Samantha Cohen told Vanity Fair of her disgraced attorney dad: "When he loves someone he would do anything for them, and unfortunately he came to care about the wrong person"

By Sean Neumann
September 18, 2020 12:17 PM
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Samantha Cohen (left) and Ivanka Trump
| Credit: Samantha Cohen/Instagram; Chip Somodevilla/Getty

Michael Cohen saw a lot in his years as Donald Trump's personal attorney and fixer.

So did Cohen's daughter, Samantha, who recently spoke with Vanity Fair about her relationship with both her father and the future first family.

The 24-year-old University of Pennsylvania grad told the magazine that her dad began working as Trump’s lawyer when she was about 11 or 12 years old, and she spent more than a decade as a kind of extended member of the Trump Organization.

While the Trumps have since turned on Cohen — and he on them, each swapping scathing accusations about the others' character — Samantha told Vanity Fair that she watched her dad fall under the influence of a man for whom he later went to prison.

(Before the Cohens fell out with the Trumps, Samantha also interned at the White House.)

"People are complex. People are flawed. People are different versions of themselves in different aspects of their lives," Samantha told Vanity Fair. "My dad was villainized over the last several years by the same people who are now praising him for standing up and telling the truth."

"He [Cohen] was correct when he says he was attracted to the power and the allure, but he also believed he loved Trump," Samantha said. "When he loves someone he would do anything for them, and unfortunately he came to care about the wrong person."

Earlier this year, Cohen returned home to finish his federal sentence for crimes including lying to Congress and tax evasion — the latter in connection with a hush money payment he made to pornographic actress Stormy Daniels, who says she had an affair with Trump (which Trump denies).

This month, Cohen released a tell-all about his time with Trump titled Disloyal, which the White House has assailed.

Samantha spoke with Vanity Fair about some of what Cohen recounts in that book, what she thinks of her dad and what she thinks of the Trumps.

Ivanka Trump speaks during the Republican National Convention
| Credit: Getty Images

Ivanka’s ‘Fake’ Apology

In all her time around the Trumps, Samantha said Ivanka Trump — who lived in the Cohens' building — was almost never warm to her.

"She would totally ignore me if she ever saw me. I always found it so strange because she loved my dad," Samantha told Vanity Fair. "She came over one night because he made his 'famous' lasagna. Whenever we were alone, though, she’d look past me."

That changed when Samantha ran into the president’s oldest daughter — a White House senior advisor — a few months before Cohen was sentenced in December 2018.

“I was walking out of the building,” Samantha said, noticing Secret Service men around as Ivanka waited for a driver. “She saw me and I thought she was going to ignore me, as she had the rest of my life. But she grabbed my arm and said, ‘We all feel so terribly about what’s happening to your dad. Our hearts are breaking for him. I’m so sorry that this happened to you guys,’ in this high-pitched, sugary voice.”

Samantha said she “knew how fake it was” and she was surprised Ivanka said anything at all, “because I know she doesn’t care, and it was too late to send a message to my dad.”

“I don’t know if she was trying to make herself feel better, or if she did it for show because there were other people in the lobby,” Samantha said. “It just felt like someone threw a bucket of slime on me because it was so phony and gross.”

(Oh and: "One time [Ivanka] told on me after she saw me smoking cigarettes outside of our building," Samantha told Vanity Fair. "It was so lame.")

From left: Samantha Cohen, Laura Shusterman and Michael Cohen
| Credit: Drew Angerer/Getty

Trump’s Creepy Comment When She Was 15

According to a scene in Cohen's book, which Samantha also described for Vanity Fair, Trump, now 74, leered at her in front of her father back in 2012, when she was 15 years old.

Cohen writes in Disloyal that he and Trump were at Trump's golf course in New Jersey when Samantha walked up to them from the tennis court.

Trump pointed and whistled, according to Cohen: “Look at that piece of a--. I would love some of that.”

Cohen was questioned about the incident during his appearance Monday on The View, where he admitted he knew the comment "was wrong" and said he didn't condemn Trump or "smack him across the side of the head" because feels now he was under "Stockholm Syndrome" with his boss.

“As a father, I never should’ve allowed it," Cohen said, adding, “Under any other circumstance, I never would’ve allowed anybody to speak about her that way, but I was part of the cult. I was a big part of the cult and there really was no wrong that he can do even though I knew it was wrong.”

Samantha also talked about that moment with Vanity Fair.

“There are so many creepy men, and it was hardly the first comment like that I’d heard. It was almost meaningless to me at the moment because I’d heard them before,” she said. “If you can hit on a 15-year-old, I am pretty sure there is something wrong with you, and when you allow someone with that little integrity to be in the most powerful office, that sets the tone for the rest of the country’s culture.”

She continued: "My dad always tuned out everything negative Trump said about him, but what I remember was Trump saying, 'Thank God she got those looks from her mother. She certainly didn’t get them from you.' That’s the part that stood out to me. I was not desensitized to someone putting down my dad and insulting him and degrading him. That was one of the reasons I hated Trump so much."

The White House has dismissed Cohen's stories, saying in a statement that he "is a disgraced felon and disbarred lawyer, who lied to Congress. He has lost all credibility, and it’s unsurprising to see his latest attempt to profit off of lies.”

Tiffany Trump speaking at the 2020 Republican National Convention
| Credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Why She Thinks Tiffany Is Faking Her Politics

Unlike Ivanka, Samantha says she had a close friendship with Trump’s younger daughter, Tiffany Trump, while they were growing up — even staying with Tiffany when the latter was a student at the University of Pennsylvania.

Samantha said the two don't speak any longer, though she shared her thoughts on how Tiffany has navigated her family. (Sources have told PEOPLE Tiffany, who was raised by her mom, has had a somewhat difficult relationship with the Trumps.)

“This isn’t anything she’s explicitly said to me, but it can’t be easy being made to feel your entire life like you’re unwanted,” Samantha told Vanity Fair. “I won’t speak to her now, but if I could, I would say something.”

Samantha said when she saw Tiffany speaking at the Republican National Convention last month, she thought, “I know there’s no way she believes that s---.”

“She has friends who are gay. She’s an Ivy League-educated woman,” Samantha said. “There’s no way that she thinks that any of this is a good idea, and her dad treated her like s--- her whole life.”

Vanity Fair asked: So why do it?

“She never really got the perks of being a Trump kid before," Samantha said. "But this is how and when she wants it? Being part of the most hated family in America?”

From left: Michael Cohen's wife Laura Shusterman and their children, Samantha Cohen and Jake Cohen
| Credit: JASON SZENES/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

What It Was Like to Intern with the Trump Administration

Samantha spent a brief period inside the Trump White House while she was still in college, she told Vanity Fair.

"I thought that working as a White House intern would look good on my résumé," she said.

Her father and First Lady Melania Trump "were exceptionally close," Samantha said. "I got a job working in the East Wing. I was there for about a week and I truly thought I was going to go crazy. No one was doing anything."

Samantha said she “would sit at my computer screen just staring” and that “everyone looked like Kellyanne Conway.”

She nearly quit before her dad called Omarosa Manigault Newman, a former contestant on The Apprentice who was then a White House aide, who agreed to let Samantha shadow her around the offices.

Samantha said that while she spent some time interning with the administration, she disagreed sharply with Trump's campaign style — including his 2015 comments about some Mexican immigrants being “rapists.”

“Before this I didn’t think Trump was a flaming racist,” she said. “But I realized that Trump will turn into anything if it meant getting elected. That scared me. There was no bottom to how low Trump would go. He’d just keep going lower and lower and lower to get further and further and further.”