The question of whether Michael Cohen, the former fixer and personal attorney for President Donald Trump, would flip on his former boss has been the subject of intense speculation in the media and in the halls of power since the FBI raided his offices and residences in April.
Three months later it’s still an unresolved question.
In his first in-depth interview since those federal raids, Cohen offered some of the most intriguing clues thus far.
“My wife, my daughter and my son have my first loyalty and always will,” Cohen told ABC News’ chief anchor George Stephanopoulos on Saturday. “I put family and country first.”
For a man who has made no secret over the past decade of his resolute allegiance to Trump – Cohen once said he would “take a bullet” for him – it was a notably blunt break from the president, legal experts told ABC News.
“It’s a barely coded message that he is ready to cooperate,” said Kendall Coffey, a former U.S. attorney in Miami. “When people that are targets of investigations are talking about doing what’s best for their family, it’s inevitably a code for cooperating and getting the best deal they can from prosecutors.”
Cohen has recently retained a new attorney, Guy Petrillo, a highly-regarded former prosecutor who once led the criminal division of the same U.S. Attorney’s office in Manhattan that is conducting the criminal investigation of Cohen. Some say this move signals that Cohen could be leaning in the direction of seeking a deal.
Once Petrillo officially assumes his role as lead counsel, Cohen intends to exit a joint-defense agreement he shared with the president and others potentially implicated in federal probes, sources familiar with the case told ABC News.
“Being part of a joint defense agreement generally means your cooperation is with fellow targets and you’re sharing confidential information,” Coffey said. “Exiting a joint defense agreement generally means you are leaving them behind and your cooperation is now focused on the United States government. The message to the president is: ‘I’m not taking any more bullets.’”
In the interview this weekend, Cohen told Stephanopoulos that he would rely on Petrillo’s legal advice to help him decide how to proceed in his dealings with the government. Prosecutors in New York are investigating Cohen for potential violations of campaign finance and banking laws. Cohen has not been charged with any crime.
“[Cohen] is going to want to know what charges could be brought against him before he and his new counsel decide when and what to ‘proffer’ to prosecutors,” said Stephen Saltzburg, a George Washington University professor of law and a former deputy assistant attorney general in the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice. “It becomes a kind of back and forth from there.”
If and when Cohen decides to talk about a possible deal, legal experts think he may have to sit tight for a while since prosecutors in New York may view such an entreaty as premature.
“Defendants often say that the hardest part of going through a prosecution is waiting for the other shoe to drop,” said Barbara McQuade, a former U.S. attorney in Detroit and now a law professor at the University of Michigan.
Cohen told Stephanopoulos on Saturday that the waiting has been “difficult, upsetting and unpleasant.”
But because of the complexity of the federal investigations, a resolution could still be months away.
Since the search warrants were executed in April, lawyers for Cohen, Trump and the Trump Organization have been engaged in a laborious process of reviewing more than 4 million items seized in the raids. Under a court supervised plan, the attorneys are reviewing the fruits of the searches for items that are potentially covered by attorney-client privilege.
During that review, the government has had to wait to conduct its own examination of the haul. Only in the last few weeks has the court started to turn over material to prosecutors. On Monday, another 1.3 million items were released to the government.
“Prosecutors will want to wait to talk to Cohen until after they have reviewed the documents so that they can verify the truth of Cohen’s statements and confront him with facts that he might not volunteer,” McQuade said. “Until then, Cohen has to wait.”
America’s immigration system has never been a kind place for children. I will never forget the entirely unnecessary trauma inflicted upon Elian Gonzalez in a paramilitary raid launched in 2000 upon a defenseless home. But at least Elian was soon reunited with his father. Recent days have seen a dark chapter for thousands of innocents in confinement still stranded far from their parents in the latest wave of federal indifference.
These separations represent a policy that is likely more thoughtless than intentionally heartless. Dramatically compounding the harm of separating children from their parents, though, immigration services failed to provide an adequate tracking system for several thousand separated children. Better accountability is given by dry cleaners who give tickets for a customer’s shirt.
