Cohen distances himself from Trump, says family has 'first loyalty'

In mid-June, as attorneys left his case, speculation heightened that Cohen was willing to cooperate with investigators.

President Donald Trump's longtime personal lawyer, who once said he would do anything to protect the president, says in an ABC News interview that he now puts "family and country first". "That is possible, but it would be very stupid on POTUS's part".

In his first interview since federal agents raided his home and hotel room three months ago as part of an investigation into his business dealings, Cohen made clear that protecting Trump is not his priority. Once that payment was revealed, Cohen said he had acted entirely on his own, with no guidance from Trump or anyone in the campaign.

Mr Cohen's comments to United States broadcaster ABC News signalled that he may abandon Mr Trump and cooperate with prosecutors investigating his business dealings.

He also told ABC he would fully cooperate with U.S. special counsel Robert Mueller and that he had provided documents but not yet been interviewed by Mr Mueller's team.

Cohen, who became Trump's personal lawyer in 2007, is infamous for paying $130,000 to porn star Stormy Daniels shortly before the 2016 election to keep quiet about her alleged 2006 affair with Trump.

Cohen spoke with ABC News at a Manhattan hotel, speaking at length to the media for the first time since the feds raided his properties in April.

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

While over the course of the last several weeks there have been a considerable number of rumors related to the possibility of Cohen "flipping" on the President, or divulging incriminating testimony against the President, nothing has yet been confirmed. Cohen says he's exhausted of Avenatti using the First Amendment as an excuse for his numerous television appearances and social media posts.

Cohen also addressed that question, adding that he has not been interviewed by Mueller's team. "Even under these circumstances, POTUS would have nothing to immediately fear from Michael Cohen".

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 responded, "I want to answer".

Cohen was asked if he was considering cooperating with prosecutors in their probe.

"If they felt that he had failed to fully cooperate, they would have unlimited discretion to refuse to give him credit for cooperating and the district court judge would sentence him as if he had not cooperated", he continued. Cohen has zero incentive to stick by Trump at the expense of his own freedom and his family's well-being.

Is Cohen making a play for a pardon?

So, too, is the fact that during the election, the National Enquirer would send early copies of stories about Trump's opponents to Cohen.

"In that case, Michael Cohen would no longer have a Fifth Amendment right to avoid testimony", Epner said.

Cohen has not yet been charged with any crimes. And how much does Cohen know?

"He's not a subject of a criminal investigation like the president", Napolitano said.

  • Rogelio Becker