Where's My Roy Cohn? (2019) Movie Script

Testing, one, two, three.
Roy Cohn, September 28.
I was writing a
profile of Roy Cohn.
My recorder is going, and...
I'm taking notes as
well, and I said...
What makes Roy Cohn tick?
A love of a good fight. Uh...
A certain pleasure I derive
in fighting against power
and the establishment.
! will take on a cause
against practically anybody.
I hate hypocrisy.
Roy Cohn was called the most
brilliant and influential lawyer
in America.
His specialty was power.
And from the very beginning,
he was flamboyant,
he was ruthless and
always controversial.
And he was like a caged animal.
If you opened the
door to the cage,
he would come out and get you.
Roy Coho's contempt for people,
his contempt for the law,
was so evident on his face
that if you were
in his presence,
you knew you were in
the presence of evil.
And he saw himself as
a political puppeteer.
He could pull strings and
bring people together.
He could pull strings and
make people do things.
Roy Cohn is the common thread
from Senator Joe McCarthy...
all the way to his
protege, Donald Trump.
When you look at Coho's life,
you're shining a light...
on demagoguery...
and the darkest parts
of the American psyche.
The Roy Cohn show,
which is unbelievable.
Now here's Roy Cohn, who appeared
recently on the cover of Esquire magazine.
And the title of that article, as I
recall, sir, was "The Legal Executioner."
- Yeah.
- It went on to say that you are really a tough man
- and that at times you can...
- Tough, mean, vicious, so on.
What does that kind of publicity
do for your business in New York?
Oh, it's fantastic.
The worse the adjectives,
the better it is for business.
What are they looking for?
What are they buying?
Scare value.
Going back, over a period of
years, when I call somebody
or write a letter or
something like that,
this is supposed to make
them tremble and think,
unless they act
promptly and reasonably,
that all sorts of terrible
consequences are gonna flow.
Roy's reputation in the courtroom
was for such viciousness
that merely retaining him
usually caused the other side in any
dispute to want to settle immediately.
I hired Roy Cohn because he
is a tough son of a bitch.
If I can compare this with a Western,
it's like bringing in a hired gun.
That's right.
My name is Roy Cohn.
The way Roy Cohn practiced
as an attorney was:
"I don't care what the law is.
I wanna know who the judge is."
That's the way he worked, because
that's how he manipulated the system.
I would do anything to get my client
to win. Yes, I would. That's my job.
There isn't anything
I would not do,
because I believe there's only one answer
in an adversary profession like law,
and that is winning.
And he did it in ways that were,
you know, beyond Machiavellian.
He was an amazing manipulator,
and often got his way as a result.
What are they confiscating?
- Packets of white powder.
- But what was it?
Was it cocaine?
It was not in his briefcase.
They do not allege it
was in his briefcase.
I've read the complaint,
and I was in court, and you weren't.
Roy was somebody that
had no boundaries.
And if you were on
the right side of him,
it was great, and if you were on the
wrong side of him, it was terrible.
He loved power.
He loved pulling the levers of power. And he
got a taste for that very early in his career.
Here's a man that everybody
is going to enjoy meeting.
He's Roy M. Cohn, who is confidential assistant
to the United States Attorney General,
and, of course,
they've been very busy
prosecuting the Communists
and Communist Party.
- Hi, Roy.
- How are you, Jack?
What can you tell us, Roy,
that we might not know from
general newspaper coverage
of the workings of the
party in this country?
What can we watch for
as individual citizens?
Well, the Communists, the one thing
we have to understand at the outset
is that the Communist Party...
IS not a political party.
It is a way of life.
An evil and malignant
way of life.
It reveals a condition
akin to disease,
that spreads like an epidemic,
and like an epidemic, a quarantine is necessary
to keep it from infecting this nation.
It's a criminal conspiracy.
Its object is the overthrow of the government
of the United States by force and violence...
and institute the worst type
dictatorship this world has ever known.
This was the height
of the Cold War.
People were genuinely
terrified of a nuclear attack
and of the so-called
Communist menace.
President Truman's
dramatic announcement
that Russia has created
an atomic explosion
sends reporters racing
for the United Nations.
Got any statement about President
Truman's statement on the atomic bomb?
- Please, please, excuse me.
- Does Russia have the atomic bomb, sir?
- Won't you reply to me?
- What can we do?
It was a period of hysteria.
You really start to see the
paranoid style of politics unfold.
And Roy Cohn was right there.
One of the greatest peacetime spy dramas
in the nation's history reaches its climax
as Julius Rosenberg and Mrs.
Ethel Rosenberg,
convicted of revealing atomic
secrets to the Russians,
enter the federal building in
New York to hear their doom.
He became one of the prosecutors in the
trial of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg.
The appointment of Jewish
prosecutors and a Jewish judge
was to create the impression
that it was not an
anti-Semitic prosecution.
He was only 23 years old,
but Roy Cohn was ruthless.
Roy Cohn knew how to bully,
and he was willing to do whatever
he could to manipulate the result.
Cohn felt he could ride
the wave of anti-Communism
to further his own career.
And, in fact, his role in that case IS
subject to very serious ethical questions.
According to Cohn,
Judge Kaufman would call him
from a phone booth outside
Park Avenue Synagogue,
where he urged Kaufman to
impose the death penalty.
It was a pathway to power for
Kaufman, the judge,
and for Roy Cohn.
They seized the moment. They pushed it
as far as they could, and it went there.
Judge Irving Kaufman sentenced both
Rosenbergs to death in the electric chair.
It is the first time in peacetime that
such a death penalty has been handed down.
The country was polarized
over the verdict.
People took to the
streets to protest,
seeking clemency,
which was not granted.
The government never
had enough evidence
to convict Ethel, and yet they
convicted her, sentenced her to death
and killed her in
the electric chair.
And it was a deal that
Roy Cohn helped engineer.
- She just kept her hands open like this.
- Right.
I think, if these people are made to
understand that like any other criminals,
when they violate our laws, they will be punished,
that that will have a strong deterrent effect.
And I think that the death sentence imposed by
Judge Irving R. Kaufman in the atom spy trial
had a very strong
deterrent effect.
I think it's been a very good year on
the anti-Communist front in this country.
My father took me to the corner of our
block to see the funeral procession go by.
I'm not sure where he really
stood on the Rosenberg case.
But he wanted me to see this.
This was a part of history.
And it had an indelible
effect on me...
and on all of America.
Cohn makes his career on
the backs of the Rosenbergs,
showing that he's not just a
smart, young punk,
but that he's a go-for-the-jugular
district attorney who can quite literally
strap people into
the electric chair.
Our guest on Meet the Press,
ladies and gentlemen, is Roy M. Cohn.
I'd like to put you on the receiving end of
some questions you usually ask witnesses.
All right.
When and where were you born?
I was born in New
York City in 1927.
Roy came from an
unconventional family.
His mother, Dora,
was a privileged member of Jewish society.
When Roy was born,
the family consisted of
the Bank of United States,
which was a big name at the time,
Van Heusen Corporation,
Lionel Trains,
and my own grandfather,
who had started Q-tips.
The truth is,
Dora was not a very attractive woman.
Dora, according to my mother,
was the ugliest
girl in the Bronx.