Insensitivity to children predates the current headlines. The Clinton administration battled successfully to establish that “the best interests of the child” is a principle for divorces and not immigration. Federal courts have long been extremely reluctant to intervene in immigration matters,. But the current policy seems so harsh that strong unconstitutional challenges could be advanced. In 1982, the Supreme Court found that undocumented immigrant children cannot be excluded from public education because “directing the onus of a parent’s misconduct against his children does not comport with fundamental conceptions of justice” and “condemnation on the head of an infant is illogical and unjust.” This wisdom was sadly ignored by the officials who created the recent family separation policy.
While it appears that the policy of separation is being revisited, the treatment of immigrant children has a long and troubled history. The most recent events are not a mere episode but the latest chapter in a troubling legacy. A broad re-examination of that history with a resolve to treat innocent children with care, concern and dignity is urgently required.
James Comey’s emails certainly provide an unflattering portrayal of President Trump. But they present some interesting items concerning Comey himself.
In an ultimate irony, he states in the emails “I don’t leak.” And yet that statement is contained in one of the emails that Comey – through a friend – leaked to the press. This does not add to his credibility. And his public excuse for the leak – he lacked faith in the Deputy Attorney General of the United States, will not score points with DOJ or anywhere else.
Comey says he doesn’t do “sneaky things” – he is documenting every conversation with the President – in case he might need it in the future, all without informing the President.
He repeatedly praises Andy McCabe who was later fired in part for contradicting Comey about the subject of McCabe’s leaks.
Also intriguing are the references to “Confidential” and “Secret” on some memos. These were apparently declassified at some point but when?
For the Trump legal team, these emails provide a detailed road map of Comey’s statements that will help them prepare the President for his seemingly inevitable interview with Mueller’s team.
This horrifying tragedy deserves all of our sympathy and prayers. It also deserves a thorough investigation. While there should be no rush to judgment as the authorities analyze the evidence, criminal charges would be considered if laws were violated with respect the building’s compliance with fire and safety codes , or if there was criminal negligence. For example, if water sprinkler systems or fire-resistant walls and ceilings were required but not utilized, there could be consequences for the owners and others. In a U.S. case fifteen years ago, after 100 people died in a night club fire, the owner was sentenced to four years in prison for criminal negligence that contributed to the tragedy.
Read more about Kemerovo here: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-43552165
President Trump’s desire, even with initial planning, to fire Special Counsel Mueller, is not by itself the crime of obstruction. People being investigated from time to time request the removal of a prosecutor based on alleged bias and that effort has not been prosecuted as obstruction. Ordinarily, obstruction centers on false statements, falsification, destruction of evidence, or misconduct with witnesses such as attempting to secure false testimony, trying to prevent testimony or other forms of witness tampering.
Moreover, removing Mueller would not stop the investigation which involves dozens of prosecutors and agents for whom another highly competent leader would be found.
Even so, the reported information, if true, holds perils for President Trump. It could certainly be evidence of an intent to suppress the truth which, if coupled with other obstructive events, could add to a case of obstruction.
Read the New York Times article here.
This Fall, Florida’s voters will be able to vote on whether 1.5 million felons voting rights should be restored. Democrats may not have considered that their support for this amendment may backfire when it comes to Republican voter turnout.
If approved by 60 percent of voters, the amendment would restore voting rights to Floridians with felony convictions after they fully complete their sentences, including parole or probation. –Orlando Sentinel
Democrats could win the 60 percent vote needed to pass this amendment, but it’s not going to be easy. There are certainly good reasons to support restoring voting rights to most felons who have paid their debt to society, but the politics of this could backfire. Meanwhile, opposition to the measure, fueled by Republican voters, could harm Democrats in this year’s critical state races.
Coffey believes that with Florida’s known slim margins in elections, Democrats need to thoughtfully consider the outcome of every move they make leading up to this vote.