamism. Disappointment with Trump’s lackluster wrestling promos notwithstanding (“Why didn’t YOU kick COVID’s ass, Joe Biden? What? Aren’t you a Superman, sucker?!”), Trump did attempt at least to learn at the feet of the master in preparation for his own WWE guest appearance in a surreal scene described by Cohen:
One afternoon, Vince McMahon came to Trump Tower to go over the plot they’d stage for the event, which involved Trump slapping him in the face. To rehearse, McMahon asked Trump to stand up and slap him. Trump was reluctant.
“I don’t want to slap you,” he said. “I’ll hurt you.”
“Don’t worry,” said McMahon. “Give me a real slap. Not a soft one. The crowd needs a real slap.”
“Really?” Trump shrugged and gave him a soft slap across the cheek.
“That’s a girl slap,” McMahon said. “Let me have it. Reach back and put your whole body into it.”
Trump was grinning now, clearly enjoying the idea of being able to slap someone around with no consequences—indeed, to get praised for it. Trump was a big man, 6’3”, easily 275 pounds, and even though he was in terrible shape and flabby, I knew he was plenty strong. Trump reared back, as we all flinched in anticipation, apart from McMahon, who was also obviously enjoying schooling his new pupil in the finer points of fake violence. Then the Boss smacked him hard. McMahon rubbed his face, while the crowd in Trump’s office giggled in disbelief.
“Okay,” said McMahon. “Now really let me have it.”
“Oh, man,” Trump said, this time really letting go and giving him a very hard five-finger smack! across the face and nose, the crack of skin on skin echoing into the hallway like a slapshot, and causing us all to burst out laughing as McMahon rubbed his ruby-red cheek and chuckled.
“This is going to be some show, Vince,” Trump said. “We’ll make it look real for them.”
“Yeah,” said McMahon. “Real real.”
It’s a shame there isn’t video. I would gladly purchase this moment on Pay-Per-View.
7. Whoops! Don’t be nervous!
Poor Jr.! Whereas, as Cohen notes, Jr. would “be most at peace raising cattle and hunting buffalo in Montana,” he’s stuck playing second fiddle to daddy while gakked to the gills. Cohen explains that Jr.’s presence is not exactly by choice: “after college he’d gotten a job as a bartender and enjoyed the work and the separation from his distant father. But after a couple of years, the elder Trump presented his son with an ultimatum: work for the family business or be cut off entirely—in effect disowned and disinherited if he didn’t serve at the beck and call of his father.” Sad!
So now he’s stuck–in perpetual hell or really backstage at WWE with his Adderall-raging father:
This was when Don Jr. spoke out of turn, at least in the eyes of his taskmaster father.
“Hey, Dad, are you nervous?” he asked.
“What did you say?” Trump asked, his face reddening. “I’m going in front of millions of people. What kind of stupid fucking question is that? Get out of here.”
We all stood in awkward silence, staring at our shoes, feeling sorry for the son and his perfectly innocent question.
“God damn it,” Trump said with a heavy sigh, as if his son wasn’t present. “The kid has the worst fucking judgment of anyone I have ever met. What a stupid thing to say—to put that thought in my head.
I guess, you’re not nervous then!
8. A real knock-out business sense!
We all know that Trump has been very, well, not so successful at plastering his name on anything and everything he can get his tanning oil-stained grubby hands on: Trump Steaks, Trump Wine, Trump Vodka, etc. But, one endorsement I never heard of was the aptly named Affliction Entertainment, “Trump-endorsed pay-per-view mixed martial arts promotions.” One can only assume he was caught up after his WWE appearance and wanted to get in a ring–another ring–yet again. Trump tapped his favorite scummy lawyer to head-up this poorly considered venture, who rose–or really, sucker-punched–his way to the occasion. In the back of a limo no less:
As the Chief Operating Officer of Affliction Entertainment, I was charged with making sure Trump got his cut of the proceeds, even if the company fell apart, as it soon did; the Boss didn’t want to share the losses, of course, but he wanted what he considered his guarantee for putting his name all over the rings used for the two promotions that actually got produced. One evening, I was in the Hamptons having a heated discussion about Trump’s fees with the president of Affliction and the distribution partners who had done business with Affliction Entertainment. Things quickly got out of hand in the limo we were riding in along Montauk Highway and a fistfight broke out between us. The fact that I was willing to literally physically fight and punch another man in the face on behalf of Mr. Trump should give you a sense of the lengths that I was willing to go to please the Boss, much to the ongoing and growing disgust of my wife and kids.
