Watching others flip is something of a national pastime. We pay money to see acrobats flip at the circus. We’re wowed when gymnasts flip during their routines. We love it when dolphins flip in the ocean. But a whole new kind of flipping has become a spectator sport, and it involves Donald Trump’s allies racing against each other to flip on him while they still can.
This week Donald Trump’s longtime loyalist Michael Cohen flipped on him in the form of a plea deal which will include multiple years in prison. Why did Cohen flip? He and his camp have floated several premises, but the reality is that he was about a week away from being arrested and charged with too many crimes to list. Then yesterday we learned about an additional reason Cohen had flipped: National Enquirer boss David Pecker was given immunity to flip on Cohen and Trump, meaning Cohen would have had no chance at trial.
The cold hard reality for Donald Trump’s alleged criminal co-conspirators is that there are only so many “good” plea deals to go around. At some point Robert Mueller has so much evidence and testimony in any given area, he doesn’t have to offer leniency to anyone else in that circle. Michael Cohen is an eyewitness to the fact that Trump knew all about Donald Trump Jr’s Russia meeting. So now Mueller doesn’t necessarily need to give much leniency to whoever else was in the room. The same goes for the half dozen or more Trump White House advisers who participated in his obstruction of justice; only one or two of them is going to end up with a lenient deal.
Now that the likes of Cohen and Pecker and Allen Weisselberg are rapidly flipping on Trump, look for this to set off a chain reaction – and keep in mind that we may not even learn about some of these deals until long after they happen. George Papadopoulos flipped, and Mueller strategically kept it secret for four months. For that matter, there’s a good chance Mueller has already cut deals with other key Trump allies that we don’t know about.
For a long stretch in the middle of 2018 it was all too easy to forget that anyone had flipped on Donald Trump, because we weren’t hearing anything new about Michael Flynn, Rick Gates, or Papadopoulos. But then Gates showed up as a witness at the Manafort trial, just as Papadopoulos was finally being sentenced to prison due to lackluster cooperation, even as Mueller was formally delaying Flynn’s sentencing due to ongoing cooperation. So the trend of Trump’s allies flipping on him started a long time ago. But now it’s suddenly turning into a race.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report