ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, in an article published before the televised segment about the interview, wrote that Trump loyalist Cohen signaled he would work with special counsel Robert Mueller and federal prosecutors, even if that meant turning on the president.
“My wife, my daughter and my son have my first loyalty and always will. I put family and country first,” Cohen said.
“Once I understand what charges might be filed against me, if any at all, I will defer to my new counsel, Guy Petrillo, for guidance,” Cohen said.
ABC News reported that Petrillo is expected to take over as Cohen’s lead counsel.
Cohen is under investigation for possible bank fraud and campaign finance violations in relation to a $130,000 payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels weeks before the 2016 presidential election.
Stephanopoulos’ interview with Cohen was not on camera, and he reported that Cohen would not comment on key subjects, citing the advice of his attorney. But he said Cohen hinted that he may speak out later.
“I want to answer,” Cohen said of questions swirling around his payment to Daniels. “One day, I will answer. But for now, I cannot comment further, on the advice of my counsel.”
Cohen believes he has been unfairly portrayed as a villain, according to Stephanopoulos.
“I will not be a punching bag as part of anyone’s defense strategy. I am not a villain in any story and won’t allow others to depict me in that way,” Cohen said.
The FBI raided his home, office and hotel room in April, seizing nearly 4 million documents and data files as part of that probe.
A court-appointed arbiter ― called the special master ― has been sifting through the material to determine what items are protected by attorney-client privilege and what is admissible in court. That review must be finished by the end of this week, the federal judge overseeing the investigation said.
Last month The Wall Street Journal reported that Cohen had grown frustrated with Trump, complaining to friends that the president hadn’t footed any of his mounting legal bills. In recent months Cohen has said the investigation is “bankrupting” him and claimed that the president owes him for his years of loyalty, unnamed associates told the outlet.
The lawyer has also hinted that he could be willing to cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, depending on the charges leveled against him, CNN reported last month. Cohen hasn’t been charged with any wrongdoing.
Cohen told Stephanopoulos he “respects the process of the prosecutors.” The host added that Mueller’s team has not yet spoken to Cohen.
Trump has moved to distance himself from Cohen in recent weeks, telling reporters last month that the man was no longer his personal attorney and that he hadn’t spoken to him “in a long time.”
“No, he’s not my lawyer anymore, but I always liked Michael,” the president said at the time. “And he’s a good person.”
In the interview, Cohen broke from Trump on several subjects. He affirmed his respect for the FBI, which Trump has regularly attacked. Cohen said he objects to the president referring to the investigation as “a witch hunt,” and unlike Trump, accepts U.S. intelligence agencies’ conclusion that Russia interfered in the 2016 election.
This article has been updated to include material from the “Good Morning America” report.