Not only was she not attractive physically,
but she had a difficult personality.
Nobody would marry Dora.
So they cut a deal with a
young lawyer named Al Cohn.
If he married Dora,
they would make him a judge.
They had one child,
and that child was Roy.
Al and Dora Cohn had a
very frosty relationship.
They both focused on Roy a
lot, Dora even more than Al.
She was the ultimate
doting mother.
He was treated like
a young prince.
Like any mother,
she wanted a son who was perfect,
and she had a son that was
short and unattractive.
And she tried to
correct his nose.
And she wanted a different son
from the son that God gave her.
That imbued him a sense
of shame about who he was,
and his father gave
him the language
whereby he would express
his shame in various ways,
through law and politics.
And Dora and Al together
were a perfect storm.
His father was a very
active Democrat in the Bronx
and would have a lot of powerful
Democrats come to dinner.
And when Roy was 9,
10, 11 years old,
his father would insist that Roy
sit at the table with adults.
And Roy would partake
in conversation.
When Cohn was 10, his father brought
him to meet President Roosevelt.
Roy dared to opine
to the president,
who I'm sure loved hearing
it even from a 10-year-old,
"I support what you're doing,
packing the Supreme Court."
He made his first bribe when
he was about 15 years old.
He got a teacher out of a traffic
ticket when he was in high school.
Roy Cohn knew how
the system worked,
and he manipulated that system
for the rest of his life.
You describe yourself, and it rings
true, as a non-conformist.
Right. I am myself an
oddball in a lot of ways.
I don't like conventional
things or conventional standards
or conventional people
or conventional boredom
or anything along those lines.
In fact, I, very early in
life, broke with tradition,
and left my Jewish
upper-class-orientated life in New York,
and became a contradiction of
everything I was supposed to stand for.
Roy was the definition
of a self-hating Jew.
He wanted to show to the
world that he wasn't Jewish.
Many things he did over the years
were aimed at proving that to people.
- When were you admitted to the bar?
- I was admitted to the bar in 1948.
- When...
- Five years ago.
- Five years ago. 21 years old.
- Yes, sir.
He graduated from
Columbia Law School at 20.
He was so young
that he wasn't able to be admitted to the
bar for another year, until he was 21.
He was incredibly, incredibly smart,
and he was an expert at taking advantage
of every connection he had.
I was in the Department of Justice
for a period of five years,
and I worked, during that period of
time, very intensively
with the Federal Bureau
of Investigation.
He attracted great attention with J.
Edgar Hoover at the FBI.
Hoover understood the value of planting
certain information with the press.
Cohn served his master,
passed on the information,
and Hoover returned the compliment
in recommending Cohn as chief counsel
to Joseph McCarthy's
notorious committee.
Even if there were only one
Communist in the State Department,
that would still be
one Communist too many.
McCarthy almost
single-handedly made the era
one in which debate became
charge and countercharge.
Cohn soared to national prominence
as McCarthy's handmaiden,
whispering in his ear in
a conspiratorial fashion,
advising him how to question witnesses
before the congressional subcommittee.
Roy's tactics and his
approach via McCarthy
make him one of the most
controversial people in the country.
I don't think you understood the question.
The question was, "Do you know this man?"
Can you look at the picture and tell us?
I assume the answer's yes or no.
Well, the assumption is a little
bit mistaken in this instance.
Tell us whether you know
the man before you proceed.
- Do you know this man, or don't you?
- Your statements about him
have made it difficult
for me and unsafe for me.
And, of course, McCarthy, we think of
him in terms of investigating Communists.
But he and Cohn also
investigated homosexuals.
In the '40s and the '50s,
being gay was such a terrible secret.
And that was true for Roy.
It's just hard for people today to
imagine the damage keeping that secret did
to people and their lives.
And Roy certainly would have done
everything to hide it in any way.
In a kind of "he doth
protest too much" manner,
we have Cohn investigating these
homosexuals very aggressively.
So he's all over the press.
Roy Cohn starts getting
a political and
a social profile.
Cohn befriended many
socially connected young men.
Among them...
G. David Schine,
a wealthy hotel heir.
Cohn was able to get Schine
on McCarthy's committee.
It's clear to me that Roy had an
interest in this beautiful David Schine
that might have been
not entirely about
his mental capacity.
Roy and David Schine went on a
buddy trip together across Europe,
inspecting various
facilities, their libraries,
attempting to ferret out any
signs of Communist infiltration.
We are here to
gather information,
to double-check leads we have
and to see a vast
number of individuals
as long as they can contribute
pertinent information or facts.
I... We believe that the free world is
gonna win the Cold War and win this fight
by one thing: the truth.
Communists are dedicated to the
overthrow of the United States,
who are dedicated to wiping the United
States off the face of the Earth
and substituting the freedom we have in America
for the spiritual and mental enslavement
you have in the Soviet Union.
Roy Cohn has spent most
of his life studying law.
And finally, in his mid-20s,
he has the kind of romantic
crush or compulsion
that most people have for the
first time in high school.
But Roy Cohn happens to have it when he's
chief counsel for the McCarthy committee.
Joseph McCarthy himself said that he never
saw Roy Cohn irrational about anything
except G. David Schine.
Roy liked to do favors for friends,
even when it was inappropriate.
So when his friend David Schine
was drafted into the Army,
Roy tried to get him
special treatment.
And he pulled all the strings he
could pull. He was a string-puller.
This is the way things worked in the
Bronx, in Manhattan politics.
It's not the way things worked in the Army, and
the Army was not gonna have any part of it.
And that prompted the
Army-McCarthy hearings.
Early in 1954, Senator McCarthy
said there were Communists
in the United States Army
and that they were
being protected.
The Army replied that his charges were a
form of pressure to get special favors,
including a direct commission for G.
David Schine,
a very special Army private
and former McCarthy assistant.
The Army-McCarthy hearings
pit the United States Army
against Joe McCarthy
and Roy Cohn.
Coho's willing to do anything in order to
get more quality time with G. David Schine.
That's what the Army-McCarthy
hearings were about.
It was televised,
and 20 million stunned Americans
looked on for 36 days at the greatest
political spectacle of our history.
A new variable had entered our
political life: television.
Thank you very much, Mr. Welch,
and thank you, Mr. Jenkins.
- You're welcome.
- Mr. Cohn...
I think you are conducting a
little one-sided interview here,
and that's perfectly all right with me, sir.
I'll tell you what I have to say on the...
On the witness
stand, under oath.
All right, thank you. That was Roy
Cohn and his opinion of the interview.
You can read the Army-McCarthy hearings
as the original reality TV moment,
because you have what
is an open-ended drama
with a cast of
repeating characters,
but you really don't know
what's going to happen.
Committee will
please come to order.
I understand the secretary
of the Army is here
as first witness.
Roy thinks that Dave
ought to be a general
and operate from a penthouse
on the Waldorf Astoria,
or words to that effect.
I asked him what would happen
if Schine got overseas duty.
- You were breaking the news gently, Mr. Adams?
- Yes, sir. That is right.
I think I observe on Colonel Bradley's
face a faint little look of pleasure.
- Do you, sir?
- I would say that Colonel... I...
You and David Schine
have been what we might call warm
personal friends, have you not?
