President Trump’s former lawyer and longtime “fixer” Michael Cohen has officially flipped.
Sources who spoke with ABC News Thursday afternoon said Cohen, who pleaded guilty to eight criminal charges in August, has spoken with Special Counsel Robert Mueller multiple times over the past month, for several hours each time. The sources said the men discussed topics including Trump’s financial and business dealings in Russia and collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials — the focus of Mueller’s ongoing investigation.
“Investigators were also interested in knowing…whether Trump or any of his associates discussed the possibility of a pardon with Cohen,” the outlet reported.
Cohen entered into a plea deal with prosecutors from the Southern District of New York last month over eight charges of tax evasion, bank fraud, and campaign finance violations, stemming from several payments he made in the run-up to the 2016 election to women who claim to have had affairs with Trump, in order to keep them quiet. At the time, Cohen testified to a judge that he had made the payments “at the direction of” an “unnamed candidate…for the purpose of influencing [the] election.” The unnamed candidate was presumed to be Trump.
Government cooperation was reportedly not a part of that plea deal, though Cohen’s lawyer, Lanny Davis, immediately told several news outlets that his client was ready to testify against Trump and would refuse a presidential pardon.
Since that time, Cohen has been working with both federal prosecutors in New York and Mueller’s team willingly.
According to the sources who spoke with ABC News, Cohen’s interviews with Mueller over the past month have so far been entirely voluntary, “without any guarantee of leniency from prosecutors.”
Davis praised his client’s willingness to cooperate in a tweet Thursday evening, effectively confirming ABC’s report.
“Good for @michaelcohen212 in providing critical information to the #muellerinvestigation without a cooperation agreement,” he wrote. “No one should question his honesty, veracity or loyalty to his #family and #country over @potus @realdonaldtrump.”
Good for @michaelcohen212 in providing critical information to the #muellerinvestigation without a cooperation agreement. No one should question his honesty, veracity or loyalty to his #family and #country over @potus @realdonaldtrump
— Lanny Davis (@LannyDavis) September 21, 2018
Trump has said previously that he believes “flipping,” or working with prosecutors in exchange for more lenient sentencing, should be “illegal.”
“You know… people make up stories,” Trump said, in an interview with Fox & Friends‘ Ainsley Earhardt last month. “This whole thing about flipping, they call it, I know all about flipping. Thirty, 40 years I have been watching flippers. Everything is wonderful and then they get 10 years in jail and they flip on whoever the next highest one is or as high as you can go. It almost ought to be outlawed.”
Speaking specifically of Cohen, he added, “If somebody defrauded a bank and he is going to get 10 years in jail or 20 years in jail, but… you can say something bad about Donald Trump and you will go down to two years or three years… most people are going to do that. And I have seen it many times. I have had many friends involved in this stuff. It’s called flipping and it almost ought to be illegal.”
Trump previously said in April that Cohen would not “flip” on him.
Cohen’s decision to work with Mueller comes at a tenuous moment for the president, as his former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, recently pleaded guilty to 10 criminal counts — including conspiracy against the United States and obstruction of justice — related to an earlier trial in Virginia, during which he was convicted on eight counts of financial fraud. He has agreed to cooperate with Mueller’s team in exchange for a lesser sentence.
Trump is also facing an investigation into his former charitable organization, the Trump Foundation, over allegations of financial fraud and additional campaign finance violations. Cohen is also cooperating with prosecutors in that probe.