President Donald Trump's personal attorney and long-time "fixer" decided to exercise his 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination in the ongoing saga between Trump, Cohen, and adult film star Stormy Daniels, with whom Trump allegedly had a one night stand in 2006. The irony, however, lies with Trump's own words regarding people who plead the 5th.
Last month, Daniels (Stephanie Clifford), sued Trump and Cohen over a non-disclosure agreement she signed shortly before the 2016 presidential election. Clifford received $130,000 in hush money from Cohen via an LLC set up by Cohen. Trump never signed the agreement, and Cohen is now under criminal investigation for campaign finance violations, bank fraud, and wire fraud.
"The mob takes the Fifth," Trump said at an Iowa campaign rally in September 2016. "If you're innocent, why are you taking the Fifth Amendment?"
Trump was referring to Bryan Pagliano, a former State Department computer specialist who helped Hillary Clinton set up her private email server, which led to a quasi-scandal that doomed Clinton's presidential ambitions. During the investigation of her use of a private email server as Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton never invoked her 5th Amendment right. She also never asked for an attorney.
Pagliano took the 5th more than 130 times during the investigation, and two other computer contractors later followed suit. No criminal charges were ever filed against Clinton or any of her associates.
Trump's first National Security Adviser Michael Flynn invoked the 5th in 2017 after the Senate Intelligence Committee subpoenaed Flynn for documents relating to his contacts with Russian officials during Trump's 2016 presidential campaign.
But the most glaring element of Trump's about-face on people who choose to avoid self-incrimination is that Trump himself has pled the 5th. As The Washington Post wrote last year:
Trump himself invoked the Fifth Amendment in 1990, during his bitter and public divorce from his first wife, Ivana Trump. The real estate mogul took the Fifth to avoid answering questions about adultery; according to Wayne Barrett's "Trump: The Greatest Show on Earth," the Fifth Amendment is Trump's "favorite" and allowed him to not answer a total of 97 deposition questions that were mostly about "other women."
Trump also suggested that President Bill Clinton should have pled the 5th in 1998 during the Monica Lewinsky scandal. "I'm not even sure that he shouldn't have just gone in and taken the Fifth Amendment," Trump remarked about the former president.
The Twitterverse didn't skip a beat, quickly noting Trump's hypocrisy on defendants who invoke their constitutional right. By Trump's own logic, Cohen, and by some degree himself, are mobsters. It should be noted, however, that taking the 5th is not an admission of guilt.