DEYAN RANKO BRASHICH was born in Belgrade, former Yugoslavia, and is an Op-Ed columnist for Connecticut's Litchfield County Times.  He writes the monthly Letter From America column for Romania’s Scrisul Romanesc, a literary magazine and is the Editor-at-Large for  The Country and Abroad, another literary/art magazine where he authors the Dispatch from Abroad column. He is a frequent contributor to Pecat, the Belgrade, Serbia weekly news magazine, Britić, a magazine published in the United Kingdom, Ekurd Daily, a multinational Kurdish news portal and Passport, a lifestyle quarterly. He resides in New York City and Washington, Connecticut.



Past Entries


Roy Cohn with client Donald Trump in 1984. Photo courtesy Bettmann/Getty Images

The much-anticipated Special Counsel Mueller’s report of his two-year investigation hit the newsstands this week. Politicians, historians, reporters and just plain folks spent hours agonizing of what was there and what was not. There was “there” that was just plain wrong and there was “there” not put in proper context. The little noticed or commented upon Roy Cohn vignette was, however, spot on.

The report speaks of a testy exchange between President Trump and Don McGahn, his White House Counsel. Trump “asked McGahn about notes he had taken of their meetings”. 

"Lawyers don't take notes. I never had a lawyer who took notes," Trump said, according to the report. McGahn told him he took notes because he's a ‘real lawyer’ and it is important to create a written record”. 

"I've had a lot of great lawyers, like Roy Cohn. He did not take notes," Trump said, referring to the controversial attorney who worked for Senator Joseph McCarthy and who ended his career in disgrace, disbarred.”

For once Trump was right. Roy Cohn never took notes. He was a malevolent genius. He had a full state and federal law library imbedded in his brain. He never forgot a fact or a figure, that is until his final days when he was dying of aids and overcome by cocaine.

How do I know? Because I was there, Charlie - I was on the receiving end of that malevolent mind in three cases, the last one a dispute over the purchase price of Constantin Brancusi’s The Muse, losing all three – one on the merits, and two because the fix was in.

Years later I was waiting for the elevator in the grand marble lobby of the Foley Square Courthouse on Centre Street on my way to argue a case before the Second Circuit Court of Appeals when Roy Cohn breezed in with his entourage of legal acolytes. This was the courthouse where he made his bones – the conviction and subsequent execution of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg.

He ignored me and we all boarded the elevator to the courtroom on the 18th floor. The elevator was still manned by a live operator and as we slowly ascended Roy turned to an assistant and asked for the briefs and the nature of the case on appeal.

After a brief exchange he started speed reading the briefs, apparently for the first time. He kept reading as he walked into the antechamber, the waiting room. Within minutes we were called into that grand wood paneled courtroom where so much law and history had been made.

Even though this was not my first time before the Second Circuit I was nervous, my mouth was dry. Not Roy, he kept reading the briefs and then finished with a long yawn.

Roy’s case was the first to be called. He strode to the dais and without a break argued his case, complete with cases references and citations – a veritable tour de force. He brooked no shit from one of the judges who made a faulty reference to a statute. He quoted verbatim the correct language daring the judge to chastise him at his peril. I sat there with mouth agape at the sheer virtuosity of this bravura performance picked on the fly in a manner of minutes.

Donald Trump was right – Roy Cohn did not take notes; he didn’t have to.



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