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Ex-fixer Michael Cohen won't be Donald Trump's loyalty oaf

Michael Cohen, seen here on June 15, said

Michael Cohen, seen here on June 15, said during an ABC News interview broadcast on Monday that his first loyalty is to his family and the country. Photo Credit: AFP / Getty Images / Timothy A. Clary

Cohen of silence no more

Michael Cohen hasn’t deleted the tweet. On April 8, he posted a quote from author Joyce Maynard — “A person who deserves my loyalty receives it” — and wrote “I will always protect our @POTUS @realDonaldTrump." The next day, the FBI raided his office and hotel room.

Staring down the barrel of a federal criminal investigation, faced with daunting legal fees, and hearing the White House downgrade his past relationship with Trump — who used to call him “my attorney” — to merely one among many hired legal guns, Cohen has been taking the measure of loyalty given to and gotten from his “patriarch” and “mentor.

Cohen told ABC News said that if faced with the choice between protecting Trump or protecting his family, “My wife, my daughter and my son have my first loyalty and always will. I put family and country first.”

In an off-camera interview reported on-air by ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, Cohen hinted broadly at willingness to cooperate with federal prosecutors who are currently examining his work on behalf of Trump, including the $130,000 hush-money payoff he arranged for porn star Stormy Daniels to stop her from telling her story before the 2016 election of a tryst with the future president.

If Trump or his team tries to discredit him, Cohen warned, “I will not be a punching bag as part of anyone’s defense strategy.” For more, see Newsday’s story by Laura Figueroa Hernandez.

Not his former master’s voice

Cohen further signaled his new distance from Trump by embracing views on the Russia investigation and the investigators that are very much at odds with the president’s line.

“I don’t agree with those who demonize or vilify the FBI,” Cohen said.

“I don’t like the term ‘witch hunt,’” he said.

Cohen, unlike Trump, said he believed Russia interfered in the election, and not Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s version of events.

“Simply accepting the denial of Mr. Putin is unsustainable,” Cohen said. “I respect our nation’s intelligence agencies’ ... unanimous conclusions.” Moreover, “As an American, I repudiate Russia’s or any other foreign government’s attempt to interfere or meddle in our democratic process, and I would call on all Americans to do the same.”

Cohen didn’t praise Trump once during the 45-minute conversation, Stephanopolous said.

Janison: So what’s he got?

Cohen didn’t open up on just what, if anything, he has on Trump that could be of interest to federal prosecutors, nor which ones. Is it the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office that is investigating Cohen or special counsel Robert Mueller, or both?

If speculation has gone into overdrive, it’s because there are so many possibilities, including the Stormy Daniels payoff, business dealings with Russian interests on Trump’s behalf and the movements of money. See Dan Janison’s column for Newsday.

Two amigos

Mexico has elected a new, leftist president — Andres Manuel López Obrador — and so far, he and Trump are getting along just fine.

They spoke on the phone for a half-hour Monday, and Trump said,  "I think the relationship will be a very good one." López Obrador said, "We are going to extend our frank hand to seek a relation of friendship ... of cooperation with the United States."

It's an open question whether the good feeling can even last until the president-elect is inaugurated Dec. 1. Trump persistently rips Mexico over NAFTA and migrant crossings, and has demanded it pay for a border wall. López Obrador has called Trump "erratic and arrogant" and compared his remarks about Mexicans to the way Nazis talked about Jews.

Casting call

Trump met with four potential Supreme Court nominees at the White House on Monday and said he will likely interview “two or three” more candidates before announcing his final pick on July 9 to replace retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy. He didn't name them.

As Senate Democrats began a campaign to oppose the potential contenders, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced the White House has assembled a team of aides led by White House Counsel Don McGahn to see the nominee through the Senate confirmation process. McGahn performed the same role for last year's confirmation of Justice Neil Gorsuch.

Judge sides with asylum seekers

A federal judge in Washington on Monday determined the U.S. government is violating its own rules regarding the treatment of people seeking asylum.

A preliminary injunction from Judge James Boasberg orders ICE to stop what opponents called the arbitrary detention of legitimate asylum seekers. The case in question continues, but the injunction opens up yet another legal front in the multidirectional battle being waged by the Trump administration over immigration.

On the matter of children separated from families and held — before Trump declared a reversal of policy — Newsday's Edward Colby made an unavailing effort to get an official number of how many of the 2,047 tallied last Tuesday remain in HHS custody. 

Oh baby, that's so political! 

Ryan Fournier, a political commentator who has led Students for Trump, raises an interesting question on Twitter: Why is Walmart selling baby clothes with the message "Impeach 45" on them?

Fournier cited one example. The chain's web site offered for $16.95 a soft white baby one-piece that looks at first glance like the back of a baseball jersey with the number 45 large and centered and the word "impeach" above it, where a player's name might appear. Sweatshirts like it from various manufacturers were also available with the old Trump "Apprentice" show slogan "You're fired!"

Some wanted a boycott. But as Fortune points out, the company also sells a lot of pro-Trump merchandise including "Make America Great Again" hats. As of midday the baby one-piece had been removed. 

What else is happening:

  • Private prison companies are seeing a potential boom in federal business as the Trump administration seeks to expand the number of beds in immigrant detention centers by 12,000, The Wall Street Journal reports.
  • Administration officials hope a second round of talks between Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un can be held in New York in September during the annual UN General Assembly meetings, Axios reported. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is due to leave for Pyongyang on Thursday to see Kim.
  • Stormy Daniels' lawyer, Michael Avenatti, has a new client — comedian John Melendez, who said the Secret Service came knocking on his door after his prank call was put through to Trump aboard Air Force One last week.
  • A Quinnipiac poll found voters, by a 2 to 1 margin, agree with the Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that established the right of women to seek an abortion.
  • The poll also found a huge gender gap in voter preference for the midterm elections, with Republicans trailing Democrats by 24 points among women, while leading by 8 points with men. Overall, Democrats held a 50%-41% advantage.

 

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