Jul 2, 2018

Michael Cohen breaks his silence: Trump isn’t my "first loyalty"

Photo: Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images

President Trump's former attorney Michael Cohen stated that he will "put family and country first" over any allegiance to Trump amid his ongoing legal woes in an interview with ABC News' George Stephanopoulos — Cohen's first since the FBI raided his home and offices in April.

Why it matters: Cohen has long been Trump's fix-it man, and he is the only person on earth intertwined in Trump’s professional, political, personal, legal and family life. Cohen has also been in the spotlight thanks to both Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation and a federal investigation of his business dealings, prompting speculation that he may cooperate with authorities.

From the interview:

  • Cohen suggested he may cooperate with federal authorities, stating that his family is his "first priority." He added, "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."
  • "I will not be a punching bag as part of anyone’s defense strategy. I am not a villain of this story, and I will not allow others to try to depict me that way."
  • On the Stormy Daniels payment: "I want to answer. One day I will answer."
  • On Russian meddling in 2016: "I respect our nation’s intelligence agencies’... unanimous conclusions."
  • His ultimate goal: "I want to regain my name and my reputation and my life back."

What you need to know:

  • Cohen has been scrutinized by Mueller for his payment to adult film actress Stormy Daniels — which she says was in exchange for her silence about an alleged affair with Trump — and for the lobbying money he received from various companies once Trump was elected.
  • But even as federal prosecutors were closing in on him, Cohen kept mum. Then in April, the Wall Street Journal reported that one of Trump's legal advisers told him Cohen was likely to flip.
  • Earlier this month, Cohen parted ways with the lawyers representing him in the federal investigation of his business dealings, opting instead for attorneys who have better relationships with the federal prosecutors in New York.
  • Just a week after that, he resigned as deputy finance chair of the RNC Finance Committee. Though Cohen's legal battles likely contributed to his resignation, he also criticized the Trump administration's family separation policy at the border on his way out, saying,"As the son of a Polish holocaust survivor, the images and sounds of this family separation policy is heart wrenching ... While I strongly support measures that will secure our porous borders, children should never be used as bargaining chips."

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Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy