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Cohen Attacks Trump — But Insists He’s Now Being Truthful

The president's former attorney claimed he broke the law out of blind loyalty to someone he knew and respected

Attorney Michael Cohen insisted on Friday morning — while attacking his former client — that he isn’t a villain for eventually cooperating with federal investigators.

“I know the truth, many people know the truth,” Cohen told ABC host George Stephanopoulos on “Good Morning America” in a rare interview. “The truth is — I told the truth. I took responsibility for my actions. And instead of him [Trump] taking responsibility for his actions, what does he do? He attacks my family. And after yesterday, again being before the court and taking the responsibility and receiving a sentence of 36 months, the only thing he could do is to tweet about my family.”

Cohen has faced a host of legal troubles, which eventually led to a three-year prison sentence this week.

But importantly, he caught the attention of the special counsel team, which has been investigating the president. Cohen agreed to cooperate with investigators by providing information about the president and the allegedly illegal activities he participated in on his behalf.

Cohen has admitted to crimes like tax evasion and making hush-money payments as part of a plea deal he made with the special counsel team.

Cohen also took this swipe at Trump during the Friday morning interview: “I think the pressure of the job [as president] is much more than what he [Trump] thought it was going to be. He doesn’t understand the system and it’s sad because the country has never been more divisive. And one of the hopes that I have out of the punishment that I’ve received as well as the cooperation that I have given I will be remembered in history as helping to bring this country back together.”

It’s highly doubtful in this saga that anyone will remember Cohen for bringing the country back together.

Related: Trump Ex-Lawyer Michael Cohen Sentenced to Three Years in Prison

Trump responded to the Cohen plea deal by insisting he never directed him to break the law.

The president also argued that Cohen was just trying to protect himself and family from the legal pressures.

“Inaccurate,” Cohen said to Stephanopoulos. “He [Trump] knows the truth, I know the truth, others know the truth, and here is the truth. The people of the United States of America, people of the world, don’t believe what he is saying. The man doesn’t tell the truth. And it is sad that I should take responsibility for his dirty deeds.”

Cohen drew particular attention for the payments he made in response to an alleged affair — something the president has denied.

Cohen made a payment to porn actress Stormy Daniels as part of a hush-money agreement after she claimed to have had an affair with the president. The claim that the payment was a campaign finance violation is because the payment occurred so close to the election.

Cohen claimed he broke the law out of blind loyalty for the president. He said the president directed him to make the payments and get involved in other questionable activities while working for him — again, something Trump has denied. Cohen also expressed regret as to how much loyalty he gave the president before turning on him under legal pressure.

“It was a blind loyalty,” Cohen said. “It was to a man I admired, but I do not know the answer to it. And I am angry at myself. My family is disappointed that they’ve taught me, my mother, father, right from wrong. And I didn’t display good judgment.”

The day before Cohen’s comments on “Good Morning America,” Trump tackled the issue directly during an interview with Fox News host Harris Faulkner.

He claimed that the allegations against him are merely an attempt to embarrass him. The president also dismissed the claim that he knowingly requested that Cohen do something illegal.

“I never directed him to do anything wrong,” Trump said during the interview. “Whatever he [Cohen] did, he did on his own. He’s a lawyer. A lawyer who represents a client is supposed to do the right thing. That’s why you pay them a lot of money. He is a lawyer. He represents a client. I never directed him to do any[thing] incorrect or wrong. And he understands that.”

Trump added that Cohen did some bad things but that they were unrelated to him.

He noted that the real motive for Cohen was getting himself and his family out of legal trouble. The president seemed to claim that Cohen’s father-in-law, Fima Shusterman, and wife, Laura, could be implicated in crimes.

“Let me tell you the other thing: His father-in-law is a very rich guy,” Trump also said during that interview. “His father-in-law, I thought, was the guy that was the primary focus. Well, what did he do? Did he make a deal to keep his father-in-law out? Did he make a deal to keep his wife, who supposedly, maybe I’m wrong, but you can check it — did he … make a deal to keep his wife out of trouble?”

Special counsel Robert Mueller has been leading the investigation into the president. His team has been primarily interested in whether Trump or his associates colluded with Russian interests to sway the presidential election of 2016.

His team suggested that Cohen’s sentence should reflect his lies but also his efforts to remediate his misconduct in a court filing on December 7.

“I am done with the lying,” Cohen said to Stephanopoulos. “I am done being loyal to President Trump, and my first loyalty belongs to my wife, my daughter, my son and this country.”

Cohen also attacked the president about how he conducts his job by claiming he doesn’t understand how to do it. He noted that the situation is different for him now because he can’t just bark orders as he did when he was a businessman, said Cohen — that now there are different systems in place.

Related: Special Counsel Recommends ‘Substantial’ but Fair Sentence for Cohen

Cohen also drew attention for his involvement in a project to build a Trump hotel in Moscow.

He had previously claimed the talks about the Moscow project had ended prior to the election season ramping in 2016. He admitted in federal court to lying about how much he discussed the proposed Moscow project with the president November 29.

Cohen accepted additional charges as part of the plea deal he reached with the special counsel. He admitted in federal court last month to lying about how much he discussed the proposed Moscow project with the president. Trump responded to the plea deal by calling his former lawyer “weak” — and said that he was just looking for reduced time.

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Connor D. Wolf covers Congress and national politics and can be reached at [email protected].