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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 3:35 PM
Updated: Jul 3, 2018 4:08 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.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 34622

Reported Deaths: 1215
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds282449
DeSoto186519
Madison141936
Jones118549
Harrison109615
Rankin106315
Neshoba103976
Forrest97243
Lauderdale95481
Scott80915
Jackson74418
Washington70010
Copiah64215
Leake62120
Lee60022
Oktibbeha58928
Holmes57941
Warren57720
Grenada5698
Wayne56018
Yazoo5486
Lowndes53613
Leflore52856
Lamar5227
Lincoln51935
Pike48820
Sunflower4708
Lafayette4644
Monroe43935
Panola4326
Covington4295
Bolivar39418
Simpson3843
Attala38324
Newton36710
Adams34719
Pontotoc3396
Tate33313
Marion32412
Claiborne30011
Winston29611
Chickasaw29319
Pearl River28132
Noxubee2778
Marshall2763
Jasper2716
Clay25611
Walthall2497
Union24611
Smith23712
Coahoma2196
Clarke21725
Lawrence2022
Yalobusha2028
Kemper18314
Tallahatchie1784
Carroll17411
Humphreys16110
Calhoun1605
Montgomery1513
Itawamba1458
Tippah14411
Hancock14113
Webster13411
Jefferson1223
Tunica1213
Jefferson Davis1184
Prentiss1173
George1123
Greene11210
Amite1083
Quitman971
Tishomingo971
Wilkinson969
Alcorn942
Perry794
Choctaw754
Stone732
Franklin542
Sharkey470
Benton440
Issaquena101
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 49892

Reported Deaths: 1077
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson6219167
Mobile4625138
Montgomery4397111
Tuscaloosa258652
Madison19839
Marshall190411
Shelby155724
Lee153537
Morgan12415
Baldwin117011
Walker105631
Elmore100721
Dallas9789
Franklin92816
Etowah91914
DeKalb8647
Russell6650
Chambers66427
Autauga66214
Butler64529
Tallapoosa62569
Unassigned61627
Limestone5963
Houston5616
Lauderdale5556
Cullman5546
St. Clair4842
Colbert4816
Lowndes48022
Escambia4688
Pike4675
Calhoun4565
Coffee4164
Covington40312
Jackson4022
Barbour3772
Bullock37610
Dale3721
Talladega3677
Hale34323
Marengo34211
Clarke3036
Wilcox2998
Chilton2952
Winston2925
Sumter28713
Blount2811
Marion26714
Pickens2626
Monroe2553
Randolph2489
Conecuh2278
Perry2242
Bibb2151
Macon2129
Choctaw20912
Greene1929
Henry1463
Washington1367
Crenshaw1263
Lawrence1210
Cherokee1157
Geneva950
Lamar871
Clay822
Fayette811
Coosa631
Cleburne421
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