Michael Cohen has recently told friends that he is pessimistic that President Donald Trump will offer him a pardon – one more indication that Cohen does not believe his former boss will have his back.
In a phone call with a friend several days before he was interviewed by ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos last weekend, Cohen – who was Trump’s personal attorney for years and is currently under criminal investigation in New York – said he did not believe Trump would wipe his slate clean using the presidential pardon. Cohen has not been charged with any wrongdoing.
“I brought up the pardon, and he said, ‘I don’t think so. I just don’t think so,’” Cohen’s friend told CNN. “He’s certain in his mind that he has been dismissed.”
According to the friend, Cohen also said: “I don’t know what to think any more.”
A second friend who is in frequent touch with Cohen also told CNN that they have discussed the possibility of a pardon, and that it is clear that Cohen is not “counting on it.”
“His mindset is of someone who is operating under the assumption that he is not getting that, though of course he doesn’t know one way or the other,” the second friend said.
Cohen’s pessimism about Trump potentially offering him a pardon comes amid questions about Cohen’s mindset as he awaits a potential indictment in the ongoing criminal investigation in the Southern District of New York. In the recent interview with ABC News, Cohen stressed his loyalty to his own family and the country before Trump, sparking furious debate about whether that was meant to be a signal that he was ready to turn on Trump or a plea for a presidential pardon.
According to the first friend, Cohen reiterated in their phone conversation how deeply concerned he is about his family, his livelihood and his future. Cohen did not mention to this friend at the time that he would be breaking his silence and giving an interview to Stephanopoulos, but the friend noted that he was not surprised because Cohen has been “chomping at the bit to speak out” for months now.
“Being quiet is just not in his nature,” the friend said, adding that Cohen has so far been going against his “natural instincts” by laying low. “This is the one time in life you better just shut up and listen to his lawyers.”
But by doing the interview off-camera and staying largely away from specific details of the criminal investigation, the friend believes Cohen found a way to play defense.
Speaking out for in his first extended interview in months, Cohen told Stephanopoulos that he would put his loyalty to “family and country” before loyalty to Trump.
“My wife, my daughter and my son have my first loyalty and always will,” Cohen said. “I put family and country first.”
The comments marked a notable contrast from Cohen’s previous statements about Trump. The self-described “fixer” for Trump once said that he would take a “bullet” for his boss and often emphasized his loyalty to the President. The public remarks also raised questions about whether Cohen was trying to signal that he would be willing to turn his back on Trump and cooperate with authorities. It is not yet clear whether investigators would be willing to offer Cohen a deal.
This week, Cohen removed the description of “personal attorney to President Donald J. Trump” from his Twitter and LinkedIn profiles.
On Thursday, attorney Lanny Davis, who worked as a special counsel for then-President Bill Clinton in the late 1990s, joined Cohen’s team.
“Like most of America, I have been following the matter regarding Michael Cohen with great interest. As an attorney, I have talked to Michael many times in the last two weeks. Then I read his words published on July 2, and I recognized his sincerity,” Davis said in a statement. “Michael Cohen deserves to tell his side of the story - subject, of course, to the advice of counsel.”