- He is one of my many good friends, sir, yes.
- One of your many good friends.
And in all fairness, Mr. Cohn, isn't it a
fact that he is one of your best friends?
We all have our best friends. There's
no criticism of you on that account.
- No, of course not, sir.
- We have friends whom we love. I do.
There were a lot of
snide, homophobic comments
that were leveled at both Cohn
and Schine and at McCarthy.
Did you think this
came from a pixie?
Will counsel, for my benefit, define...
I think he might be an expert on that,
- what a pixie is?
- Yeah. Yes. I should say...
I should say, Mr. Senator, that a
pixie is a close relative of a fairy.
With the word "fairy," the subtext
of the Army-McCarthy hearings
is spoken out loud.
But it isn't true that you'd lose
your head now when Dave Schine's name
- is mentioned and...
- That is...
That is completely untrue, sir.
McCarthy launched a counterattack
by bringing out the fact
that one of Welch's associates had been a
member of an alleged Communist organization.
Senator, may we not drop this?
Let us not assassinate
this lad further, Senator.
- Let's...
- You've done enough.
Cohn knows that this is the moment
that Joseph Welch is seizing
to finally give the blast at McCarthy
that everybody has been waiting for.
And he starts
squirming in his chair.
He sort of tries to gesture
to McCarthy to stop it.
- Let's...
- You've done enough.
Have you no sense of
decency, sir?
At long last,
have you left no sense of decency?
That caught the conscience of the country
and ended with McCarthy being discredited.
Indeed, they were both discredited
as a result of Joseph Welch's
"Have you no sense of decency?"
The chair declares these
hearings adjourned sine die.
I'm not referring to the
senator from Wisconsin.
He's only important in that his name has
taken on a dictionary meaning in the world.
That meaning is the
corruption of truth,
the abandonment of our
historical devotion to fair play.
It is the abandonment
of due process of law.
It is the use of a big lie
and the unfounded accusation
against any citizen
in the name of
Americanism and security.
It is the rise to power of the
demagogue who lives on untruth.
It is the spread of fear and the destruction
of faith in every level of our society.
What a demagogue does is throw out
information that they know is salacious,
and headline-grabbing.
And Roy proved that in
the McCarthy period.
Roy Cohn knew how to take a bad situation
and absolutely make the most of it.
No matter what happens,
no matter how defeated you are,
no matter how deeply you wind
up in the muck, claim victory.
I can't help but feel that Roy Cohn
has won a really great victory.
His persona as this slick,
maybe a little oily,
but really razor-sharp lawyer
has been carved in stone.
And that's what he's going to
be for the rest of his career.
No more shuttling between New
York and Washington for Roy Cohn.
The young lawyer,
who befriended Private David Schine,
has handed in his resignation
as chief counsel to the Senate
Permanent Investigation Subcommittee
headed by McCarthy.
The reason?
He insisted that all members of the group
want him to stay on, and this was not so.
As for the future,
Cohn says that he will wage a personal fight
against Communism wherever he finds it.
New York in the 1950s was a
cutthroat place to make money.
Mafia families operated
pretty much as they wanted.
Cops were on the
take left and right.
It was unbelievably corrupt at every level,
right up to the very top in business.
For Roy Cohn,
this was Candy Land.
I think he was trying
to claw his way
to the very top echelon of American
society, one way or the other.
Part of New York
society, at that time...
was preoccupied with getting the
right table, going to the right place,
being invited to
the right function.
The Stork Club, 21,
Danny's Hide-A-Way.
Roy always surrounded himself with womanizers
and the gorgeous women who came with them.
But Roy acted as though
they weren't there.
They were really decorations.
He became an attorney
in private practice.
His partner was Thomas Bolan,
who had close ties with the
archdiocese of New York.
Cohn had close ties
with Cardinal Spellman.
Of course, the position of the
Church at that time, as it is now,
was staunchly anti-Communist.
They needed somebody to
bring business into the firm,
and that was Roy Cohn.
He took his cutthroat D.C. tactics and
started applying them in corporate America,
at the expense of
everyone in his path.
And he couldn't come
back from Joe McCarthy,
so he just embraced it more.
What you are about
to see is top secret.
The first official test of the powerful
new Lionel Turbo Missile Firing Car.
In the 1950s,
Roy had his eye on a family business.
His great-uncle was a Lionel,
and he had founded Lionel Trains.
It was a thriving company.
Remember, boy, you're the boss of
the greatest action cars ever created
when you own Lionel trains.
Roy, over the course of several months,
acquired about 200,000 shares of stock,
and boom,
he took over the company.
It took not more than a few years
until he drove it into the ground.
He was so full of himself,
and he did not care about the family.
But he was known to people as the person
who was in charge of the big company.
For a period of years, the first years I
was with him, we were a powerful law firm.
Roy was very
aggressive, very smart.
A very capable lawyer.
He prepared at the last minute,
but he had a perfect memory.
We'd get in the limousine going
down to court, and he'd say,
"Now, tell me again,
who's the client?"
And he'd get up there like he'd
been immersed in the case for years.
He was just that
good at what he did.
But the big picture
was more complicated.
He just didn't play by the rule book,
and you learned that very quickly.
With time,
Roy became more and more powerful,
and more and more ruthless.
He subjected everybody around him
to potential criminal liability.
For example, I was,
I think, 25 years old.
I had about $35 in the bank.
And I was made the director
of a bank in Chicago,
as were some of our
associates for other banks.
I remember the first
auditor's report,
basically saying, "What happened to
the money? Where's all the money?"
There was always something of
that criminal nature going on.
- Let me talk to you about your boat.
- Sure.
- Okay. The boat sunk off Florida.
- Okay, it was not my boat.
It was owned by a corporation.
And it was leased
part-time by the firm.
A crew member's killed on a
boat that many considered yours.
So it was not my boat.
When I was a kid,
I would go with my grandmother,
because Roy would have her
birthday party on his yacht,
which was docked
in the Hamptons.
It was called Defiance.
One year, there was this
mysterious fire on Defiance...
which happened to be
insured for a lot of money.
One of the crew members
was killed in that fire.
There were serious questions about
whether Roy had a hand in burning the boat
in order to get the insurance.
Was it arson? Was Roy connected?
The name of the crew member was
Charles Martensen, he was 21,
and his father,
who I've talked to... Um...
In effect... Not in effect, just out
and out thinks you murdered his son.
- He thinks I murdered his son?
- To get the insurance on the boat.
Well, of course,
let's look at it this way.
A, I didn't own the boat.
B, I didn't get the insurance.
C, the statement is an
outrageous falsehood.
Four, how am I gonna get angry
at a man who lost his son?
Uh... Couldn't be sorrier for
him and for what happened.
Like a lot of things with Roy,
those questions haunted
that case and that...
The mystery of what happened
to the young man and that boat.
It just got to a point where they
were crazier and crazier and crazier,
culminating in his
first indictment.
It was a 10-count indictment,
charging me with perjury,
obstruction of justice and with a conspiracy
to commit perjury and to obstruct justice.
It was about a
48-page-long indictment.
Everything bad that happened to
Roy during my years at his firm
was attributed to Robert Morgenthau,
who was then the U.S. attorney.
