The Wall Street Journal reports on a phone conversation last Friday between Trump and "longtime legal adviser" Jay Goldberg, which perhaps explains CNN's Brian Stelter's tweet of the same day: "A source familiar with the president's thinking tells @GloriaBorger that Trump is 'pissed, flailing and upset...' More upset than ever... His anger is 'beyond what anyone can imagine.'" And yet the content of the reported conversation is, to me, of less interest than the why of the rather detailed report.
First things first. According to the WSJ, Goldberg cautioned the president that friend and lawyer Michael Cohen, who is being investigated for bank fraud and campaign finance offenses, would betray the president. “Michael will never stand up [for you],” said Goldberg, if the investigation spawns criminal charges against him.
Trump initiated the call, reports the Journal. In one way, he probably wishes he hadn't. Expanding on his firm opinion of Cohen's "stand-up" inadequacy, the 85-year-old lawyer with more than a half-century of legal experience told the president "not to trust Mr. Cohen. On a scale of 100 to 1, where 100 is fully protecting the president, Mr. Cohen 'isn’t even a 1,' he said he told Mr. Trump."
Goldberg added that the enormous amount of (probably incriminating) materials seized from Cohen's properties and then equally enormous government pressure on Cohen to testify against Trump "put the president in more potential peril … than from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation." Trump countered that Cohen is "very strong." Cohen once tweeted, "I will always protect our @POTUS." And Goldberg countered both by saying, "I don’t care what Michael says."
Based on his time spent as a prosecutor, continued Goldberg to Trump, Mr. Cohen is dangerous because "even hardened organized-crime figures flip under pressure from the government." Even hardened criminals? An odd word choice for a former prosecutor (assuming that was indeed Goldberg's word; not the WSJ's); more like especially hardened criminals — the Henry Hills and "Sammy the Bull" Gravanos who would sell their children into prostitution before taking any hits themselves.
But, back to my tease — the why of the phone conversation is of more interest, to me anyway, than its details. For here is what's curious. As Politico puts it in its own reporting on the betrayal-worried White House, "[Trump] believes strongly that the FBI raid [on Cohen] has pushed the boundaries of attorney-client privilege." Why, then, did the White House so willingly confirm the private conversation between the president and lawyer Goldberg, who himself so willingly divulged the conversation's sensitive content? Why all the openness if the secrecy of attorney-client privilege is so sacred to this president?
Here is the probable explanation, included, pretty much in passing, in the WSJ story. "Prompted by the president for his advice, [Goldberg] also said he recommended Mr. Trump fire Rod Rosenstein."
In sum, the White House's attorney-presidential-client transparency wasn't really about the possible treachery of Michael Cohen. It was, instead, a rather splendid opportunity for the White House to advertise that an experienced prosecutor had urged the president to sack the man who won't sack Mueller — just another deviously licensed, foundational layer for this president to do what he has so gallantly insisted he won't do.
Behind every Trump tale there is a lie, a fraudulence, a deceit; and so the White House's purpose behind the WSJ story was merely another.