Michael Cohen and me

Donald Trump's fixer escaped his clutches, but can he escape the ideas that made Trump's rise to the presidency possible?

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The other day, I got a strange invitation. Would I join the podcast of Michael Cohen?

That Michael Cohen. Donald Trump’s fixer and lawyer who ultimately turned on him.

First of all, I didn’t know Michael Cohen had a podcast. Then I remembered that every person on earth has a podcast.

So I go on Michael Cohen’s podcast. I did this in part for the rubbernecking chance. And in part because I believe in talking to everyone (within reason). I wondered what someone who lived inside the clogged aorta of American plutocracy, and then faced justice for his own malfeasance, and seemingly turned against his plutocratic boss, thought today about the questions of democracy, wealth, and power I write about.

What resulted was frustrating and revealing. Cohen, as far as I could tell, had flipped on Trump. But he hadn’t flipped — far from it — on the set of ideas that enabled Trump. I tried to push him, and he tried to push me, and I’m not sure either of us got anywhere. But in a strange way, I really enjoyed the conversation, because it was a collision of genuine disagreement, and the clash forced us to uncoil so many of our assumptions. It helped me understand how much this society continues to be vulnerable to future Trumps, if even their loudest detractors still buy into the charade of elite philanthropy, reputational laundering, I-alone-can-fix-it-ism, and more.

Check out our conversation via Apple, Google, and Spotify below.

In the meantime, I continue to work on a big piece of reportage trying to make sense of something remarkable happening in Washington these days. More on that soon.

In the thread below, I’d be curious to hear your thoughts on the opening days of the Biden administration, from the Covid response to the new infrastructure program.

Happy Tuesday!