Michael Cohen served for many years as President Trump’s loyal personal lawyer. But after Cohen pleaded guilty Tuesday in federal court to a series of crimes including tax fraud, bank fraud and campaign finance violations, more attention began to be cast on Cohen’s own personal lawyer, Lanny Davis — especially after Davis told multiple media outlets that Cohen would be willing to share “all that he knows” with special counsel Robert Mueller.
Here are some things you should know about Davis, a longtime Washington power player:
He grew up in a Jewish family:
Lanny Davis was born in December 1945 in Jersey City, New Jersey. His father was a dentist and his mother managed dental office. He frequently peppers his language with Yiddishisms like “yenta” and “mensch.” Davis’s son Seth is a college basketball analyst for CBS.
He has decades-long connections with some of the world’s most powerful people:
Davis attended Yale University at a time when Jewish quotas were still in effect. While there, he befriended future U.S. senator Joe Lieberman, and later went on to serve as treasurer for Lieberman’s political action committee. While at Yale, Davis pledged the same fraternity as future president George W. Bush, who reportedly hazed him. Bush later appointed him to the federal government’s Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board.
He’s really, really, really close with the Clintons:
Davis first met Hillary Rodham when they attended Yale Law School together, and befriended her and then her future husband Bill Clinton. Davis worked in the 1970s and 1980s as a lawyer at well-connected Washington, D.C. law firms, but joined the Clinton White House in 1996 as special counsel. While there, he publicly defended President Clinton from multiple scandals, emerging as one of the president’s most vociferous allies. He left the White House in 1998 to go back into the private sector — two weeks before the Monica Lewinsky scandal broke.
Davis went on to support Hillary Rodham Clinton during her 2008 and 2016 presidential runs, though not without suffering some public embarrassment of his own: A publicly-revealed email sent to Clinton while she was Secretary of State, in which he begged her to “please please please” provide a positive quote to a reporter for a news article being written about him, was described by the Boston Globe as “Kissing Up 101.”
He’s represented a lot of reprehensible people:
Davis emerged in the last two decades as one of the capital’s premier lobbyists and crisis management experts. He specialized in taking on clients who many others wouldn’t touch, including disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder during the public debate over whether the team name was racist, Pennsylvania State University during the Jerry Sandusky sexual abuse scandal, and multiple repressive African dictators.
One of his former clients, former Ivory Coast president Laurent Gbagbo, is currently on trial before the International Criminal Court on war crimes charges. Davis has said that he regrets taking on Gbagbo, but has said that the State Department had urged him to keep his $100,000-per-month contract while the Obama administration was working on resolving the crisis in that country after Gbagbo refused to step down upon losing the presidential election. A State Department spokesman said at the time that Davis had been “helpful” during the crisis.
Is Michael Cohen his toughest client yet?
Davis has been busy since taking on Cohen as a client last month. Davis gave CNN an audiotape provided by Cohen in which Trump appears to discuss payments to a Playboy model who alleged that she had had an affair with the then-candidate. Since Cohen’s guilty plea, Davis has said that Cohen would be willing to provide special counsel Robert Mueller with “all that he knows” about possible collusion with Russia. Davis has also set up a GoFundMe page to help pay for Cohen’s legal bills.