9. Ted Cruz’s daddy on the grassy knoll
Of all the wacko Republicans in Congress, one of the most revolting has to be Ted Cruz. Remember when some phlegmy mouth booger slid out of his reptilian lips in one of the 2016 Republican primary debates, only for Cruz, like a lizard, to lick the ball of stinking gunk back into his maw? I know I can’t forget it, as much as I’d like to. There’s just something off about Ted. Maybe it’s because he looks like a creature that crawled out of a swamp and put on a fake beard. Maybe it’s because, according to the Amy Coney Barrett confirmation hearings, he seems to think Charles Manson is still alive. Does Ted know something we don’t?! Always is always forever! Or maybe it’s because people have theorized that he might be the Zodiac Killer.
Speaking of killers, rather than remind America about these unsettling Cruz-spiracy theories, Trump decided to make up his own, with the help of prestige publication The National Enquirer’s David Pecker, namely that Ted Cruz’s father may have helped in the assassination of JFK. Cohen recalls the entire saga since he was, as he articulates, “present at the birth of the slander”:
“We have a picture of Ted Cruz’s father with Lee Harvey Oswald,” Pecker said, with glee.
“What are you talking about?”
“Someone is trying to sell us a picture of Rafael Cruz in Dallas, Texas, on the day Kennedy was assassinated. He’s with Oswald.”
“Get the fuck out of here!” I exclaimed.
“Check your email,” Pecker said.
I opened my email and clicked on the attached PDF from Pecker, revealing a grainy photograph of two men. One was clearly Oswald, I could see, but the other face was less easy to identify.
“Do you know that’s Cruz’s father?” I asked.
“Does it matter?” Pecker said. “All we have to do is allege that it is.”
“Just engaging with the idea that his Cuban-born father was acquainted with Oswald was in itself very bad; the idea that he might have been a co-conspirator in the murder of one of America’s most beloved presidents was a blood libel of mindboggling audacity.
“Give me half an hour,” Pecker said. “I’ll do a mock-up of the story—how it will look.”
“Sounds good,” I said. “Let’s see what it looks like.”
Ethics? What ethics? Of course, truth never mattered to Trump, especially when regarding his perceived enemies, political or otherwise. Remember birtherism? However, planting someone at the JFK assassination is some peak tinfoil hat Alex Jones batshittery. Like a game of Clue played by pathological liars.
10. How did I miss Roger Stone at Pride?
Some of the best parts of Disloyal are Cohen’s scarily accurate descriptions of the rogue’s gallery of characters that surround the President. On Rudy Giuliani: “There were two Rudys—one batshit crazy and one clear-headed—and if you wanted to get anything sensible out of him it was like rolling the dice” (I guess we can assume Borat Rudy is the former). On Jared Kushner: “The cliché about sending a boy on a man’s errand had never been truer than in Trump Tower in the days after the election, as Prime Ministers and CEOs and diplomats tried to insinuate themselves with the simpering boy with the voice of Alvin Chipmunk.” On shining star public flame-out champion Sam Nunberg: “Sam was a talented and smart guy with substance-abuse issues and a propensity for getting in ridiculous feuds and sending idiotic tweets, no doubt while under the influence, including one using the N-word when referring to the Reverend Al Sharpton’s daughter—the final straw that led Trump to fire Sam.”
