Michael Cohen, Donald Trump's longtime personal lawyer and "fixer" who once said that he would "take a bullet" to protect Trump, gave an interview to ABC News in which he appeared to walk back that hardline Trump loyalty.
But while many headlines coming out of the interview focused on Cohen's new declaration that "My wife, my daughter and my son have my first loyalty and always will," a significant new development in the case buried toward the bottom of the report by ABC's George Stephanopoulos provided the most concrete evidence yet that Cohen will soon pose a serious problem for Trump.
Cohen appeared to be going out of his way on Monday to send signals to Trump that he is no longer willing to stay silent about whatever possibly incriminating information he may hold on his former employer. Shortly after the ABC interview appeared, CNN spoke to a person identified only as a friend of Cohen's who is "in touch with him."
That person — who would likely speak only if Cohen gave him the go-ahead — told the network that Cohen "knows a lot of things about the President and he's not averse to talking in the right situation. If they want information on Trump, he's willing to give it."
But the most threatening news for Trump to come out of the Cohen interview concerns the standing legal agreement between Cohen's lawyers and Trump's own legal team. The two groups of lawyers, as The Hill reports, have a standing "joint defense agreement," under which Cohen's lawyers share any information they have in the case with Trump's team — and as a result with Trump himself. The agreement allows Trump to know in advance of any moves Cohen might make that would affect his legal status, as well as any information that government prosecutors may possess that could damage Trump.
But Cohen will soon cut off that deal, ABC News reported. Cohen is in the process of hiring a new attorney in Guy Petrillo — a former federal prosecutor with the Southern District of New York, the same office now investigating Cohen — and throughout the interview, as The Washington Post noted, Cohen said that he would consult Petrillo before answering questions about what he can say regarding Trump.
The paperwork for Cohen's hiring of Petrillo is not yet finalized, but once it becomes a done deal, Cohen will end his information-sharing deal with Trump, ABC reported. Significantly, Trump's former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, had a similar deal to share information with Trump. But last November, as CNN reported, Flynn terminated that deal.
When Flynn ended his information-sharing deal, Trump's Russia-investigation lawyer Jay Sekulow shrugged it off, saying, "No one should draw the conclusion that this means anything about General Flynn cooperating against the President." But about one week later, as NBC News reported, Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI and began cooperating with prosecutors in the Russia investigation.
Flynn's "flip" was said to have "blindsided" Trump and his lawyers, NBC reported at the time. In an April Twitter post, Trump said that "I do not see Michael doing that," referring to the possibility that Cohen would follow Flynn's lead and turn against him with prosecutors.
But in the same Twitter post, Trump also said that "Most people will flip if the Government lets them out of trouble, even if it means lying or making up stories," implying that if Cohen did prove information against Trump, he would be making it all up.