Cohn viewed all the three Morgenthau
indictments as a vendetta.
And it was a very
public dispute.
If there's a defendant around who hasn't been
propositioned by Mr. Morgenthau's office
to furnish some kind of information on me
in return for a deal, I haven't met him.
He's the only person I've ever met
who actually enjoyed being indicted,
because it gave him
a platform to attack.
A federal grand jury in New
York today indicted Roy Cohn
on charges of fraud
and conspiracy.
Cohn could be sentenced
to 38 years in jail
and fined $55,000 if
convicted on all counts.
I can't imagine the kind of pressure
he was under while this was going on,
but he never showed it.
There was a confidence about
him that was unshakable.
He managed to get out
of legal difficulties
in ways that almost no
other lawyer could have.
He was a legal magician.
If Mr. Morgenthau
were being honest,
he could have done this at the same time
he did the last indictment 60 days ago.
But if he did it that way, he wouldn't have been
able to get two smear news stories against me,
which is just what
he likes to do.
And after this third indictment,
I don't think there are
too many people left around
who don't realize that this all
is Mr. Morgenthau's vendetta.
In his own trial involving the
Fifth Avenue Coach Company,
his lawyer had a heart attack.
Roy got up and delivered
his own defense.
Seven hours of his own defense
without looking at a note.
Cohn kept appealing
to patriotism.
He said, "I love the
United States of America",
and I can't believe that most of
the people in this great country
think that I could ever
commit a criminal act.
He's just lying
to save his skin.
It had a tremendous
impact on the jury.
The foreman of the jury came back the next
day wearing an American flag in his lapel.
And he was acquitted.
I mean, he was really the Teflon fraud.
This is just the most relieved
and happy moment of my life.
And the way I feel is
the way I feel every day in my
life, which is God bless America.
Roy Cohn understood the political
value of wrapping yourself in the flag.
It's not surprising that he would meet with
reporters and say, "God bless America."
He always made very good copy.
Cohn was, in part, powerful not
just because he was a good lawyer
and a killer lawyer.
He was also powerful because
he had press relationships.
And the press was beholden to him
because he was feeding them information.
This gave him a dimension
beyond just being a lawyer.
Roy knew how to shape events
that he was involved in
through his manipulation
of the press.
Roy Cohn had learned his lessons
from the McCarthy era well.
He learned the press will
accurately quote whatever you say.
The headlines and
the top of the story,
and a lot of people don't read
beyond the first few paragraphs,
would be your version of events.
Cohn had a coterie of reporters,
sort of the predecessors
and precursors of Fox News,
to whom he would
leak information.
He would sit back at the dining-room
table, and he would actually dictate copy
for both the New York
Post and the Daily News.
"Period, paragraph, new paragraph,
comma, exclamation point."
I've never seen anybody do that.
From the very beginning,
he tried to co-opt me.
He would give me horrible
items about people,
and I wouldn't
pay any attention.
But he did tell me a lot
of incredible things.
He was consumed
with a driving force
to make himself famous,
to be with famous people,
to make himself powerful.
That was where the motives were.
In 1927, Roy's uncle,
Bernie Marcus,
owned the Bank of United States.
The Depression comes, and,
of course, many banks had trouble.
When the stock market failed,
the Bank of United States was
the first big bank to fail.
There was a run on the bank.
The only banks big
enough to cover this run
were the Morgan banks or
the Rockefeller banks.
But they said something to the effect, "We don't
care about the Jewish bank. Let them go."
There's crowds in the streets,
the bank is closed, the doors are locked.
The immigrants lost
all their money.
It was tragic in the Jewish community.
It was tragic for the country.
My grandfather, Bernie Marcus,
was hauled away to Sing Sing.
And that was the
ultimate disgrace.
The social shame of that to
the family was enormously deep.
Thrown out of every country club,
thrown out of the Harmonie Club.
There was a lot wrong with the trial
that ended up putting Bernie in prison.
And Roy had said that if he were
Bernie's attorney at the time,
he would have gotten him
off, and probably could have.
That failure of his Uncle Bernie was
a huge part of what motivated Roy.
He had to let people know that although
his uncle had lost it, he had made it.
Roy had a huge
standard of living.
Boats, planes, the best table
at the 21 Club or
the Stork Club.
And the firm paid,
because they were all business-related.
You know, Roy was never a partner in the
firm. That didn't mean anything to him.
He was Roy Cohn.
I mean, he's the chief.
This was the '60s and '70s,
when fame was becoming
everything in New York.
And this was part of his need to
have these very wealthy friends.
His need to have a Rolls-Royce
and let everybody know it.
he had two Rolls-Royces.
One that was a convertible.
He always wanted the sun.
And to look like he just
came out of Miami Beach.
I think it was Aristotle Onassis who said,
"You can never be too rich or too tan."
Roy Cohn took this to heart.
He had a speedboat,
and often during the summer,
he would take a bunch
of us up to 79th Street.
Now, the Hudson River was so
polluted in the late '60s.
I mean, nobody would go 10
feet near the Hudson River.
And he went waterskiing.
And we went under the
George Washington Bridge.
It was perfect Roy Cohn.
It was the way he lived, bigger than life.
Roy took a house in
Mexico every year.
And every time I would go
there to meet with Roy,
there'd be a knock on
my door at the office,
and his mother Dora would bring me some
jockey shorts and cans of tuna fish.
So Roy would have what
he liked all the time.
His mother took care of him. With her,
it was, "Did you eat your breakfast?"
"Don't listen to him. He's wrong.
You're right, Roy."
Bucking him up,
always supporting him.
He became a little
boy around his mother.
I gather he lived in fear of
Dora knowing that he was gay.
Now, that's an odd thing,
because he was in his 30s and 40s,
but Dora chose not to see it.
After his mother died,
things changed very rapidly.
A fellow who drove
his car disappeared.
There was a new driver,
much more handsome.
And there was a new
captain of the yacht,
also much more handsome.
Roy was hung up on
a specific type.
I was his epitome of looks,
like, you know, the very...
He liked blond-haired, you know,
Nordic look, like David Schine.
Even the lawyers he would hire...
They were straight,
but they were that type of look.
Roy and the law firm of
Saxe, Bacon and Bolan
moved into an Upper
East Side townhouse.
On East 68th Street,
which was an
awfully fancy block.
I believe it was between
Madison and Park.
The idea that it was an office and
a residence was a little unusual.
You'd meet in the living room.
Or you'd meet in his
bedroom, which was,
I think, on the fourth
floor of the building.
He'd be in a bathrobe, and he...
That's the way
business was conducted.
What I saw were two Cohns.
In a suit and tie,
he was Roy Cohn, killer lawyer.
At his apartment...
I remember thinking,
this is a different Roy Cohn.
He's letting himself be.
My recorder is going, and I said,
"Roy, let me ask you a question."
Many people who I've
talked to have said to me,
"Do you know that
Roy is a homosexual?"
Long pause.
He didn't answer for seconds.
I mean, maybe five, six seconds.
I... I...
would answer you this way.
Anybody who knows me,
or knows anything about me,
or who knows the
way my mind works,
would have an awfully hard
time reconciling, uh...
that with any kind of,
uh, uh, homosexuality.
