Criminal Justice

Michael Cohen hints at cooperation, dislikes 'witch hunt' characterization of Mueller probe

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Michael Cohen

Michael Cohen. a katz /

President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen appeared to suggest he may cooperate in the special counsel’s probe of Russian influence when he told ABC News on Saturday that his first priority is his family.

Cohen made the statement after George Stephanopoulos asked Cohen what he would do if forced to choose between protecting the president and his family, Stephanopoulos said in a story posted on Monday. The Washington Post and NPR are among the publications reporting on the ABC interview.

Stephanopoulos pointed out that Cohen didn’t appear to be repeating past vows to take a bullet for the president, if necessary. “To be crystal clear,” Cohen replied, “my wife, my daughter and my son, and this country have my first loyalty.”

Cohen added that once he understands what charges might be filed against him, he will defer to his new lawyer, Guy Petrillo, for guidance. Cohen will reportedly be ending a joint defense agreement with Trump after Petrillo fully assumes his role as Cohen’s new lawyer, according to the ABC story.

Cohen also declined to criticize special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, and said he doesn’t like the term “witch hunt,” which Trump has repeatedly used to describe the probe. He also said he repudiates an attempt by Russia or any other foreign government to meddle in the democratic process.

Cohen said he respects intelligence agencies’ unanimous conclusions about Russian meddling, and he does not believe Mueller will find any evidence that he had improper or illegal dealings with the Russians.

Cohen said he believed the meeting between a Russian lawyer promising dirt on Hillary Clinton and members of the Trump campaign was “an example of poor judgment.” When asked if the president knew about the meeting in advance, Cohen declined to answer, citing the advice of counsel.

Cohen also said he disagrees “with those with those who demonize or vilify the FBI” and he respects the FBI as an institution. FBI agents who searched his hotel room, home and office in April “were respectful, courteous and professional,” Cohen said.

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