Former personal attorney for Donald J. Trump Michael Cohen gave an exclusive interview to ABC News and when asked if he would protect the president Cohen said that his family, not the president, comes first.
Previously Cohen had always said he would be loyal to the president once said he was “the guy who would take a bullet” for the president.
He called himself Trump’s “fixer” as well as his attorney, and for two decades had done everything possible to protect his boss and take care of “problems,” including those of a non-legal nature.
But now it looks like he is ready to flip, as soon as he is formally charged with any crimes.
The ABC interview with George Stephanopoulos was the first Cohen had given since the FBI raids on his office, home and hotel room in April. Since then there has been much speculation about whether (and when) Cohen would be indicted and whether or not he would “flip” on Trump and become a cooperating witness with the FBI and with the Mueller investigation.
It appears now that the answer may be “yes.”
According to Stephanopoulos, “Cohen strongly signaled his willingness to cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller and federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York — even if that puts President Trump in jeopardy.”
During the interview, Cohen did not say he would take a bullet for the president, or say he would protect the president, and he did not even praise the president. In fact he said that he strongly disagreed with Trump’s strong criticisms of the Mueller and FBI investigations, and said they were not a “hoax” or a “witch hunt.”
When asked what he would do if the FBI or Mueller told him he had to choose between his family and protecting the president he said “family is my first priority.”
“My wife, my daughter and my son have my first loyalty and always will,” Cohen told me. “I put family and country first.”
When Stephanopoulos expressed skepticism and pointed out Cohen’s long history of loyalty to the president, the former Trump attorney was forced to repeat himself. “To be crystal clear, my wife, my daughter and my son, and this country have my first loyalty,” he said.
Cohen also indicated that when it comes to how to deal with any possible criminal charges, or if he would make “deals” with federal prosecutors, he would leave that to his own lawyers.
“Once I understand what charges might be filed against me, if any at all, I will defer to my new counsel, Guy Petrillo, for guidance,” Cohen said.
Petrillo was retained by Cohen just a few weeks ago to be his criminal defense attorney, and he is very highly regarded as a former federal prosecutor from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan, which is the office leading the investigations into Cohen’s alleged criminal behavior.
During the interview Cohen made clear that he will follow Petrillo’s legal advice when deciding whether or not to cooperate with the prosecutors, and that loyalty to Donald Trump will have nothing to do with it.
From this interview it seems clear that Michael is sending a strong message to the president, and that message is he is going to cooperate with prosecutors in order to protect his family. It remains to be seen what Donald Trump will do in response, but it should be interesting to watch as events unfold in coming days.