In other words,
every facet of my personality,
my aggressiveness and my toughness,
and everything along those lines,
is just totally, I suppose,
incompatible with anything like that.
But he didn't say he was,
he didn't say he wasn't.
But he squirmed,
which gave me great
amount of pleasure.
Because in a way,
I was doing to him,
in this personal interview,
what he had done to people
in the McCarthy hearings,
putting them on the spot. "Are you now,
or have you ever been a Communist?"
I wanna ask you about this.
To me, the nicest thing...
Let's be affirmative.
The nicest thing that I have
ever heard about Joe McCarthy
was told me by Senator
Flanders of Vermont,
that he was a full-time homosexual.
Is this true?
No. I'm sure you think that
merited a badge of honor,
but it is not true.
Well, I'm getting to you in a minute,
but what about Senator McCarthy?
Sure, you... I mean, that's your favorite
topic of conversation, I know that.
- I know... Aroused by the obvious.
- By the way... I know.
He was a very hypocritical guy.
He was engaged for a
while to Barbara Walters.
We're getting married
when we're both 60.
She and Roy had
grown up together,
and she never deserted him.
But she was annoyed
by Roy going around
saying he was gonna marry her.
She knew that was absurd.
This is a guy who ostensibly was a multimillionaire,
one of the most powerful people in New York.
There was a little Disney sign that
said "Roy" on it on his bedroom door.
The door opened...
I only saw it once,
but the door opened,
and there was a mirror.
I was young. I didn't know that people had
mirrors on the ceilings of their bedrooms.
So there was a mirror there, a huge bed, and
there were just people in and out all day long.
Which is also a kind of recreation
room and office and gallery
for his collection of frogs.
Roy had a lot of miniature
animals and stuffed animals
and things that...
In his apartment that
you wouldn't expect...
a killer lawyer to have.
He admits to a certain vanity,
religious about doing his
200 sit-ups every day.
All this while dictating to his
male secretary, Vincent Millard.
Did you remember I had a lunch
date with Barbara Walters?
- When is that?
- Today.
Every time I had a meal with
him, he didn't order very much,
and sometimes he didn't order.
With his fingers,
he would take food off my plate.
If you're Roy and you're always doing
exercise and you're always staying thin,
and yet you eat off of somebody's
plate, it doesn't count.
It's like everything
in his life.
There was this image, and then there was
reality, which totally contradicted it.
He had a really bad facelift,
with these enormous gashes,
and stitches on the side of his face.
You'd say, "Roy, did you have
surgery?" And he said, "No, not me.
Why? I feel fine."
So, I mean, he would even deny
that he'd had this surgery
when he should have been
home in bed with ice on lit.
He was very vain in that sense.
There was a strange
contradiction about Roy.
He was totally ugly and totally
charismatic at the same time.
A lot of people say they see you
with a lot of good-looking young men.
I like young people.
There's no question about that.
! like being around young people.
They're more fun.
The people that he had sex with
were not very well-educated,
did not come from good families.
That was a separate
part of his life.
He had to have sex every day.
Every day.
And preferably with
someone who was new.
He took a lot of Valium.
He'd get so frustrated with
those childproof bottles.
He'd always...
"Can you open this thing?"
And it wasn't, like, one pill. It was, like,
just dump them in there and take them.
In the end of the evening,
I went to take my coal,
and it was, like,
stuffed full of hundred-dollar bills.
Every time I reached into a pocket,
there was several hundred-dollar bills.
When everyone left,
I would go in and lay
down on the bed with him,
and, like,
I'd look up at the mirror,
and he would look up at the
mirror, and we would talk.
I asked him,
"So are you the girl or the boy?"
And he said, "I'm the girl."
There were rumors that he was picking
up male prostitutes all around the city.
He was really a
personality in disarray.
A personality in anarchy.
Which had no rules, it had no
scruples, it had no boundaries.
He was someone who
lived on the edge.
And he enjoyed living on the
edge, because it was dangerous.
The power politics of New
York, the favor bank,
was very closely linked
to organized crime.
And this was a milieu in which
Roy Cohn fit in perfectly.
- Then tell me what direction.
- You got 50 people here...
Cohn began to
represent mobsters.
He represented all of
the New York families
that controlled La Cosa Nostra.
Galante arrived at the federal
courthouse in a long black limousine
and walked inside, shielded from
photographers by two of his daughters.
- Aah!
- Stop it. Please!
Galante is now regarded
by federal authorities
as one of the most
important men in the Mafia.
- Come on, Daddy, run!
- What are you doing here today?
Turn around and roll, Frank.
- Come on, baby. Let's go. Let's go.
- Stop pushing me!
- Are you Mr. Galante's attorney?
- Yeah.
- And what is your name, sir?
- Roy Cohn.
Federal investigator said Mr. Galante is the
boss of organized crime in this country.
Would that be a correct characterization,
the godfather of the New York Mafia?
From my experience, practically everything they've
said is totally incorrect and inaccurate.
- You believe they're not treating your client fairly?
- Pardon me?
No, I just said it's just a total publicity
stunt, or all of you wouldn't be here, right?
What are you doing here today?
I'm a lawyer.
He was very clever in protecting
his clients, by far and large,
from long criminal sentences that
would put them out of business.
Roy was assigned by the Gambino
Crime Family to represent John Gotti.
When Gotti and a
couple of his guys
walked into a bar
in front of a lot of witnesses and shot
this guy in the head and killed him,
Roy managed to get Gotti off.
Instead of 25 to
life on a murder,
got him into some
degree of manslaughter
and Gotti ended up serving
only two years in prison.
Amazing that he did that.
An excellent result for Gotti and
a great injustice at the same time.
As a result of that case,
Roy had a perpetual client of the Mafia.
Tony Salerno, recently indicted,
has long been one of Roy Coho's clients.
Tony, you've read the
charges in this indictment.
- Did you do any of those things to anyone?
- All false.
Cohn was more an advisor.
He was the guy who whispered in the ear of the
don and told him what to say, what to do.
He was full of advice.
What are you gonna do when
you get to the country?
Well, I mean, I planted peppers last week.
Now I'm gonna plant tomatoes.
His name is Carmine Galante,
the late Carmine Galante,
who the papers said was
the godfather of the Mafia.
You think that had an
influence on the federal judge,
when he held that you were right
and the Parole Commission was wrong?
- I think so.
- He thinks a farmer ought to be able to seed.
I think so. I mean, it's very
well known that that's what I do.
A few months after this meeting, he was
gunned down as he sipped a glass of wine.
Present for the
service was Roy Cohn,
who had been Galante's lawyer through
many of the mobster's legal difficulties.
I pass no moral
judgment on Mr. Galante
any more than I pass a moral
judgment on anybody else,
because that's for the Almighty to
do, not for me.
Do you have any idea
why he was murdered?
As somebody once said a long time ago is,
"All I know is what I read in the papers."
The Mafia was the entire
power underbelly of the city.
And Roy had all of the
network at his disposal.
Steinbrenner would be on line one,
and Carmine Galante would be on line two,
and some Mafia boss who had a cement
company would be on line three,
and somebody would be waiting,
Roger Stone would be in the anteroom.
And Roy wanted that attention.
He was an only child whose
mother doted on him every second.
And he needed that attention
years after she died.
