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Michael Cohen Prayed With Al Sharpton at Breakfast. But Other Democrats Stay Away.

Michael Cohen Prayed With Al Sharpton at Breakfast. But Other Democrats Stay Away.


The Rev. Al Sharpton sat at a table at the Loews Regency hotel on Park Avenue one morning last week, his shoulders hunched as he prayed with an unlikely dining companion: Michael D. Cohen.

Mr. Cohen, President Trump’s former lawyer, had asked Mr. Sharpton to meet him for breakfast not long after he pleaded guilty in a federal court in Manhattan to an array of charges. Those included a campaign finance violation related to payments that Mr. Cohen made to women who said they had affairs with Mr. Trump.

“He seemed to be resolved that he was facing some time,” Mr. Sharpton said of his second meeting with Mr. Cohen in recent months. “He even asked me to pray with him, and we did at the table.”

And so there they were, a Jewish ex-fixer to the Republican president seeking redemption from a Baptist preacher and Democrat at a see-and-be-seen breakfast spot on the East Side of Manhattan.

But Mr. Sharpton is one of the few prominent Democrats who have offered Mr. Cohen anything verging on warmth as his life has spiraled downward.

When Mr. Cohen was considering pleading guilty, some of his associates assured him that the anti-Trump cavalry would swiftly offer him support. They suggested to him that he would be embraced as an ally in the campaign to take down the president.

Mr. Cohen has instead remained isolated and politically toxic. Despite Mr. Cohen’s comments in court that were seen as damaging to Mr. Trump, some Democrats still dismiss him as a Trump lackey who deserves everything that he gets, legally or otherwise.

Once a millionaire — at least on paper — Mr. Cohen now has a GoFundMe account to help with exorbitant legal bills in the face of no income. He is living in his East Side apartment, in virtual isolation as he gets his affairs in order ahead of the Dec. 12 sentencing so that there is less of a burden on his wife, Laura, and their two grown children, friends said.

Mr. Sharpton, who has known Mr. Cohen for many years, said Mr. Cohen seemed bewildered about how quickly his life had been upended.

“He seems like a guy who feels like he’s been wronged even though he’s willing to admit that there may have been some things that he should not have done,” Mr. Sharpton said.

Mr. Cohen and his adviser, Lanny Davis, declined to be interviewed for this article.

Prosecutors have not said whether they are using Mr. Cohen’s guilty plea to expand their investigation further into the Trump Organization.

The office of Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel in the Russia inquiry, and the United States attorney’s office in Manhattan, which prosecuted Mr. Cohen, have also not indicated whether they are interested in information from him about Mr. Trump’s political, business or personal affairs.

Donny Deutsch, the television personality and advertising executive who is a longtime friend of Mr. Cohen, said Mr. Cohen wants to be helpful to prosecutors, although he does not know the parameters of the ongoing investigations.

“He really is looking forward to in every way cooperating going forward,” Mr. Deutsch said. “He feels like many others do — betrayed by Trump.”

Mr. Deutsch acknowledged that a lingering question was whether Mr. Cohen was simply trying to spare himself additional time in prison by going from a pledge to “take a bullet” for Mr. Trump to potentially fingering him as an accomplice to malfeasance.

Some people who have worked around Mr. Cohen for years and have felt abused by Mr. Trump are reluctant to call him with well wishes. Others are staying away because they themselves are caught up in the investigation.

“Michael is a friend and I feel sorry for his unfortunate circumstances,” said Sam Nunberg, a former colleague of Mr. Cohen who worked with him to establish the Trump campaign’s early format in 2015.

However, Mr. Nunberg said, he “cannot have any communication” with Mr. Cohen because of his own testimony before the grand jury called by the special counsel investigating possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials.

In the eyes of the public and the courts, Mr. Cohen is so far the only one who has paid a price for a role with Mr. Trump that involved payoffs during the 2016 campaign to women who have said they had affairs with him. Another Trump official was given immunity from prosecution to provide information in the Cohen case. Mr. Cohen made clear in court that he was acting at Mr. Trump’s behest.

Still, some major Democratic donors said they saw no reason to support Mr. Cohen, a former Democrat.

“He’s not our natural ally, and he’s not a trustworthy person,” said Sarah Kovner, a prominent Democratic donor and activist, a reference to Mr. Cohen’s many denials of wrongdoing by Mr. Trump before his guilty plea. “I hope he’s got the goods. But how could we rush to him, what would we do?”

Robert Zimmerman, a Democratic National Committee member, said Mr. Cohen might be telling the truth now, but he added he believes it’s “completely self-serving.”

Others said that this approach was misguided.

“This is another example of the Democrats not being strategic fighters when it comes to being able to utilize information and conduct to their benefit,” said Michael J. Avenatti, who, along with his client, Stephanie Clifford, the adult-film actress better known as Stormy Daniels, forced the issue of Mr. Trump’s secret payment to her through Mr. Cohen into the open.

“If the tables were turned, Republicans would be all over this.”

Mr. Avenatti, who is considering mounting a campaign to challenge Mr. Trump in 2020, added that he believed “there is a considerable amount of additional damaging information that is going to come from Michael Cohen.”

Mr. Sharpton also suggested that there were things Mr. Cohen could offer Mr. Trump’s critics.

“I think in an ideal world, whether he’s tainted or not, his information can certainly be used to question the presidency,” he said.



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