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Monday
Jul022018

Michael Cohen: 'I put family and country first' 

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Michael Cohen, the former longtime personal attorney to President Donald Trump, broke his long silence in an interview with ABC News chief anchor George Stephanopoulos.

Cohen's thoughts -- and loyalties -- could be central to the ongoing investigations into what Trump campaign officials and other Trump loyalists knew during the 2016 presidential election, and the motivations for some of their actions, including Cohen's controversial payment to a porn star who said she had a sexual encounter with Trump many years before he became president. Trump has denied the allegations.

Trump said a few weeks ago that he "always liked Michael Cohen," though adding he hadn’t spoken to him "in a long time."

Now it's Cohen who’s talking, to the media.

Here are five of the most telling revelations from Cohen's interview with Stephanopoulos this weekend.

1. Will he cooperate with the feds?


The biggest question surrounding Cohen is whether the president's fixer will turn on his old boss in exchange for leniency from prosecutors, if he is charged with any crimes. There’s no way to know for sure because Cohen has not been charged with anything. But his response, or lack thereof, in the ABC News interview appears to offer a clue.

Cohen said that he couldn't comment on the advice of counsel, but noted that he has respect for those involved.

“I respect the prosecutors, I respect the process. I would not do or say anything that might be perceived as interfering with their professional review of the evidence and the facts.”

2. Where his loyalty lies


Stephanopoulos asked Cohen about his personal priorities three times in the interview, noting how he is "facing the very real prospect of having to choose between protecting the president and protecting your family."

Cohen responded by saying: "My wife, my daughter and my son have my first loyalty. And always will... I put family and country first.”

He added: “Once I understand what charges might be filed against me, if any at all, I will defer to my counsel, to my new counsel Guy Petrillo for guidance on future responses."

He went on to reiterate that his family is "my first priority," and when reminded that he previously said he would “take a bullet” for Trump, Cohen said, "To be crystal clear: my wife, my daughter and my son and this country have my first loyalty."

3. The payment to Stormy Daniels

One interesting moment in the interview came when Cohen said less than he has previously said about the $130,000 payment he made to porn actress Stormy Daniels, who has said she had a sexual encounter with Trump in 2006.

Trump has denied her allegations.

When asked by Stephanopoulos whether Trump directed him to pay Daniels for her silence, Cohen said that he could not comment, but suggested that he may at some point.

"I want to answer. One day I will answer. But I can’t comment now on the advice of my counsel," he said.

Cohen has previously said that he acted on his own initiative in making the payments to Daniels. In a statement released in February, he confirmed making the payment but said, "Neither the Trump Organization nor the Trump campaign was a party to the transaction with Ms. Clifford, and neither reimbursed me for the payment, either directly or indirectly."

4. Russia and the investigations

When asked by Stephanopoulos whether he believes the Russians interfered in the presidential campaign, Cohen’s answer came in the form of support for the agencies that have said such interference did occur.

"I respect our nation’s intelligence agencies’... unanimous conclusions," Cohen said, without explicitly stating that Trump has made such denials.

When questioned about Trump's attacks on anyone involved in the various Russia-related investigations, Cohen also refrained from directly naming Trump when he criticized such characterizations.

"I don’t agree with those who demonize or vilify the FBI. I respect the FBI as an institution, as well as their agents," he said, going on to note that when his home and hotel room were raided by the FBI, "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."

At one point in the interview, Stephanopoulos asked Cohen whether he believes the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller is legitimate.

“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,” he said.

5. The Trump Tower meeting

One incident where Trump team members and Russians overlapped during the campaign was the controversial meeting that Donald Trump Jr. and other key campaign figures -- including then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner – had with a Russian lawyer after Donald Trump Jr. had been promised dirt on Hillary Clinton.

Cohen weighed in on the meeting, noting that he was not at the meeting and believes that it was a mistake.

"I believe it was a mistake by those from the Trump campaign who did participate... it was simply an example of poor judgment,” he said.

But he declined to say whether he thought Trump knew about the meeting beforehand.

"I can’t comment, under advice of my counsel, due to the ongoing investigation by the U.S. attorney’s office in the Southern District of New York," Cohen said.

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