First Lady Melania Trump’s personal crusade against bullying has had little impact on the President’s impulse to belittle others with insulting nicknames.
Namecalling is one of his signature behaviors on Twitter. Some prime examples include Hillary Clinton (“Crooked Hillary”), U.S. Representative for California’s 43rd congressional district Maxine Waters (“Low-IQ Maxine Waters”), and former FBI director James Comey (“Slimy James Comey”).
Still, the insult he directed at Michael Cohen in a recent tweet was a curiously misguided one.
On Sunday, the President called Cohen a “rat.”
Trump’s early-morning tweet came days after his former private counsel pled guilty to violating campaign finance laws Trump allegedly “directed” Cohen to pay hush money to prevent allegations of two women claiming to have had an affair with Trump from surfacing during the 2016 presidential election.
Trump tweeted, in part:
“Remember, Michael Cohen only became a ‘Rat’ after the FBI did something which was absolutely unthinkable & unheard of until the Witch Hunt was illegally started.”
Remember, Michael Cohen only became a “Rat” after the FBI did something which was absolutely unthinkable & unheard of until the Witch Hunt was illegally started. They BROKE INTO AN ATTORNEY’S OFFICE! Why didn’t they break into the DNC to get the Server, or Crooked’s office?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 16, 2018
Cohen was sentenced to three years in jail and is cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian collusion. Trump continues to deny the claims.
For the record, the derogative term of “rat” refers to an informant, or a criminal who was caught or arrested but cooperates with the federal government to provide inside information about a violation of penal laws, as described in Merriam-Webster.
Naturally, Trump’s use of the term “rat” became a topic among Twitter users.
From the glossary of Mafia-related words: rat: one who snitches or squeals after having been pinched. And "why didn't they break into the DNC" Keep tweeting @realDonaldTrump
— Ceressa Kunz (@Slomom) December 16, 2018
— Andy Ostroy (@AndyOstroy) December 16, 2018
1. Rat is a term criminals use to describe other criminals who inform. Let that sink in…
2. The FBI (reps of your government) entered with a warrant legally.
3. They didn’t need to break into the DNC because you hired Assange to hack it. Just resign and stop embarrassing us.
— Peter O (@PeterO19800602) December 17, 2018
Michael J. Stern, a former federal prosecutor, discussed with ABC News the risks of misusing the term.
“Trump is not disclosing anything the prison population will not already know, given Cohen’s very public disclosure of his cooperation.
“In general, cooperators are often subject to retribution, by the people they cooperate against and by prisoners who don’t like the idea of people cooperating with the government.
“One nuance, in this case, is that there will be prisoners who support Trump and his branding Cohen a ‘rat’ may be perceived as a call for them to punish Cohen.”
According to Indy 100, Fox News contributor Andrew McCarthy advised the President to consider using a different term.
“Sir, in mobster lingo, a ‘rat’ is a witness who tells prosecutors real incriminating info. Perhaps a different word? Searches of lawyer’s offices common enough that DOJ has a procedure for them. Here it yielded evidence of crimes you said he should be jailed for. You should stop.”
Sir, in mobster lingo, a ‘rat’ is a witness who tells prosecutors real incriminating info. Perhaps a different word? Searches of lawyer’s offices common enough that DOJ has a procedure for them. Here it yielded evidence of crimes you said he should be jailed for. You should stop. https://t.co/EV1txBYrhz
— Andy McCarthy (@AndrewCMcCarthy) December 16, 2018
A legal analyst for CNN, Elie Honig, shared his experience.
I worked mafia cases for years in SDNY, mainly Gambino and Genovese. I usually hesitate to make this comparison but here it is completely warranted. This – calling somebody who provides information to law enforcement a “rat” – is straight up mob boss language. https://t.co/K8w46rVMP5
— Elie Honig (@eliehonig) December 16, 2018
@realDonaldTrump use of "Rat" implies that Michael Cohen is sharing information that is TRUE.
— bel fiore (@Fabbo_Reynolds) December 16, 2018
— TVW (@HappyCamperUke) December 17, 2018
The self-incriminating reference was not lost on anybody.
This use of the word rat was invented by criminals to describe a criminal who tells the truth. https://t.co/4nAbSyQK84
— Lawrence O'Donnell (@Lawrence) December 16, 2018
Trump's lack of knowledge about criminal justice is mind boggling. Prosecutors obtain "search warrants" from federal judges by showing probable cause, in compliance with the 4th Amendment, as they did to search Cohen. Trump only sees rats & witch hunts in cases where he's at risk https://t.co/CznxrP3dbm
— Joyce Alene (@JoyceWhiteVance) December 16, 2018
This was a first for former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti.
I’ve never heard a public official call someone cooperating with law enforcement a “rat” until Trump did. That is a term criminals use. https://t.co/JgfEDpXUXW
— Renato Mariotti (@renato_mariotti) December 16, 2018
Kind of like when he called Cohen "weak" for cooperation and Manafort "strong" for continuing to lie. Also mob talk
— Fall of Roses🥀 (@mere_de_dragons) December 16, 2018
Wrote back in August, this president uses lexicon of a gangster. Whatever one thinks of M. Cohen — for @POTUS to call him a “rat” — utterly disgraceful & unconscionable.
And, DOJ doesn’t “break into” attorney offices w/o cause, warrant approved by judge. https://t.co/wahhQ3WDx1
— James A. Gagliano (@JamesAGagliano) December 16, 2018
Twitter continues to be baffled by Trump’s lack of common knowledge.
His lack of knowledge about everything great and small is astounding.
— Jamie Schler (@lifesafeast) December 17, 2018
Sense of Humor
— Megan Schroeder (@meganaschroeder) December 16, 2018
Former FBI Director James Comey castigated the GOP for Trump’s repeated attacks on the FBI during his nearly six hours of testimony in front of two House committees on Monday.
Comey also weighed in on Trump’s “rat” tweet.
“This is the president of the United States calling a witness who is cooperating with his own Justice Department a ‘rat.’ Say that again to yourself at home and remind yourself where we have ended up.”
It is a hair-raising thought.