And of course, what would any good absurdist rendering of the carnival around the orange barker be without the Penguin himself and one of Cohen’s least favorite colleagues, Roger Stone, “the self-styled ultra-villain…back with his black sunglasses and flamboyant bad boy act? As Cohen writes:
Trump didn’t take sides in our feud, but he ridiculed Stone behind his back, as he did most everyone, including me, no doubt. The Boss had no concern for the morality or sexual conduct of his acolytes or team members like Roger Stone, a swinger known for wearing ass-less chaps during the Gay Pride Parade in Manhattan. Trump joked about Stone and what a crazy person he was, devoid of moral purpose and willing to do anything in service of himself or a politician he supported, always and only because it would benefit him personally. To Trump, those were good qualities to possess.
“Roger’s a fucking pervert,” Trump said to me. “But he can help me. He’s the dirty trickster. He’s the best trickster money can buy.”
Ass-less chaps at Pride?!!! How did I miss Stone amongst the free rainbow scrunchies and unicorn tattoos?!
11. Holy scamming
One of the strangest aspects in a lengthy lengthy list of strangeness through these last several cursed years has been the evangelical belief that Trump is somehow a McGreasy sign sent from heaven above. I didn’t know they had the Dollar Menu in heaven! I know that trash religiosity has returned with a sloppy thwack, but this is just hard to wrap my brain around. That doesn’t mean, however, that my trash-adoring synapses don’t tingle with joy when I see all those holy rollers laying hands on their messiah. And some good characters have come out of it like bottle blonde whacko Paula White.
In Disloyal, Cohen recounts, with dual horror and admiration, witnessing Trump charm the chastity belts off the evangelicals at Trump Tower, years before his eventual run for president. And well, it seems like quite a scene:
As the evangelicals inhaled Trump’s Norman Peale horse shit, they solemnly asked to approach him to “lay hands” on him. I watched with bated breath. Trump was a massive germophobe, as I’ve noted, so the idea of dozens of sets of hands touching his clothing and skin would appall him, I knew. But even this didn’t faze the Boss: he closed his eyes, faking piety, and gave the appearance of feeling God’s presence as the assembled group called for guidance in determining the fate and fortune of Donald Trump, America, and the message of Jesus Christ.”
If you knew Trump, as I did, the vulgarian salivating over beauty contestants or mocking Roger Stone’s propensity for desiring the male sexual organ in his mouth, as he would say less politely, you would have a hard time keeping a straight face at the sight of him affecting the serious and pious mien of a man of faith. I know I could hardly believe the performance, or the fact that these folks were buying it.
Watching Trump, I could see that he knew exactly how to appeal to the evangelicals’ desires and vanities—who they wanted him to be, not who he really was. Everything he was telling them about himself was absolutely untrue.
Did Trump experience a born-again rebirth in the light of Christ? Uh, no:
Trump’s true feelings about the encounter with the evangelicals, and the laying on of hands, a supposedly sincere and pious summoning of the will of God, were revealed as I entered Trump’s office at the end of the day to have a final recap of his thoughts on the laying on of hands ceremony.
“Can you believe that bullshit?” Trump said, with incredulity, referring to the ritual and the evangelicals. “Can you believe people believe that bullshit?”
Praise be the bullshit! Hallelujah!
12. You get what you pay for
Throughout Disloyal, Cohen explains a few of Trump’s “cheap attacks,” as he calls them: irrational stingy corner-cutting by a mad man fixated on the bottom line. And when one of these “cheap attacks” came back to bite the so-called luxurious Trump Organization in the ass, Trump would sic his attack dog, Cohen, on whatever poor soul sold Trump the shoddiest, most inexpensive product possible. At his request.
Case in point: the Trump Doral Benjamin Moore incident:
Take the paint job during the renovation of the Doral. One afternoon in 2014, I was summoned to Trump’s office. As I walked in, Trump was on a call with David Fader, the general manager of the Trump Doral, talking on the speakerphone. The pair were discussing the paint used in the renovation of the buildings and guest rooms at the Doral. When the house staff wiped down the walls of the rooms, as part of a routine cleaning, it appeared that the fresh paint was coming off. The walls were becoming spotty and discolored and faded, only weeks after the new paint had been applied.
