Roy Cohn was Donald Trump’s lawyer, and, many would argue, the man who made him the brash braggadacio that now struts the White House. But he is probably better known as the hatchet man for Senator Joe McCarthy during one of America’s darkest periods, the red-baiting probes of the 1950’s that roiled government, media and Hollywood.
With McCarthy’s fall, Cohn moved to New York where his path finally and fatally crossed Donald Trump’s, apparently at an upscale Manhattan bar. The closeted gay lawyer – whose struggle with Aids and his conscience provides dramatic counterpoint in Tony Kushner’s celebrated gay fantasy, ‘Angels in America’ – inspired Trump in many dark ways, not least teaching him that fear of the unknown and of the other is a deep strain in America’s psychology, ripe for exploitation.
Cohn, with Joe McCarthy, raised the spectre of the red scare and America trembled; Trump borrowed their playbook to exploit fear of Muslims and Mexicans and made it into the White House.
Below are three short films which explore in various ways how Roy Cohn shaped and sculpted the Donald Trump who now dominates so many lives: