The Slatest

Cohen Says His Family Has His “First Loyalty” If It Comes to Choosing Between Trump and Self-Preservation

Michael Cohen walks down Park Avenue in New York followed by reporters with cameras.
Michael Cohen walks down Park Avenue in New York on June 15, 2018, flanked by press. Timothy A. Clary/Getty Images

Donald Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen, who once said he “would take a bullet” for Trump but who has recently been the subject of reports speculating he might be considering flipping on the president, told ABC News that his family has his “first loyalty” if it comes to choosing between defending the president and avoiding or reducing a sentence by cooperating with federal prosecutors.

In the interview with ABC News, his first in-depth interview since the FBI raided his home and office in April, Cohen suggested he might be willing to turn on Trump if it prevents him from facing charges or reduces his punishment. Per ABC’s George Stephanopoulos:

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When I asked Cohen directly what he would do if prosecutors forced him to choose between protecting the president and protecting his family, he said his family is “my first priority.” … [He] left little doubt about where he stands now, saying simply: “To be crystal clear, my wife, my daughter and my son, and this country have my first loyalty.”

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According to Stephanopoulos, who said he spoke with Cohen at length on Saturday, Cohen also said he would push back, under the guidance of his new attorney, against any attack from Trump:

When I asked Cohen how he might respond if the president or his legal team come after him—to try and discredit him and the work he did for Mr. Trump over the last decade—he sat up straight. His voice gained strength. “I will not be a punching bag as part of anyone’s defense strategy,” he said emphatically. “I am not a villain of this story, and I will not allow others to try to depict me that way.”

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In the past, Trump has expressed full confidence in Cohen. In a tweet in April, when early reports were coming in of Cohen’s possible flipping, Trump called Cohen “a fine person with a wonderful family” and attacked the media.

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Cohen apparently struck a different tone in his conversation with Stephanopoulos, and according to ABC, Cohen said nothing positive about the president in the interview but instead “pointedly disagreed” with his criticism of the Mueller investigation. “I don’t agree with those who demonize or vilify the FBI,” Cohen said.

Cohen has not been charged with any crimes but is being investigated for his business practices and potential election law violations, as part of the larger investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. “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,” he told Stephanopoulos.

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