There's a story about Dora
that gives you a pretty good insight
into Roy's relationship with his mother
and into how Roy operated.
Every Jewish family has its own Passover
story, and our story is an unusual one.
I was the youngest child, and as
such, I had to ask the Four Questions.
First question was, "Why is this
night different from all others?"
And Dora finally blurted out...
"Why is this night different?
Because the maid's dead in the kitchen!"
Turns out the housekeeper passed
away, was in the kitchen, dead.
And in order not to disrupt
the Passover dinner,
Dora saw to it that the housekeeper was kept
in the kitchen under the serving table.
She was embarrassed about how it interrupted the
Seder, not the fact that a life had been lost.
That's totally Roy's spirit.
His lack of ethics,
his lack of empathy.
That came from Dora.
For Roy, life was transactional.
It was all about connections
and accruing power.
If I said to you, "Roy
Cohn, what are your flaws?"
What are my flaws?
Okay, I'll tell you
what my flaws are.
My flaws are being
completely tactless.
I cannot listen to baloney.
A total failure to sympathize with
the emotional element in life.
The biggest business in New York then, and
it probably still is now, was real estate.
That's where the real power was.
He represented a number of real-estate
figures, among them Donald Trump.
Donald Trump grows up in a household
where his father Fred is deeply mobbed up.
His business partner,
Willie Tomasello,
is an associate of the Gambino
and Genovese crime families.
So Donald comes to Manhattan
to make a name for himself.
He naturally gravitates
toward Roy Cohn,
the consigliere for the head of the Gambino
family and the head of the Genovese family.
Short answers or...?
Well, whatever you'd like.
It doesn't matter.
- I'm not as long as Archbishop O'Connor, but...
- No one is.
Mr. Cohn,
how did you meet Donald Trump?
I met him at a New York
club called Le Club.
And we were seated at tables next
to each other. We were introduced.
He was 23 years old then.
He said, "Listen."
He said, "I've spent two days with
these establishment law firms"
about a case we have."
It was a civil-rights
case or something.
"And they were all telling us, give up,
do this, sign a decree and all of that."
He says, "I followed your
career, and you seem..."
You're a little bit crazy like I am,
and you stand up to the establishment.
Can I come see you?" And I
said, "Sure."
The Justice Department was going
after Fred Trump and Donald Trump
for not letting blacks
in their housing.
Rather than making a deal,
rather than admitting guilt,
Roy said to Trump, "You need to go
full-bore after the Justice Department."
Roy Cohn was very clear
what to do: attack.
Don't settle.
Don't apologize. Attack.
Roy would always be for
an offensive strategy.
Those are the rules of war.
You don't fight on the other guy's ground. You
define what the debate is gonna be about.
I think Donald learned that from Roy.
I learned that from Roy.
Roy Cohn began this whole new mode of
what you see today, of get off the issue,
attack law enforcement,
attack the government, attack the press.
Create phony issues So that you
can totally change the debate.
- Here's a little McCarthyism going on right now.
- He shouldn't disclaim...
I mean, total inability to cope
with any of these current topics.
- He does it with great... With great pre...
- Keep talking, Roy. Keep talking.
- Great precision.
- Keep talking.
- This is known as "filler." You know, what... You...
- Well, I...
You throw your mud, and then the filler goes
on until they've forgotten what the point was.
They counterclaimed against the
government for $100 million.
Now, the counterclaim
was soon dismissed,
but had the effect of keeping
the opponent off balance.
We fought it,
and we did extremely well.
For all practical purposes,
we won the case together.
Trump settled, but that,
for him, was a victory,
because he didn't admit
he did anything wrong.
And it's very consistent
with Roy's advice.
"Never admit you're wrong.
Never apologize."
Settling is not an apology.
In fact, Donald Trump,
when he settles,
he often times will cast the
settlement as a victory, not a defeat.
Ever since that day,
he knows I have the same kind of
crazy fight in me that he has in him,
and he knows that...
He believes you can
fight city hall.
I believe you can
fight city hall.
And we both fought it together.
Cohn looked at Donald Trump
as something of a protege.
He saw him as a man
who was governed by the same
sort of situational ethics.
They were cut from the same
cloth, in many respects.
Roy Cohn begins teaching Donald,
"Here's how you keep law
enforcement off your back."
Don't leave a paper trail.
Don't keep a calendar.
Never do things in writing.
And if somebody gets onto
you, rat out other people.
Steve, you're gonna have to
start pushing these people a bit,
because it's getting ridiculous,
as far as I'm concerned.
So just start pushing and start
pushing as hard as possible.
Cohn taught Trump how to ingratiate
yourself with powerful people
and how to manipulate
them for your own ends.
Roy, just hold on here.
You have to make a
very special wish.
It was like this funny game he played
that he could bring someone like me,
you know, to these total antigay
Republican stronghold of a party, you know?
And no one would say a word.
Roy Coho's friends
justified him as a friend.
They knew about the McCarthy
years, the Army-McCarthy hearings,
some of the dastardly things
that Roy may have done.
But that was overwhelmed by their
feeling that he was their friend,
and genuine friend,
and they cared about him.
I've tried to give loyalty,
and I've tried to give
friendship, and I find in life,
when you extend friendship and you
extend loyalty, you get it back.
He was the one who
threw the great parties,
who knew Norman Mailer,
who hung out with Andy Warhol.
All these people who were larger-than-life
people, they were orbiting Roy.
Everybody came, mayors,
governors, police chiefs, firemen,
anybody from the newspaper.
Who didn't go?
And Cardinal
Spellman would come.
Real-estate magnates would come.
Trump would go.
And there he would see the leading
politicians of New York City
who would be very helpful
to him in his business.
He navigates this world
between the people who hang
out at Sardi's and the 21 Club,
and this other world
that has these mobsters,
and it creates a
sort of glamour.
So Cohn is this bridge
between the legitimate world
and the illegitimate world.
Cohn was a legend
in his own mind.
If you approach things that way,
pretty soon, the appearance
contributes to the reality.
Everyone knows the most famous legal
eagle, my pal and yours, Roy Cohn.
- Good evening, Nikki. How are you?
- I'm fine. How are you?
Well, this is a very exciting occasion.
Here is Trump Tower.
Marble waterfalls,
the greatest stores in the world.
When something like this
can be created in New York
and take the city by
storm, it's a real event.
Donald Trump wanted to
construct a building,
which is now known as Trump
Tower, at Fifth Avenue
between 56th and 57th Street.
He got a hold of the Bonwit
Teller department store,
this prime piece of real estate.
Donald hires,
to tear down the building,
a Syracuse window-washing firm
with no experience whatsoever.
And it uses 200 illegal
immigrants from Poland.
And then they don't get paid.
Buildings of that sort at the time were
made largely with structural steel,
because to make them out of
concrete was quite costly
and also involved
dealing with the Mob,
which controlled the poured-contract
industry in New York.
Strangely, Trump chose to
make it out of concrete.
Now, why out of concrete?
Because Cohn introduced
him to his Mafioso clients,
and it was through them that
he was able to make the deal.
Everything about this
project was corrupt.
Donald Trump is probably one of the
most important names in America today.
What started off as a meteor mounting
from New York and going upward
is gonna touch the rest of
this country and parts...
