By ann summers
The week begins with network interviews of Michael Cohen as he hectors Trump to pay his legal tab (or at least task Kushner to find a Qatari willing to forgo that new stable of Lambos or a Russian who doesn’t have nasty girlfriends).
“We are witness to a grand, public Prisoner’s Dilemma, where each man could, theoretically, destroy the other. Or, perhaps, they could work together to explain away any troubling information that comes out of the investigation of Cohen’s files. They can’t talk privately, because every interaction is likely to be reported. Instead, they speak to each other through the media.” (Adam Davidson in the NewYorker)
The legal education given to laypeople in the #TrumpRussia chaos is the problem of secret communication. More interesting is how one can get someone to organize an abortion for sex that never happened with Client A but for Client B who is racketeering his own member, as it were.
Doubtless some attention is being paid to how (or through whom) Cohen and Trump are communicating. Others might be wondering how Cohen remains at large.
— Michael Luo (@michaelluo) July 2, 2018
…the core insight remains: if two people whose interests are mutually dependent on the actions of the other don’t fully trust each other, and don’t have the opportunity to secretly coördinate, they will end up behaving in ways that hurt both of them.
President Donald Trump and his former attorney Michael Cohen are currently playing out the Prisoner’s Dilemma in the most public and consequential way possible. (My colleague John Cassidy used game theory to explain the many leaks coming from the Trump White House this spring.) Cohen was, of course, Trump’s fixer, who handled hush payments to the porn star Stormy Daniels, and who likely knows of other secret activities carried out by Trump.
Cohen was also an important intermediary between Trump and several of the oligarchs Trump dealt with in Russia and other former Soviet countries, and would know of any deals he made in the region in the decade before he became President.
Many people assume that Cohen has an enormous amount of information that could shed light on Trump’s relationships with Russia, other suspicious business activity, and, possibly, corruption in office.
Cohen, after all, received millions of dollars from companies seeking his help in influencing Trump’s Administration. Cohen also held meetings with some of these new clients in Trump Tower. It would be a dramatic shift in Trump’s approach to business to allow his subordinate to profit from his name without some benefit to himself.
It seems reasonable to imagine that Cohen may well have information that could damage, or even destroy, Trump’s Presidency. Yet what Cohen, in fact, knows remains a mystery.
More likely is that there’s plenty of secret coordination going on, because Deutsche Bank has nothing to do with SCOTUS Kennedy’s retirement, right? Because Lemon Laws acknowledge that asymmetric information is wielded by used-car salespeople, even if they can’t spell it until they talk to their sales manager. But as Trump says, “our laws are the dumbest.”
Then again, this process assumes that voters are rational and can use k-level logical reasoning. Assuming rational voters may not be the best way to analyze this particular (2016) election which has defied all kinds of logic.
“The Prisoner’s Dilemma shows that minor shifts in incentives can have outsized impact on the choices people make. It also shows that, when two players cannot openly communicate, even the slightest hint of information from one player can have an enormous impact on the others’ choices. In this, Cohen seems to have made what game theorists call a “binding commitment,” a sign that he will pursue the benefits of coöperating against Trump. He has removed options from himself and from the President.”
Michael Avenatti on Cohen interview: “This is Michael Cohen trying to send a message to the president that he wants the president to pay his legal bills or he’s going to flip. He’s playing games with the American people.” pic.twitter.com/E6WO64heHh
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) July 2, 2018
Avenatti and Scaramucci are the new Washington It Couple. Recently they were being shopped around to co-host a TV program – like Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski. They also were seen together at parties coinciding with Upfront Week and the White House Correspondents’ Dinner.
Stephen Colbert announced last week he would have them on tonight’s show – a sort of Natti & The Mooch Show backdoor pilot.
“You know Michael Cohen — you guys are buddies,” Colbert told Avenatti.
“Now Michael Cohen evidently either dropped or lost his legal team. And they have not named a replacement,” Colbert continued. “There are rumors he’s going to flip or that he’s about to to be arrested. Which do you think is going to happen?”
Avenatti, not subscribing to Colbert’s either/or format, went with “both,” explaining, “I think Michael Cohen is in a very, very bad spot. And I think the president is in a very, very bad spot. Because this is what happens when you trust your innermost secrets to a moron.”
— Merry Pranks (@merrypranks) August 12, 2017