“We just painted the entire goddamn place,” Trump said to Fader. “I hear the rooms look like shit. Get the fucking painters back and make them redo the entire job. Tell them, I’m not paying for their time or paint.”
Trump turned to me.
“Michael just walked in. He will call you and the two of you better figure this out.”
“I told him to not use that paint,” Fader said.
“What are you talking about?” I said. “What’s going on here?”
“Look, Michael,” Fader said. “There are levels of quality involved in the Benjamin Moore paint the Boss chose. We needed at least a level-three quality. But the Boss decided to go with the absolute cheapest level-one paint, which is pure garbage. It requires more paint to cover the wall, but it also doesn’t last. So that’s the explanation. It wasn’t meant for this kind of commercial job.”
I burst out laughing, at least initially.
The situation was absurd. Trump had had a “cheap attack” and made a poor decision on the type of paint the contractor should use, which didn’t surprise me in the slightest. Trump was constantly making errors, large and small, like pretty much any human being. The difference was that Trump would never acknowledge his errors. Hell, he wouldn’t just deny his own mistakes, he’d blame others, circular logic that best resembled a Mexican standoff that left everyone pointing their guns at each other—but never Trump.
Since Trump decided on Super Hide paint, which is “used to paint new houses that were going to be flipped, or by fly-by-night painters playing their customers for fools—or by clients foolish enough to cut corners,” Cohen clearly went back and told Trump he got what he paid for and they bought new and better paint. Hahaha! Just kidding! Instead, Cohen went on an unhinged and psychotic all-out offensive against Benjamin Moore itself, threatening the Florida Director of Regional Sales with lawsuits if they didn’t get a full refund for the “defective product” they knowingly purchased.
And you know what? It worked!
13. “I wonder what your parents would say?”
I know you’ll find it shocking that most of Trump’s interactions with the contestants of his Miss Universe competitions were to peer lewdly at the pretty ladies. He also strung Michael Cohen along for the ride, whispering sordid comments to him like: “Wow, what a piece of ass” or “Shit, it looks like this one could kill you in bed,” which aren’t exactly the most innovative lecherous comments. However, sometimes he really went above and beyond:
“Holy shit, look at Miss Brazil,” Trump said. “She’s fucking gorgeous. Look at that face and body. Man, I would like a piece of that.”
“She’s definitely gorgeous,” I replied, scanning the stage filled with beauties in bathing suits.
“Which one do you like?” Trump asked.
“Miss Germany,” I said. “She’s the full complete package. Beautiful, and man, can she dance. She’s definitely professionally trained.”
“Shit, you’re right,” Trump said. “Good call. I wonder what your parents would say if you brought her home?”
This was Trump’s idea of humor, because my father was a survivor of the Holocaust and she was German. Get it? Ha, ha. Silence from me again, as Trump continued to inventory the merchandise on display as we watched the women. After an hour, he stood and announced that he was going to go on stage to greet the contestants.
Nothing like a good Holocaust joke!
14. Hair Force One
Other Trump tell-alls have described the man’s iconic $70,000 tax write-off hairdo at length, but never quite so *yurk* *hork*…vividly:
Trump was in his underwear, white Hanes briefs, and a white short-sleeve undershirt, watching cable news on television. He barely seemed to register that it was unusual for a grown man to be in a state of undress in front of an employee, but there it was. On this occasion, Trump was fresh from the shower and he hadn’t done his hair yet, as it was still air-drying. When his hair wasn’t done, his strands of dyed-golden hair reached below his shoulders along the right side of his head and on his back, like a balding Allman Brother or strung out old ’60s hippie.
I called his plane Hair Force One, for good reason. Trump doesn’t have a simple combover, as it would appear. The operation was much more involved than a simple throw-over of what was left of his hair: the three-step procedure required a flop up of the hair from the back of his head, followed by the flip of the resulting overhang on his face back on his pate, and then the flap of his combover on the right side, providing three layers of thinly disguised balding-male insecurity. The concoction “was held in place by a fog of Tresemme TRES Two, not a high-end salon product. Flip, flop, flap, and there was the most famous combover in the world.
