Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump's former personal attorney and fixer, exits federal court after his sentencing hearing, December 12, 2018 in New York City.
Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images
Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump's former personal attorney and fixer, exits federal court after his sentencing hearing, December 12, 2018 in New York City.
(CNN Business) —  

A version of this article first appeared in the “Reliable Sources” newsletter. You can sign up for free right here.

Cohen speaks

President Trump has been insulting Michael Cohen. And spreading falsehoods about their work together. And Cohen is not going to stay silent about it.

Cohen sat down with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos on Thursday afternoon, one day after being sentenced to three years in prison. The interview will air on Friday’s “Good Morning America.”

Cohen has previously spoken on camera in quick on-the-street interviews, and he has sat down with Stephanopoulos off-camera. But this is different – this is Cohen’s first sit-down TV interview about his crimes.

Obviously Cohen is somewhat limited in what he can say, given his continued cooperation with prosecutors in New York and DC. But the interview is sure to make news nevertheless. I’m told by a source who was in the room that Cohen was “emotional, remorseful, determined, direct.”

The interview came together at the last minute on Thursday… And it was taped at the Loews Regency hotel in NYC, where Cohen was staying when his properties were raided back in April…

Stephanopoulos invested a lot of time to get these scoops

Stephanopoulos has clearly spent a lot of time with Cohen, and the time has resulted in several scoops. Stephanopoulos was first on the air with word of Cohen’s guilty plea last month.

In this LA Times interview, G.S. recalled how he sought interviews with Trump through Cohen. “You’d talk to him beforehand, talk to him afterward. And then I would have lunch with him twice a year…”

Trump was in the room when it happened

Fox anchor Harris Faulkner’s interview with Trump was underwhelming. Except for fact-checkers – for them, it was overwhelming. “That was not an interview. It was an infomercial,” CNN’s S.E. Cupp said afterward.

Trump played dumb when Faulkner asked about the pre-election payoffs, saying things like “I don’t think they even paid any money to that tabloid.” By the end of the day, sources had confirmed to NBC and CNN what the WSJ reported last month: That Trump was in the room when Michael Cohen and American Media Inc. boss David Pecker “discussed a plan to shield Trump from potentially damaging stories. Prosecutors say this amounted to illegal donations to Trump’s campaign,” CNN’s story explained…

The bottom line

Kellyanne Conway was on “Cuomo Prime Time” on Thursday night, stating that “President Trump said he never directed anybody to” pay hush-money payments. Chris Cuomo rightly responded, “The evidence shows otherwise.”

A little while later, Conway’s husband George was on Twitter, saying that Trump’s word is worthless. He asked: “Given that Trump has repeatedly lied about the Daniels and McDougal payments — and given that he lies about virtually everything else, to the point that his own former personal lawyer described him as a ‘f****ing liar’ — why should we take his word over that of federal prosecutors?”

That’s the thing about Trump’s tweets, interviews, speeches, etc. He keeps proving that he can’t be trusted. He has devalued his own words and, by extension, the people who speak on his behalf. Journalists are still trying to figure out how to adapt…


– A revealing quote in Faulkner’s chat with Trump: He complained that “Fox has always given me a bad poll.” “GIVEN ME!”

– The WSJ just keeps the scoops coming: “Trump Inauguration Spending Under Criminal Investigation by Federal Prosecutors”

– The White House confirmed the end of yet another tradition: There will be no holiday party for the press this year…

– Keep a close eye on Twitter: Trump has no public events on his schedule on Friday…

This week’s podcast: Inside Mic’s collapse

The “Reliable Sources” podcast is a two-parter this week. Part one: Mic’s former exec editor Kerry Lauerman and former managing editor Colleen Curry share what went wrong (and what went right!) at the startup. Facebook was just one factor in Mic’s demise. “We just ran out of money and time,” Curry said.

Part two: Vox Media publisher Melissa Bell offers some reasons for guarded optimism. Mic’s failure is “heart wrenching to watch,” she said, but Vox and other digital media companies are “thriving,” doing “great, fantastic work.”

The takeaway from parts one and two: Don’t “pivot to video” or “pivot” to any one thing. Place lots of bets on lots of different possibilities. Listen to the pod via Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, TuneIn, or your favorite app…

– Related: BI’s Lucia Moses came out with a new story about Mic’s failure on Thursday…

“Facebook to Cut Funding for Some News Shows on Watch”

This scoop from The Information came up on the podcast: “Six months after Facebook launched a slate of original news shows from outlets like CNN, ABC News and BuzzFeed, the company has told news executives it is likely to reduce its funding for individual shows, as it refines its programming strategy for the effort.” Per the report, FB will keep spending the same amount of $$ “on news content for its Watch service,” but spread it across “a broader array of programs.”

So it wants even more content… To keep people on FB for even longer… Which leads us to this next story…

Ordering and watching HBO via Facebook?

Facebook “wants to sell consumers subscriptions to cable TV networks like HBO and hopes they’ll watch those networks on its own apps,” Recode’s Peter Kafka scooped on Thursday. He says there are ongoing talks between FB and HBO, Showtime and Starz. He calls it a logical move for FB, “given its big ambitions to become a video hub…”


– Chris Cillizza asks: “Do YOU want to be Donald Trump’s chief of staff?” (CNN)

– “Do not accept an offer to be Chief of Staff,” Jesse Watters’ mom told him in one of many texts to the Fox News host. “Mom Texts” is now a recurring feature on “The Five…” (Yahoo)

– WIRED is out with a huge new story about Elon Musk and “Tesla’s production hell.” The mag says an outside law firm “representing Tesla and Musk” reached out and “suggested that WIRED might be sued” before publication… (WIRED)

The Post is keeping up the pressure

“The Washington Post plans to run a full-page ad Friday drawing attention to the death of columnist Jamal Khashoggi, part of a broader push that publisher Fred Ryan told Politico would continue ‘until meaningful action is taken’ over Saudi Arabia’s role in the killing,” Jason Schwartz reports. The ad shows Khashoggi’s face and says “A life is gone. The principles of free expression endure.”

Read more of Thursday’s “Reliable Sources” newsletter… And subscribe here to receive future editions in your inbox…

Mika back on Friday’s “Morning Joe”

There were some raised eyebrows when MSNBC host Mika Brzezinski was absent from Thursday’s show, one day after she asked if Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was a “wannabe dictator’s butt-boy.” As Tom Kludt wrote here, the remark “drew criticism for its homophobic implications.” She apologized on Twitter… But has not addressed it on the air yet… Meanwhile, Trump went after her on Thursday, claiming that if a conservative made the same remark, “that person would be banned permanently from television,” but she “will probably be given a pass, despite their terrible ratings.”

An MSNBC spokesman said Thursday’s day off was pre-planned, and she’ll be back on Friday. When I asked if any disciplinary action has been taken, the spokesman did not respond…