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Trump lawyer Michael Cohen hints at flipping

President Donald Trump's personal attorney, Michael Cohen, tells ABC News' George Stephanopoulos that "my wife, my daughter and my son have my first loyalty and always will." CNN's Brynn Gingras reports.

Posted: Jul 3, 2018 4:50 PM
Updated: Jul 3, 2018 5:08 PM

Michael Cohen, who once famously asserted he would "take a bullet" to protect the President, has apparently reversed course -- now that the gun is locked and loaded, so to speak.

The ammunition, of course, is the looming possibility of a criminal indictment any day now by federal prosecutors in Manhattan. Cohen's recent off-camera interview with George Stephanopoulos is the strongest indication I've seen thus far in Cohen's ongoing legal saga that he will likely cooperate with federal prosecutors.

Cohen, Trump's longtime attorney and consigliere, is the subject of a federal criminal investigation led by the FBI and the US attorney for the Southern District of New York, which executed an April 9 raid for evidence on Cohen's home, office and hotel room. The criminal referral to the Southern District reportedly came from special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russians to influence the 2016 election.

While both Mueller and the Southern District prosecutors appear leak-proof (to their credit) -- meaning the public gets information regarding their methodology or the evidence they've gathered only through court filings -- it seems fairly obvious that the inciting factor leading to the underlying Cohen investigation has to do with the alleged "hush money" payout to adult film star Stephanie Clifford (a.k.a. Stormy Daniels). She claims she had a consensual affair with Donald Trump in 2006, as detailed in her original 2011 interview with In Touch (Trump has denied this affair).

That alleged "hush money" episode, the messy details of which are currently the subject of Cohen's civil case in California, concerns the now infamously bungled nondisclosure agreement between Clifford and Essential Consultants LLC. This is the Delaware limited liability company that Cohen created and that was used in both the $130,000 payment to Clifford and also implicated in the $1.6 million payment offer to a former Playboy model who allegedly had an affair with top Republican National Committee official Elliott Broidy (he has since resigned).

Sleaze factor notwithstanding, in many cases, nondisclosure agreements are legal. The issue with this particular payment has to do with the nature and circumstances surrounding the payment. Specifically, the amount was well above the legal limit set by the Federal Election Commission for a campaign contribution, was paid just days before the election, and concerned alleged conduct that occurred years ago.

Some have rightly noted that a violation of federal election laws could result in nothing more than a fine by the Federal Election Committee. But Cohen put the "who knew what, when" issue back in the spotlight during his Stephanopoulos interview when he declined to comment -- on advice of counsel -- on whether or not Trump had directed him to pay the $130,000 to Ms. Clifford, calling into question what Trump told reporters on Air Force One in April (that Trump did not know about the $130,000 payment to Clifford made, remember, just days before the 2016 election, and that he did not know where the money came from.).

The presence of Cohen's new counsel -- who likely advised him not to comment on the issue -- is yet another indication that he is looking to cooperate with federal prosecutors in an effort to secure leniency in sentencing for any crimes with which he may be charged; Cohen is reportedly hiring Guy Petrillo, a former head of the criminal division for the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York, to represent him.

It is no secret in white collar criminal defense circles that defendants looking to "cut a deal," or get a cooperation agreement with prosecutors, often hire a former Assistant United States Attorney from the prosecuting office.

Additionally, since prosecutors have not indicted Cohen (the Southern District case pertains only to the issue of a privileged review of the documents seized in the April 9 raid on Cohen's premises), there is still time for Cohen to engage in multiple "proffer sessions"-- that is, meetings with prosecutors during which they agree not to use his statements against him in future prosecutions -- across multiple jurisdictions in the hopes of reducing the overall severity or number of charges that might potentially brought against him.

Yet some have pointed out that if Cohen were actually interested in cooperating with the feds, the proper course of conduct would have been to have his attorney contact the prosecutors on the case, rather than do an on-the-record interview with one of the most famous journalists in the world. This apparent head-scratcher has led some to wonder if Cohen's overture is therefore simply a veiled attempt to ask Trump for a pardon (which Trump seems to be fond of doing as of late).

I don't give Cohen that much credit, though. As has proven true in this entire saga, this case is being tried in the media just as much as its being tried in the courtroom, and I wouldn't be surprised if even Cohen doesn't draw a distinction at this point.

Cohen is standing on the edge of a precipice, and in my assessment he's beginning to understand the value of his decades' worth of knowledge regarding the President and the Trump Organization: that it may now hold the keys to his freedom.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 73287

Reported Deaths: 3036
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion15701725
Lake7496275
Elkhart480184
Allen3835163
St. Joseph342381
Hamilton2723104
Vanderburgh192213
Hendricks1871108
Cass17869
Johnson1741118
Porter129439
Clark120247
Tippecanoe118911
Madison94365
LaPorte89430
Howard88465
Kosciusko84712
Bartholomew78047
Marshall77422
Floyd77246
Monroe74630
Delaware71452
Dubois68712
Boone67246
Noble66329
Hancock64738
Vigo61910
Jackson5855
Warrick57930
LaGrange55710
Shelby54627
Grant52630
Dearborn49628
Morgan46734
Clinton4303
Henry37620
Wayne36810
White36110
Montgomery35221
Lawrence34227
Decatur33532
Harrison32723
Putnam2868
Miami2692
Scott26610
Daviess26420
Greene24634
Franklin24114
Jasper2342
DeKalb2304
Jennings22412
Gibson2214
Steuben2073
Ripley1997
Fayette1867
Carroll1852
Perry18412
Starke1777
Posey1700
Orange16924
Wabash1653
Fulton1642
Wells1622
Jefferson1602
Knox1510
Whitley1516
Washington1391
Tipton1379
Spencer1313
Huntington1223
Newton11810
Randolph1184
Clay1165
Sullivan1131
Adams962
Jay910
Owen871
Pulaski791
Rush764
Brown731
Fountain732
Blackford632
Ohio635
Benton610
Pike530
Parke511
Vermillion490
Switzerland460
Crawford440
Martin430
Union390
Warren221
Unassigned0202

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 99969

Reported Deaths: 3668
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Franklin18182523
Cuyahoga13414499
Hamilton9583255
Lucas5288323
Montgomery431894
Summit3523222
Marion292245
Butler289163
Mahoning2532255
Pickaway238342
Stark1813139
Warren176739
Lorain173678
Columbiana165660
Trumbull1518106
Fairfield136732
Delaware129219
Licking126049
Clark114214
Lake111138
Wood103058
Clermont92111
Medina91435
Miami83238
Tuscarawas78114
Portage75461
Allen73244
Greene68412
Belmont62126
Mercer60513
Richland60012
Erie57027
Ashtabula56246
Geauga55444
Wayne52958
Ross4684
Huron3955
Darke39329
Ottawa37726
Sandusky37316
Hancock3723
Athens3561
Madison35510
Holmes3276
Lawrence2790
Auglaize2506
Union2461
Muskingum2251
Jefferson2242
Scioto2241
Putnam20517
Seneca2043
Knox2037
Washington20222
Preble2012
Coshocton1926
Shelby1904
Crawford1745
Champaign1732
Morrow1682
Hardin16412
Clinton1626
Highland1561
Logan1522
Fulton1471
Wyandot1458
Ashland1433
Defiance1424
Williams1343
Brown1272
Perry1233
Guernsey1167
Henry1162
Hocking1169
Fayette1120
Carroll1115
Monroe9118
Pike760
Jackson740
Van Wert711
Paulding670
Gallia651
Adams592
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Morgan250
Noble170
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