This week two different major news outlets have reported that Michael Cohen is planning to cut a plea deal against Donald Trump. These reports are both based on things that Cohen has said privately to the people around him. Sometimes people say things they aren’t serious about, or they merely tell their friends and family what they want to hear. But if you’re looking for the dead giveaway that Cohen is in fact working on a plea deal, it’s not difficult to spot.
Even as ABC News and CNN have each reported this week that Michael Cohen is moving toward a plea deal, NBC News reported at the beginning of the week that federal prosecutors had informed Cohen he was just days away from arrest if he didn’t hurry up and cut a deal. Clearly, the Feds are trying to actively push him into going through with it. But as the week has gone on, that drumbeat from the Feds has not gotten louder.
When the Feds were trying to push Paul Manafort into cutting a deal before his arrest last year, they told him he was about to be arrested, and then they leaked to the media that he was about to be arrested. They wanted it to be real for him. It didn’t work. When the Feds then tried to push Michael Flynn into a plea deal, they told him they would prosecute his son if he didn’t cut a deal, and then they leaked that to the media. Suddenly Flynn was waking up to headlines about his son going to prison, and sure enough, he cut a deal. It worked.
So, after having let everyone know at the beginning of the week that Michael Cohen was about to be arrested, where’s the ramp-up? Where’s the increasing pressure? Where are the subsequent leaks to the media that Cohen is going to be arrested on Monday, or Thursday, or whenever, if he doesn’t hurry up and cut a deal? There is only one logical reason why the Feds haven’t continued with their usual ramp-up: Cohen is already playing ball with them on a deal. In this instance, the silence from the Feds speaks volumes. In fact, if we do see additional leaks about Cohen’s imminent arrest, it’ll strongly suggest that the plea negotiations have hit a snag.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report