But there was another unknown reason: he was hiding unsightly scars on his scalp from a failed hair-implant operation in the 1980s. That was the disfiguring operation that resulted in his furious “emotional rape” of his first wife Ivana, as she documented in a lawsuit in the early ’90s; like Samson, Trump believed his virility and image were harmed if he was seen to be losing his hair, or, even worse, injuring himself in an attempt to disguise male-pattern balding. If Trump let strangers see the red sores on his scalp, he would appear to be vulnerable, even pitiable, not the unstoppable sex-god alpha-male billionaire he wanted to present to the world—and himself.
Gag! Retch! Hurl!
15. The act at The Act
For those of you lovely Filthy Dreams readers located in New York or London, you may be familiar with The Box, that uber-exclusive, uber-expensive burlesque nightclub that is a favorite of the blitzed Wall Street, hedge fund set. Sure, it’s also the place to see some of the most subversive performers like terrorist Miss Rosewood who has been so lovely as to allow me to come in to watch her sets without the stringent door policy. But, the general atmosphere of the club seems like well somewhere you might find Donald Trump.
And there’s a reason for that. Trump did go to The Box’s Vegas sister club The Act (no relation to the Munchausen by proxy matricide murder show) during the Miss Universe competition with Russian oligarchs the Agalarovs who you might recognize from the Steele dossier, Rob Goldstone’s Facebook posts, and the infamous Trump Tower meeting. If you know anything about the performances at these clubs, you might be thinking to yourself: was this the genesis of the infamous pee tape? Cohen doesn’t answer that, but certainly hints that a pee tape could have happened given Trump’s joyous reactions to the celebration of perversion onstage at The Act.
While Cohen spends quite a number of paragraphs pearl-clutching at sights like “two strippers drinking champagne and pretending to snort coke as they undressed, while one of them simulated giving the other a golden shower as the other caught the fake urine and drank it. Classy stuff,” my favorite tidbit is this particular performance and Trump’s enthusiastic response:
The lights were dimmed and a short middle-aged white man came on stage wearing a gold jumpsuit. As the stage lights came up, it was revealed that he appeared to be handicapped; he seemed to be blind, and one of his arms was malformed and his hands appeared the size of a four-year-old boy’s. But that wasn’t what stood out. The bulge in his pants was, well, enormous, like he’d stuffed his groin with tube socks.
I was sitting next to Trump when he turned to me and the Agalarovs and said, “Now that guy is packing a missile.”
Then a female emerged on stage. She was heavily overweight, perhaps 300 pounds, bleached blonde and wearing a postage stamp-sized American flag bikini. She started to do cartwheels across the stage, landing the routine in a full split at the center of the stage directly in front of the short man in the gold tracksuit. Within seconds, his pants were pulled off and he was wearing what is known in porn circles as a “cock sock.” Yeah, I know: not exactly the Lincoln vs. Douglas debates.
“As I watched in amazement, things took an even weirder turn. The man in the gold tracksuit began to sing into a microphone. The tune he belted out was God Bless America. As he sang the famous paean to national pride and fealty, in a voice that sounded like a professional opera singer, Trump’s face was rapt in delight.
“Holy shit,” Trump said to me. “This freak can really sing.”
The woman in the bikini began to grind on the man’s outsized penis, stroking and caressing it, stimulating a giant erection as the obese stripper acted like they were having sex on the stage.
“Holy shit,” Trump said again, in disbelief and delight.
The room was now pounding with laughter and astonishment, the atmosphere rip-roaring and rudely raw. No one was going more wild than the men in our cordoned-off VIP section, with Trump and the Agalarovs and others in our Hangover-like posse howling as the lights came up and we all looked around in disbelief: did we just see what we think we saw?
“That’s one hell of a way to make a buck,” Trump declared to all.
Why isn’t Trump taking this twosome on the road?! They’d be a perfect conclusion to his rallies after “Y.M.C.A.”