Good parts of the world.
Donald just wants to be
the biggest winner of all.
Donald had the money,
and Roy had the balls
and the shrewdness,
and also some of the connections
to move Trump beyond the world of housing
developments in Queens and Brooklyn.
And it was clearly
mutually beneficial.
Let me tell you about this.
This is a picture
of Donald and me,
in which he says,
"Roy is my greatest friend."
And then there's
a letter from him.
He says, "Needless to say,
your representation of me"
with regard to the Trump
Tower case was brilliant.
Everyone scoffed at our pursuit
"of this difficult victory,
saying it couldn't be done."
Now, here's a typical Donald Trump. He's
got to come in with a crack at the end.
He says, "The skeptics, however,
were at a disadvantage."
They never saw Roy Cohn in action,
especially when he really wants to win."
By the way,
this picture hangs in my office
directly next to a picture I treasure
of the president and Mrs. Reagan.
Two of my favorites.
Roy was responsible,
according to Roy,
for everything important that
happened in the United States,
whether it's an
election of a governor,
an election of a president.
If you had been attorney general
when Richard Nixon was in office
during the Watergate times,
do you think you could
have solved that problem?
I think Nixon could have
solved the problem, Tom.
Or counseled him
on how to solve it.
I think the problem could have been solved
very easily by getting rid of the tapes.
Roy Coho's reach in American
politics is absolutely extraordinary.
He's got Richard
Nixon as a connection
because Nixon's rise depended on
the whole anti-Communist fervor.
Has connections
to Ronald Reagan,
who cooperated with the McCarthy-type
investigations in the early 50's.
Cohn became an important
figure in Republican politics.
He was a registered Democrat, yet he most
closely identified with the political right.
In 1980, Reagan won the election
because Roy Cohn arranged
for John Anderson,
who had challenged Reagan for
the Republican nomination,
to be the liberal party nominee.
There's a three-way
split in New York.
That three-way split allows
Reagan to win the electoral votes
with 45 percent of the vote.
It was a setup, and it worked.
I was present in his office
when Nancy Reagan called him
and thanked him for getting
her husband elected.
John Anderson wasn't the only
political fix Roy was responsible for.
He also torpedoed the vice-presidential
campaigns of Eagleton in '72...
and Ferraro in '84.
Roy was the one who made the link
between organized crime and her husband.
The New York Post and the Daily News,
as you might imagine, went to town.
Cohn saw himself as a
political puppeteer.
He started an evolution.
This would certainly
be the beginning
of the infiltration of
the political-right media
into American government.
Rupert Murdoch and the
New York Post endorsement
is something that Roy Cohn works
on every day for eight months,
mostly by giving Rupert Murdoch himself
a window into Reagan's campaign.
It's not surprising that he could be
with Ronald Reagan and Rupert Murdoch,
who developed Fox News,
in the Oval Office,
as though he engineered
the entire relationship.
You can see what
Cohn set into motion,
winding up with the type of
political environment we have today.
I can't think of anything else like
him in American history or anywhere.
People should have ignored
him and put him in jail.
And here he is flying around in his own
plane to go have dinner at the White House.
Go figure that out.
I think the Reagan anticrime program
is gonna take the emphasis off
certain types of white-collar
crimes, minor things...
That's good for you.
Minor things and all that,
and put it on where the
real root of the problem is,
violent crimes,
so that the people of this country
are once again in control
instead of the criminals.
- Are you running for any office?
- No.
Have you been called by
the government of France
to restore the guillotine
and conduct a campaign there?
No, but I'll tell you, I'd like to restore
capital punishment in the United States
so that when people are
gonna kill a policeman
or people are gonna mug and kill an
old person, they're gonna think twice.
He did whatever he wanted.
And he felt he was good enough at
everything to get away with it,
and he did for a
very, very long time.
Roy Cohn has managed to stay
out of jail all these years,
and I admire him for that,
and I'd like to have him for my lawyer.
Roy famously argued that all of the
expenses of his law firm were...
You know, were deductible.
The IRS did not see it this way.
Roy told me that the whole
point of dealing with the IRS
was to die owing them as
much as humanly possible.
The United States government
filed a lawsuit against Roy Cohn
for failing to pay nearly
$7 million in back taxes.
You are a tax avoider.
No, I'm not. I'm a tax avoider?
We're all tax avoiders.
- The president's a tax avoider. Everybody's...
- You're more successful at it than some of us.
Don't blame me for
your inadequacy.
Here was a guy who was
so evidently crooked,
he was so evidently dishonest,
yet nobody was doing
anything about it.
There were serious
disciplinary complaints,
and they were sitting at the bottom
of the desk drawer for years.
Last question today.
A fair number of people
say Roy Cohn is amoral.
He will use anything to
win, do anything to win.
Employ any trick,
any subterfuge, etcetera.
I'd say that has to come, probably,
from people who have lost to me.
- Because [...
- But here...
- No, wait a minute. Let's stop right there.
- Yeah, sure.
He was eventually disbarred for
stealing from his own clients
and trying to defraud
his own clients.
Ultimately, we disbarred him
on the basis of four cases.
SEC brings a case against
the Pied Piper yacht company.
Almost all the money from the company
has managed not to go to the creditors,
but they've gone to Roy
Cohn and his partners.
Second, he stole from his client
by promising to pay her back
when he had no intention of paying
her back, and then lying about it.
And third, he tried to deceive a
dying, incompetent man
to making him the
executor of his will.
One of Roy Coho's major
clients was Schenley,
a distributor of
liquors and wines.
And Lew Rosenstiel, its chairman,
was a personal friend of Roy's.
Among the charges
brought against Roy
were the fact that he had documents
executed in a hospital room
when Mr. Rosenstiel was not capable
of knowing what he was doing.
My dad had a stroke,
and he was in a hospital in Miami.
These two people appeared
at the hospital...
one of whom was wheeling the bed
around and fixing the covers.
It was then made clear to
me that it was Roy Cohn,
and that Roy was having
my father sign some papers
awarding himself as trustee
of my father's estate.
The squibbly and scrawling signature at
the bottom of the last will and testament
of multimillionaire
Lewis Rosenstiel
purports to be that of the
late Miami philanthropist,
designating attorney Roy Cohn,
Rosenstiel's granddaughter
Kathy Finkelstein,
and her husband James as
trustees of a $50 million estate.
Other members of the Rosenstiel family
are contesting the will's authenticity.
His signature was illegible.
Scrolly sort of X,
and a little wandering down off the line.
There's no image on that line that looks
anything like any letter of the alphabet.
I mean, it was ridiculous.
You were cited as dressing up as a male nurse and
getting a fraudulent codicil signed to the will.
- What's interested in it... What's more interest...
- What I thought was amazing was the judge said...
Hey, mister,
what's more interesting,
interesting to me,
is how somebody like you,
who's aspiring to be one of
the leaders of the future,
could have your
facts so screwed up.
I was no...
Never any insinuation
that I could have dressed up as a
male nurse or anything like that.
And the charge you are referring to was thrown
out by the Bar Association in New York.
Why'd you appeal the
case, Mr. Cohn?
Why do I have to
appeal when I win?
- Did you win, Mr. Cohn? I thought you lost.
