This is the third time Trump mentioned Cohen’s father-in-law. The first was in tweet from December 18, then and interview w/ @JudgeJeanine, and this morning. It’s important.
There is one thing that Cohen fears more than the prosecutors — it’s the Russian mob. That’s why he didn’t do a plea deal with the SDNY — because he would have to rat on the mob.
Cohen’s father-in-law, Fima Shusterman, who until very recently owned several condos in Trump World Tower in NYC, is a Ukrainian immigrant and may have been a silent partner with Trump, possibly acting as a conduit to get Russian investors involved in Trump properties. Trump, who was deep in debt in the 1990s, came back with a roar due to the influx of Russian money in the 2000s. A Rolling Stone article from last year goes into great detail.
But it’s not real estate dealings that catch my eye.
The whole thing is very murky, but it looks to me like the SDNY is targeting Shusterman who, like Cohen, has made much $$$$ in the taxi medallion business. That business –which many believe is mob-controlled — is suffering now due to Uber and Lyft, and the SDNY is breathing down everyone’s neck. I think that when Trump tweets about Cohen’s father-in-law, he is dog-whistling the mob to “look into” (wink, wink) Shusterman — i.e., Cohen’s father-in-law could become a “rat” by assisting federal prosecutors. So when Cohen talks about not making a deal with the SDNY out of concern for his family, this is what he is talking about: threats from the mob. And Trump is stoking that fire.
For Michael Cohen, Trump’s latest attacks are about family. We know that prosecutors in the Southern District of New York were convinced that Cohen wasn’t being forthcoming on some of the issues they have been investigating. It is very possible that protecting family members like Shusterman could be the heart of their objections to his testimony. These accusations from Trump and Giuliani reignite all of that, so the Buzzfeed story gets the focus back on the president.
But if Hettena’s reporting is accurate, looking more deeply into Shusterman and his dealings with the Trump organization could also be damaging to the president. I doubt that either party really wants to go there.
According to the NYT story last fall, one of the written questions to Trump from Mueller was, “What communication did you have with Michael D. Cohen, Felix Sater, and others, including foreign nationals, about Russian real estate developments during the campaign?”— Ken Dilanian (@KenDilanianNBC) January 18, 2019
UPDATE: Yup. Cohen was photographed with his arm in a sling and an apparent black eye.