16. There’s your light, Mr. President
Trump has always seemed like a wannabe comedian to me, replacing brick-lined underground comedy clubs with massive super-spreader rallies. Someone who doesn’t even have the guts to try an open mic so instead, he gathers together his virus-spreading cohort of cult members to zombie-laugh at his lunatic antics. And of course, if Trump were a comedian, he would be the worst joke stealer of them all, mindlessly blurting out things other people told him just a few minutes ago. Case in point, courtesy of Cohen:
One morning a friend called me with a joke that I found very funny. Later I was in Trump’s office and decided to try it out on the Boss and gauge his reaction. The joke went as follows:
“Donald Trump is coming down the elevator from the 26th floor. It stops on the 20th floor and in enters a gorgeous buxom blond in a miniskirt. She takes one look at him and squeals, ‘Oh my G-d. You’re Donald Trump.’ Trump nods his head. She continues: ‘I have this recurring dream where I’m alone in an elevator with you and I pull off your pants and give you the greatest blow job of all time.” Trump says: ‘What’s in it for me?’”
After telling him the joke, the Boss asked: “Is that a real joke?”
“I didn’t make it up,” I replied.
“Write it up for me.”
I went back to my office, typed it up, made a few copies, and placed it on his desk.
Later that day when I went into his office, he was on the phone reading the joke to the person on the other end of the call.
Give him the hook! He can’t even write his own jokes!
17. Fake poll!
We all know that Trump isn’t above manipulating truth to fit his own conception of himself, often related to his identity as a (not so) successful business mogul. And Disloyal shows that this started even before Trump had the power of the presidential office to bend reality. Of course, this isn’t a shock. Trump lined the walls of his bed bug-infested properties with faux Time Magazine covers to placate his fragile ego long before his political aspirations.
However, Cohen reveals some even funnier cons–my personal favorite being the rigging of a CNBC online poll “to determine the twenty-five most influential business people alive to celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary of the network.” Now, an online network poll isn’t exactly the most prestigious of prizes. It’s one that most people without narcissistic personality disorder would ignore, though I’ll admit I’m not above obsessing over online polls. Yet, the standard to which this poll was supposed to be judged didn’t exactly sound like a good fit for the gilded sewer on Fifth Avenue: “He/she should have altered business, commerce, management or human behavior—in other words, the person should be responsible for ushering in meaningful change, with business being the primary sphere of influence.”
Perhaps because of this, Trump found himself way down in the poll. But, that didn’t stop him. NOTHING would stop him. Which is why he looked to his Fixer in Chief to fix the poll and get him all the way to the top, baby! Naturally, Cohen gladly did so by ringing up his friend John Gauger, chief information officer from Liberty University who was just scuzzy enough to know how to manipulate the online poll with varying IP addresses to get Trump to the ninth spot (Trump wanted #1, but Cohen advised against it as it would look too suspicious) for a price.
What followed was a baited breath wait with Trump chomping at the bit to get his rightfully unearned spot until:
When the poll closed, Trump was, as promised, number nine. I printed a copy of the poll and delivered it to Trump’s office. He was on the speakerphone when I entered, so he motioned me to sit. I dropped the poll on his desk and he smiled devilishly, with delight.
“Whoa,” he said to the person he was talking with on the phone. “I just got a CNBC poll that “shows I’m the ninth-most-important businessman of the past twenty-five years. Not bad, huh?”
For the rest of the day the calls flooded in, praising Trump as he told everyone he talked to about his position in the polls. Like so much else with Trump, on one level he had to know the entire “accomplishment” was nothing more than a lie.
This ecstatic scammer high was short-lived when a day later CNBC took him off the poll without explanation. Likely because they know he’s a cheating piece of garbage. Instead of figuring that’s how the game is played, Trump was pissed. OUTRAGED! And considered suing. Eventually calming down, what did he do? No, not forget about the whole useless poll. Instead, he used printouts of the poll as gifts:
The important thing, for Trump, was the printout he had of the poll showing him at number nine. He had hundreds of copies made and he added the poll to the pile of newspaper clippings and magazine profiles of himself on his desk that he would give to visitors. That was one of the supposedly big treats about gaining entry to Trump’s 26th floor office: a gift of a stack of stories about him, whether real or fantasy, with the lucky few getting a complimentary Trump Gold Chocolate Bar Bullion.