- Yes, well, maybe you...
You would've been disbarred as
a member of the Florida Bar.
Oh, jeez.
He was a liar.
There are a year and a
half worth of hearings
in which he challenges everything and
tells the same lies all over again.
He makes the matter worse
and makes an application to the D.C.
Bar where he lied under oath.
He tells lies about
the Rosenstiel codicil.
He tells lies about
the Schlesinger.
He just tells the same lies
over and over and over again.
If you see a pattern
there, you're not foolish.
And if you have no
conscience about...
Or shame about whether you're telling
an untruth or you're using hyperbole,
you get away with it.
When he was about
to be disbarred,
It was no surprise who shows
up as character witnesses
for Roy Cohn,
but Barbara Walters,
William F. Buckley Jr.,
Donald Trump.
The same people who he had cultivated and
who, in effect, had used him over decades.
witnesses testified.
You know what they
all said under oath?
"Roy Cohn has an excellent reputation
in the community for integrity."
And they said that with a straight
face after taking an oath?
Man, that's power.
Here's what the Disciplinary
Committee of the Bar says about you.
"Quote," A total absence of moral
character and professional fitness.
A cruel public use
of your iliness.
"Pleading for clemency for a dying lawyer
and showing up in court the next day."
They couldn't say it about me, because I never
cited my illness as a reason for anything.
Anyone who knows me knows I don't plead,
and I'm not pleading in this case.
I don't like any of them.
I've called them a bunch of yoyos.
And there might be other lawyers
who have a guilty conscience
or feel they have to crawl.
But I don't have a
guilty conscience,
and I'm not gonna crawl before this
committee or any committee like it.
He wouldn't plead to anything.
Roy Cohn went out and
hired excellent lawyers.
But we had him.
He wasn't getting out of this.
He was a pinned moth.
Roy gave a private dinner for his
closest friends and relatives every year.
And the one I was invited to took
place after he had been disbarred.
And when I got there,
this long table was set, and nobody came.
He had a lot of friends until he was disbarred,
and then he had no friends. They all ran away.
I wanna know why he's objecting to
the way people are treating him now.
Why don't he remember what he
did, not only with McCarthy,
but with Fifth Avenue bus lines, Lionel Trains,
and is he proud of his record as an attorney?
I'll hang up.
- Okay.
- Okay, the answer is yes.
I am proud of my record.
When you would try to get him
to talk about Joe McCarthy
or the Army-McCarthy trials
or that whole period,
J. Edgar Hoover,
you couldn't get much out of him.
On the Rosenbergs,
I asked him how he felt about it.
I told him I'd read the case,
and he said, and I quote,
"If I could've pulled the
switch, I'd have done it myself."
That doesn't sound like remorse.
I think Roy was a
hardliner to the end.
You feel pretty good.
- I feel great.
- Why?
I mean, you were at death's door,
six months ago, three months ago?
They found I had liver
cancer and they found that...
Which spreads in
strange directions.
- Tell me... I'm in total remission.
- Are you in remission?
When I talk to friends and tell them
that I am doing a profile of Roy Cohn,
they say, "Ask him
this, please."
And I'm sure you know what
they tell me to ask you.
- Do you have AIDS?
- Oh, no.
That's easy to answer.
Peter Fraser, his companion,
helped him everywhere.
Roy was forgetting things left and
right, which never had happened before.
And he looked at me with these pale
blue eyes and these hooded kind of eyes,
and quivering, and he said...
I said,
"They say you have AIDS."
And he said, "Who is they,
and what do they know about me?"
Even at the end,
he refused to admit that he was gay,
and he refused to
admit that he had AIDS.
It was almost hard for me to believe
because of the man I had grown to know.
It was a mistake for Roy
to deny that he had AIDS.
It was a mistake to deny
that he was a homosexual.
If he had come out and said, "Look,
I'm homosexual. I have AIDS."
We need to do something, not just for
me, but for the community,
he would have been a hero.
Instead, he was a hypocrite.
And at the same time, he took advantage of
his connections to get special treatment.
The Reagan White House actually got him
into the National Institutes of Health
to do an experimental treatment
that nobody could get into.
So here was President Reagan
and all the people around him
basically denying there
was an AIDS epidemic,
and yet Roy was
flying down there
and going there a lot for
this experimental treatment.
And he acted like he
was there on a mistake.
He didn't really have AIDS.
You know,
he never gave up on his own myth.
Are you gonna win this one too?
You're darn right I am, Larry.
Thanks for being with us, Roy.
I enjoyed it, and I hope not so much
time goes until I'm with you again.
Roy was incredibly
loyal to friends.
And he was intensely
loyal to Donald Trump.
Trump took his legal business to
somebody else when Roy had AIDS.
He stopped seeing Roy and calling
Roy and hanging out with Roy.
You know, of course,
why people ask about AIDS and Roy Cohn?
- Sure. Of course. Of course.
- Because they believe that you're a homosexual.
And that you simply have
never acknowledged the fact.
And a good friend of mine, and a
good friend of yours, I should say...
Tell him, if he wants to admit
anything, he can, but it's a lie.
No, a good friend of
mine who is a woman
says that she believes that Roy Cohn wants
to, in effect, come out of the closet.
"Come out of the closet" meaning,
make a very dramatic statement about...
Yeah, just acknowledge it. There's
certainly nothing horrible about it.
Mike, we've been here, we've been doing a
very intensive 20 minutes or more on me.
Um... I think you can see me.
I think you can see, and the audience can, I ain't
dying from nothing, to start with, number one.
- Right. Right.
- Number two, you asked me categorically.
And I tell you categorically,
I do not have AIDS.
- Where do all these stories come from?
- It's a cinch, Mike.
Take this set of facts.
Bachelor, unmarried,
Well, young middle-aged, and, um...
Then all the stories go back
to the McCarthy/Sohtne days.
Schine was a bachelor too.
- We were both bachelors.
- So was McCarthy.
Right, and so was McCarthy.
At that point,
his phone calls are erratic.
They don't make much sense.
He tires very, very easily.
I called the hospital.
I asked for his room,
and Tom Bolan answered the phone.
And I said, "Tom,
I wanna see Roy."
And Tom said, "Don't come.
It's too late."
"He won't recognize
you." He said he's...
And then I realized I had
missed my chance to say goodbye.
If you had a chance to
write your epitaph...
how would you like
to be remembered?
I guess I would like to be
remembered most... Look, I...
We know what my epitaph is
gonna be in all the papers.
What's it gonna be?
It's gonna be "Roy Cohn dies,
was McCarthy chief aide."
No matter what I do, good or bad,
for the rest of the years of my life,
that's what it's going to be.
My mother told me that she found
a list of Roy's career path.
It started out as prosecutor,
which he was right out of law school.
And then a series of political positions,
ending up with governor of New York.
He never reached the kind
of public-policy power
that he had envisioned
himself as having.
But it's undeniable that his
impact on politics lives on.
Roy was an evil...
produced by certain parts
of the American culture.
There always is the possibility of another
person who cares not about our traditions
or our laws or our protections
who can come in and wreck it,
and wreck it for the weakest
among us and the most vulnerable.
Power in the hands of
someone who is that reckless
and that arrogant is a
very dangerous thing.