In an exclusive interview with ABC News published Monday, Michael Cohen said that his loyalty no longer lies with Trump, but with his family and America. In his first interview since the FBI raided his office in April, Cohen hints that he is on the verge of throwing Trump under the bus.
During the interview on Sunday, ABC’s George Stephanopoulos asked Cohen if Trump directed him to pay Stormy Daniels hush money during the 2016 election. Cohen responded, “I want to answer. One day I will answer. But for now, I can’t comment further on advice of my counsel.” Cohen’s statement signals a flip in loyalty, as well as a possible upcoming tell-all statement against Trump.
Before Sunday, Trump had complete confidence that Cohen would remain on his side and defend him. He tweeted in April, “Most people will flip if the Government lets them out of trouble, even if it means lying or making up stories. Sorry, I don’t see Michael doing that despite the horrible Witch Hunt and the dishonest media!”
At the time, Trump’s statements seemed correct: Cohen was unwavering in his loyalty to Trump. “I’m the guy who would take a bullet for the president,” Cohen said. “I’d never walk away.” However, it appears he is doing just that. On Sunday night, he promoted the interview with a tweet:
The interview consisted entirely of Cohen criticizing and distancing himself from Trump. “My wife, my daughter and my son have my first loyalty and always will,” he said. “I put family and country first.” Throughout the interview, he repeats this key statement but does not mention any remaining loyalty to Trump. Stephanopoulos said, “You are facing the very real prospect of having to choose between protecting the President and protecting your family.” Cohen responded, “They are my first priority.” Stephanopoulos pushed further, pointing out that Cohen had once claimed to take a bullet for Trump. Cohen once again responded, “To be crystal clear, my wife, my daughter and my son, and this country have my first loyalty.”
When asked how he would respond if Trump and his team try to discredit over a decade’s worth of work Cohen did for Trump, he said, “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.”
He went on to completely distance himself from Trump by disagreeing with Trump’s criticisms concerning the handling of Mueller’s investigation, which have been harsh and frequent on Twitter. When Cohen’s office was raided in April, Trump stated, “It’s an attack on our country, in a true sense. It’s an attack on what we all stand for.” However, in today’s new interview, Cohen praises the FBI and the way their investigation was conducted in a surprisingly level-headed statement:
I don’t agree with those who demonize or vilify the FBI. I respect the FBI as an institution, as well as their agents. 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.
Cohen continued to take every possible precaution to distance himself from Trump by condemning Russia’s interference with the 2016 election. He said, “As an American, I repudiate Russia’s or any other foreign government’s attempt to interfere or meddle in our democratic process, and I would call on all Americans to do the same.” Finally, to really twist the knife, he directly called out Trump for denying that Russia interfered in the election: “Simply accepting the denial of Mr. Putin is unsustainable.”
Stephanopoulos notes, “After months of silence, Cohen seemed relieved to be telling more of his story. He visibly relaxed over the course of the interview after telling me—with some understatement—that the last year has been “difficult, upsetting and unpleasant.” Cohen is currently under investigation for bank fraud, wire fraud and campaign finance violations. He is entangled in the Stormy Daniels hush money and American Media Inc. scandals. He also has questionable—if not openly corrupt—relationships with Russia, Fox News host Sean Hannity and the former Republican National Convention deputy finance chair Elliott Broidy.