Donald Trump’s “attorney” Michael Cohen invoked the Fifth Amendment today in civil court proceedings involving his payout to Trump’s former mistress Stormy Daniels. Legally speaking, pleading the Fifth is not a confession or an indicator of guilt. Of course plenty of people in the court of public opinion see it otherwise. The trouble for Trump is that he’s one of them.
Last year Donald Trump said this during one of his pointless post-election rallies about six months ago: “If you’re innocent, why are you taking the Fifth Amendment?” He was wildly misrepresenting a story about Hillary Clinton and her email server, a matter in which everyone involved was ultimately exonerated. But he made his feelings clear: in his mind, anyone who pleads the Fifth must be guilty. This is a real problem, considering that his own attorney just pleaded the Fifth.
Going forward, any time Trump makes the mistake of steping in front of reporters (his appearance on Fox and Friends tomorrow doesn’t count), he’s going to be asked about Cohen pleading the Fifth, and he’s going to be asked about his own prior stance on pleading the Fifth. Trump’s quote becomes even more remarkable when you consider his consistent habit of projection.
Any time Donald Trump has falsely accused his opponents or adversaries of anything, it’s later turned out that Trump himself is who has done it, and he’s merely projecting his own behavior on others. Trump isn’t known to have pleaded the Fifth in any of his previous legal troubles, though they’ve generally been in civil court. This suggests that Trump was actually projecting forward, to what he’s already decided he’s going to do when Robert Mueller tries to force him to testify in the Trump-Russia scandal: he’s going to take the Fifth. If he’s innocent, why is he planning to take the Fifth Amendment?
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report