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Trump Needs a Roy Cohn

August 2, 2018

President Donald Trump selected Jeff Sessions to serve as U.S. Attorney General at his strongest and weakest moment. Virtually alone among Republican Senators, Sessions, had supported Trump’s candidacy from the beginning and was rewarded for that loyalty. If the President were more experienced in politics, he would have known that Jeff Sessions wasn’t a good choice for Attorney General.

Given the President’s tendency to get into deep doo-doo, he really needed an Attorney General like Roy Cohn, a person loyal not to the law, but to whomever needed his services.

Dartmouth conservative, Dr. Jeffrey Hart, once observed that Roy Cohn was the most evil person he had ever known. But Roy Cohn had a history as a political warrior going as far back as his time working for U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy (R-WI) who brought to light infiltration by members of the Communist Party into the U.S. State Department. His hearings targeted Alger Hiss as a spy for the Soviet Union and Cohn himself was famous for attempting to remove Leftist books from U.S. Libraries maintained abroad by the USIA.

Jeff Sessions, now age 72, was born and raised in Alabama where he earned a law degree, practiced law and served as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Alabama. When nominated to serve as a judge of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Alabama in 1986, he was denied confirmation. That rebuke on grounds that Sessions was not sympathetic to the rights of racial minorities stung him badly. A southern gentleman to the core, the remainder of Sessions’ career was dedicated to redressing the injustice of that rebuke.

Where Roy Cohn fought the Liberal Establishment that failed to understand the nature of Communism and was motivated to deny the Establishment of power over his clients, Jeff Sessions was the epitome of a southern Establishment, a true southern gentleman, a man of personal and public virtue. That very virtue denies him the skills President Donald Trump needs when the Establishment wages attacks against his Administration.

I met Roy Cohn once, in his office in New York, where I went to return a donation he made to a not-for-profit media organization I had organized shortly after I left the Reagan Administration. That donation was made as a favor to someone in the Reagan Administration with whom Cohn wanted to be on good terms, and had written that person’s name in a note on the check. Cohn admitted he was currying favor with that person, but wanted me to know that he agreed with me.

Perhaps duplicity is a characteristic of all successful politicians and that character flaw is what President Trump needs in his Attorney General when facing an indictment as “co-conspirator” in a conspiracy to obtain stolen information about Hillary Clinton from Russia’s Vladimir Putin.

But, what did Trump and his rag-tag team of conspirators know about campaign laws?

Trump ran his Trump Organization in the belief that niceties of the law are for losers, not winners, and Trump was running for office because he believed, correctly, that he could return the GOP to favor, if he could win a majority of white voters with a combination of New Deal, New Right and anti-immigration policies that no Republican had advocated since Richard Nixon.

Once elected, if now-President-Elect Trump thought through whom he had beaten and the animosity of the Progressive Establishment to all that Trump represented, he should have known that he needed evil to fight evil.

Roy Cohn was that man, but there are others in American politics, successful, “respectable,” lawyers and lobbyists who don’t care about the niceties of the law, only their client’s desire to stay out of prison.

Gentleman Jeff Session is not that man.



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