Sunday, 22 July, 2018

Michael Cohen signals split with President Trump in new interview

Cohen is seen leaving court in April. Speculation is mounting over whether he will cooperate with federal prosecutors as a potential indictment looms over his head Michael Cohen: "My Silence is Broken"
Charlie Simmons | 09 July, 2018, 01:33

Attorney Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump's fix-it guy, may not be as loyal to Trump as he originally said.

"I will not be a punching bag as part of anyone's defense strategy", Cohen said in a 45-minute interview on Saturday with ABC's George Stephanopoulos, excerpts of which were released by the network. "I am not a villain of this story, and I will not allow others to try to depict me that way", Cohen asserted.

Stephanopoulos, who posted a story summarizing the conversation, said Cohen indicated a willingness to cooperate with Mueller as well as with federal prosecutors in NY investigating Cohen for possible election law and financial crimes.

Cohen was Trump's self-described fixer and a key player in the Trump Organization for more than a decade, regularly berating reporters and threatening lawsuits against anyone who posed a challenge to his boss.

He said in the tweet that he sat down with Stephanopoulos for an interview to air Monday on "Good Morning America" but it wasn't on camera. In the interview, Cohen also distanced himself from Trump's approach toward Robert Mueller's investigation. He says he doesn't agree with people who demonize or vilify the Federal Bureau of Investigation like Donald Trump does.

Reminded that he had previously vowed to "take a bullet" or "do anything" to protect the president, Cohen said the president is not his top priority: "To be crystal clear, my wife, my daughter and my son, and this country have my first loyalty", he said.

"I would not do or say a thing that might be perceived as interfering with their professional review of the evidence and the facts", Cohen added. Cohen responded that if he is charged with anything he would defer to his new lawyer in the case, Guy Petrillo, for advice. "If they want information on Trump, he's willing to give it". "I would prefer not to be in this situation at all, obviously".

Cohen's shift in stand is triggered by Donald Trump's attempts to distance himself from his former lawyer.

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Unlike his former boss, who lashed out at the Federal Bureau of Investigation for swooping down on Cohen's home, hotel suite and office in April, tweeting "a total witch hunt" in capital letters and "attorney-client privilege is dead!", Cohen heaped unlikely praise on the Federal Bureau of Investigation agents for being "respectful, courteous and professional" as they were searching his property. "I respect the process", Cohen told Stephanopoulos.

Prosecutors are investigating Cohen for possible bank and tax fraud, possible campaign law violations linked to a $130,000 payment to adult film actress Stormy Daniels, and other matters related to Trump's campaign, a person familiar with the investigation has told Reuters. "I respect our nation's intelligence agencies'. unanimous conclusions", Cohen said, without explicitly stating that Trump has made such denials.

"I'm not going to weigh in to this issue and I refer you to outside counsel", she said.

In a very telling indicator, Cohen broke with Donald Trump and his current lawyer Rudy Giuliani's attempts to discredit Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation, saying he doesn't like the term "witch hunt", the president's favored epithet on Twitter against the Mueller probe.

"I want to answer". But he says that - in the ABC interview that he offered the equivalent of a handshake to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Cohen refused to criticize U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation and he condemned Russian Federation for interfering in the election, the ABC report said.

Cohen also called Trump campaign associates' 2016 meeting at Trump Tower with Russians promising dirt on Hillary Clinton "an example of poor judgment", but declined to answer whether Trump knew about the meeting before it occurred.

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