Michael Cohen, President Trump’s embattled former attorney and self-described fixer, the pit bull attorney who once described himself as a guy who would take a bullet for Donald Trump, has reportedly told friends that he does not believe a pardon is in the cards for him.
CNN reports that Cohen spoke to friends about the possibility of a pardon before his interview with George Stephanopoulos.
“I brought up the pardon, and he said, ‘I don’t think so. I just don’t think so,'” Cohen’s friend told CNN. “He’s certain in his mind that he has been dismissed.”
According to the friend, Cohen also said: “I don’t know what to think any more.”
A second friend who is in frequent touch with Cohen also told CNN that they have discussed the possibility of a pardon, and that it is clear that Cohen is not “counting on it.”
“His mindset is of someone who is operating under the assumption that he is not getting that, though of course he doesn’t know one way or the other,” the second friend said.
These comments come at a time when Cohen is under investigation in the Southern District of New York for possibly violating election laws and financial crimes. While he has not been charged with a crime, Cohen’s future is uncertain and speculation about whether he will “flip” on President Trump is high. His friends told CNN that Cohen has been “chomping at the bit” to speak and that laying low is “not in his nature”.
His off-camera July 2 ABC interview gave Cohen an opportunity to speak out and he made several statements that put him newly at odds with the president. Those statements could signal a willingness to cooperate with investigators at the president’s expense.
“My wife, my daughter and my son have my first loyalty and always will,” Cohen told me. “I put family and country first.”
He went on to tell Stephanopoulos, when asked about his lack of statements to protect his former client, “To be crystal clear, my wife, my daughter and my son, and this country have my first loyalty.”
In the interview, Michael Cohen took issue with the president calling the Mueller probe a witch hunt, saying he didn’t like that term, and noted that he has condemned Russia for its interference in the 2016 election, calling “on all Americans to do the same”. Cohen criticized the president’s acceptance of Putin’s denial of wrongdoing, saying, “Simply accepting the denial of Mr. Putin is unsustainable.” He responded to Trump’s criticism of how the FBI handled the raid on Cohen by saying he respects the institution and disagrees with demonizing the FBI.
Cohen also declined to stick with his prior stance that he acted on his own to make the $130,000 payment to silence porn star Stormy Daniels from talking about her affair with Donald Trump, saying he couldn’t talk about it now but he would answer “one day”.
On Wednesday, Cohen edited his bio on Twitter and LinkedIn, removing a reference to being “personal attorney to President Donald J. Trump”, CNN reports.
Cohen has added Guy Petrillo to his legal team, ABC reports, an addition that could be significant.
Cohen recently retained Petrillo, a highly regarded former federal prosecutor who once led the criminal division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan — the very same office currently conducting the criminal investigation of Cohen.
Petrillo is expected to take over as Cohen’s lead counsel in the coming days. And Cohen makes clear that his decision about whether to cooperate will be based not on any previous loyalty to Trump — but on Petrillo’s legal advice.
Once Petrillo fully assumes his role, a joint defense agreement Cohen shared with the president, which allowed their lawyers to share information and documents with each other, will come to an end, ABC News has learned.
At that point, the legal interests of the president of the United States and his longtime personal attorney could quickly become adversarial.
CNN reports that Lanny Davis, attorney for Bill Clinton in the 1990s, has also joined Cohen’s legal team.
“Like most of America, I have been following the matter regarding Michael Cohen with great interest. As an attorney, I have talked to Michael many times in the last two weeks. Then I read his words published on July 2, and I recognized his sincerity,” Davis said in a statement. “Michael Cohen deserves to tell his side of the story – subject, of course, to the advice of counsel.”
Stephanopoulos reported that Michael Cohen is emphatic about defending himself against attacks by the president’s legal team.
“I will not be a punching bag as part of anyone’s defense strategy,” he said emphatically. “I am not a villain of this story, and I will not allow others to try to depict me that way.”