18. Drunk Lewandowski
Of all the Trump goons on the campaign, Corey Lewandowski is the focus of Michael Cohen’s ire: “To say that Corey and I didn’t get along from the very start would be a massive understatement. I hated him, and he hated me.” This hatred all comes to a head when Cohen learns that Lewandowski is a massive leaker who planned to push a story that the Jared/Ivanka marriage was failing. And, “Worse, Lewandowski said that Jared was gay and that Ivanka was having an affair.” Hot! After multiple arguments and an intervention with all the Trump children (minus Tiffany, of course), Lewandowski gets the boot.
Yet, this saga somehow pales in comparison to the very short and sweet description of Cohen dragging a drooling drunk Lewandowski to a pizza place near Trump Tower in order to get food in him to sober up:
One night, Trump’s campaign manager was drinking so heavily that I took him out for dinner. He could barely walk and he passed out in a pool of drool in the restaurant as I ordered food for him. I told all of this to Trump, but the Boss dismissed my objections, saying I was acting out of spite, which was true, I admit. But I was also telling him the truth.
He later references it again in an argument with Trump about the lush Lewandowski:
He’s a fucking drunk. I grabbed him on the street the other day, drunk, and took him to get some food in his stomach and the asshole fell asleep at the table with a slice of pizza in his hand.
However, what makes this hazy hammered tale even better is that, like any good blackmailer, he includes a photo:
19. You think you’re a fucking big man?
As we wind down our list, why not come full circle with Trump screaming at the top of his lungs at his disappointment of a namesake, Jr. This time about Jr. and Eric’s psychotic hunting photoshoot with a bunch of dead exotic animals:
“What the fuck is wrong with you?” Trump screamed at his namesake. “You think you’re a big man with a ten-thousand-dollar gun sitting on the rocks and then boom! You kill some fucking animal? Then you drag your brother into this bullshit? Why the fuck would you post photos like that? You think you’re a fucking big man? Get the fuck out of my office.”
Don Jr. left without saying a word, head downcast. An awkward silence followed. Trump and I were alone, and he wanted affirmation that his fury was justified, so he screamed the same complaints in my direction about his sons being idiots and fools. But I wasn’t going to give Trump the satisfaction of agreeing with him after he’d humiliated and verbally abused his own child.
“He fed a village for half a year,” I said. “None of those animals went to waste.”
“Fuck that,” Trump replied.”
I never thought I’d agree with Trump so much on anything other than disco.
And last but certainly not least (in fact I saved the best for last), this needs no introduction, except to say watch your daughters at Bedminster:
This was a really hot and sticky summer day, and I was standing with Trump outside the pool area, discussing some pressing business matter, like the size of the breasts of a woman sunbathing on a lounge chair, when he whistled and pointed in the direction of the tennis courts.
“Look at that piece of ass,” Trump said. “I would love some of that.”
I looked over and stopped cold. My fifteen-year-old daughter had just finished a tennis lesson with the club pro and she was walking off the court. She was wearing a white tennis skirt and a tank top, with her hair pulled back in a ponytail.
I turned to Trump, incredulous. “That’s my daughter,” I said.
Trump turned to me, now surprised. “That’s your daughter? When did she get so hot?”
I said nothing, thinking to myself, or I should say allowing myself to think: What a fucking creep. Who talks about a man’s daughter in that way? All of the countless times I’d gone along with Trump’s crude comments swirled around my mind.
Samantha waved and walked over, giving me a kiss.
“Give me a kiss, too,” Trump said, and she complied with a tiny peck, glancing in my direction with unease.
“When did you get such a beautiful figure?” Trump asked Samantha. “You’re really grown up.”
Samantha blushed and said nothing.
Trump offered me a bro-like bumped fist, which I reluctantly accepted, as usual, not knowing how to extricate myself from the situation and spare my sweet daughter any more of this unwanted and inappropriate attention.
“You better watch out because in a few years I’ll be dating one of your friends”