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Michael Cohen: My Loyalty Is to Family, Country First

Image: Michael Cohen: My Loyalty Is to Family, Country First
Michael Cohen with his children (Bremdan McDermid/Reuters)

By    |   Monday, 02 July 2018 07:34 AM

President Donald Trump's former attorney Michael Cohen, who once said he would "take a bullet" for the president, now says his first loyalty is to his own family, and that his decision to testify will depend on advice from his own attorney and not on his former loyalty to Trump.

"My wife, my daughter and my son have my first loyalty and always will," Cohen told ABC's "Good Morning America" anchor George Stephanopoulos during a lengthy, off-camera interview Saturday night at a Manhattan hotel where Cohen has been staying for several months.

"I put family and country first," he added, signaling that he is willing to cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller and prosecutors from the Southern District of New York, even if it does put Trump in jeopardy, Stephanopoulos wrote in a story posted on his program's website early Monday detailing the interview.

The possibility that Cohen could flip and testify against the president has been a matter of speculation for several months.

Trump said in April that "most people will flip" if the government lets them be out of trouble, but he didn't see Cohen doing that.

Mueller's team has not yet interviewed Cohen, but he said he has provided the team with documents and said he'll fully cooperate, noting he testified before House and Senate committees investigating Russian involvement with the 2016 election.

Cohen said he does not believe Mueller will find evidence that he'd had any illegal or improper dealings with Russia. He also told Stephanopoulos that if he is forced to choose between protecting Trump and his family, his family will be his "first priority."

He said once he understands what charges will be filed, if any, he'll defer to his new counsel, Guy Petrillo.

Petrillo, who is expected to take his place as Cohen's lead counsel soon, once led the criminal division of the U.S. Attorney's Office in Manhattan, which is the same office now conducting the criminal investigation into alleged violations of election law and possible financial crimes associated with Cohen's personal business dealings.

Cohen has not yet been charged with any crimes.

The joint defense agreement that Cohen had shared with Trump, allowing their lawyers to share information with each other, will end once Petrillo is fully on board, ABC News reports. This means the legal interests between Trump and Cohen, who once was described as the president's "pitbull" could become more adversarial.

If that happens, Cohen insisted that he will not allow himself to become a "villain" through Trump or his representatives.

"I will not be a punching bag as part of anyone's defense strategy," he told Stephanopoulos. "I am not a villain of this story, and I will not allow others to try to depict me that way."

He also refused to answer questions directly about the investigation, telling Stephanopoulos he respects the prosecutors and did not want to do or say anything that might interfere.

Cohen also commented on the $130,000 payment he made to adult film star Stormy Daniels shortly before the 2016 election. Cohen had said in the past he acted on his own when making the payment, but on Saturday he refused further comment on the advice of his counsel.

However, Cohen said he disagrees with Trump's criticism of the FBI, even after federal agents raided the attorney's New York City offices and home.

"I don't agree with those who demonize or vilify the FBI. I respect the FBI as an institution, as well as their agents," Cohen said. "When they searched my hotel room and my home, it was obviously upsetting to me and my family. Nonetheless, the agents were respectful, courteous and professional. I thanked them for their service and as they left, we shook hands."

He also said he doesn't like Trump's characterization of the Mueller investigation as a "witch hunt," and he said he condemns Russia for its interference in the 2016 election.

Further, Cohen said it is "unsustainable" to accept Russian President Vladimir Putin's denials as truth, as he respects the United States' intelligence agencies' "unanimous conclusions."

Trump's former attorney also denied any personal involvement with Russia, including denying that he went to Prague, a claim that was made in the anti-Trump dossier compiled by former British agent Christopher Steele.

He also criticized members of the Trump campaign who took part in a meeting at Trump Tower in June 2016 with Russians promising "dirt" on Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, calling it an "example of poor judgment."

He declined to answer if Trump himself knew about the meeting before it happened, referring to advice from his counsel concerning the federal investigation underway in New York.

Cohen told Stephanopoulos, when asked if he had any regrets, that he "tried to make good faith judgments in the past," but acknowledged that he's not perfect.

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President Donald Trump's former attorney Michael Cohen says his first loyalty is to his own family, and that his decision to testify will depend on advice from his own attorney and not on his former loyalty to Donald Trump.
michael cohen, trump, lawyer, testify, mueller, probe
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2018-34-02
Monday, 02 July 2018 07:34 AM
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