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Michael Cohen: I’ll put my family before Trump

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“My wife, my daughter and my son have my first loyalty and always will,” Michael Cohen told “Good Morning America” host George Stephanopoulos in an interview published Monday. | Seth Wenig/AP Photo

Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s longtime personal attorney who has found himself at the center of multiple legal issues in recent months, told ABC News he will “put family and country,” ahead of any loyalty to the president.

“My wife, my daughter and my son have my first loyalty and always will,” Cohen told “Good Morning America” host George Stephanopoulos in an interview that broadcast on Monday. “I put family and country first.”

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Pressed by Stephanopoulos as to what he would do if prosecutors were to put him the position of choosing between defending the president or protecting his family, Cohen said his family is “my first priority.”

Cohen’s interview was his first since the FBI raided his office and residences last April, executing a warrant from the U.S. Attorney’s office in Manhattan, which had information referred to it from the office of special counsel Robert Mueller. Citing advice from his own attorney, Cohen declined to answer questions about matters that are the subject of current investigations.

Cohen is also named as a defendant in a lawsuit brought by adult film actress Stormy Daniels, who claims to have had a one-night sexual affair with Trump and is suing Cohen and the president to be released from a nondisclosure agreement related to it. That agreement, and the $130,000 payment to Daniels that it stipulated, were handled by Cohen, who previously claimed that Trump knew nothing about it and did not reimburse him for the money paid.

Asked whether the president was aware of the deal with Daniels, Cohen did not stick to his previous argument.

“I want to answer. One day I will answer,” he said. “But for now, I can’t comment further on advice of my counsel.”

The payment to Daniels, made in the weeks leading up to the 2016 presidential election, was not reported to the Federal Election Commission and could be considered an illegal campaign contribution.

The FBI raid against Cohen has prompted speculation that he might cooperate with federal prosecutors probing the Trump campaign and allegations that it colluded with the Russian government in 2016. In his interview with ABC News, Cohen said he would not tolerate any effort by the White House to discredit him.

“I will not be a punching bag as part of anyone’s defense strategy,” he said emphatically. “I am not a villain of this story, and I will not allow others to try to depict me that way.”

Cohen also broke with the president on his criticism of Mueller’s investigation — which Trump has labeled a “witch hunt” — and on his overall criticism of the FBI and Justice Department. The president’s longtime attorney and fixer told Stephanopoulos that “I don’t like the term witch hunt” and that “I don’t agree with those who demonize or vilify the FBI.”

He also condemned Russia for its efforts aimed at interfering in the 2016 presidential election, steps that the U.S. intelligence community has said the Kremlin took with the intention of aiding Trump’s campaign and hindering that of Democrat Hillary Clinton. Cohen’s comments were a sharp departure from Trump, who has been hesitant to criticize Russia for its efforts and has spoken warmly of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has repeatedly denied to Trump that his nation was involved in the 2016 election at all.

“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 said. “Simply accepting the denial of Mr. Putin is unsustainable.”

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