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Michael Cohen says family, country 'have my first loyalty.' What about Trump?

The president's former longtime personal attorney spoke to ABC News amid a federal investigation into his business dealings.
Image: U.S. President Donald Trump's personal lawyer Michael Cohen arrives at his hotel in New York City on June 20, 2018.
President Donald Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen in New York on June 20.Brendan McDermid / Reuters file

President Donald Trump's former longtime personal attorney Michael Cohen told ABC News in an interview that aired Monday that his loyalties are with family and country — and he didn't mention the president.

"To be crystal clear, my wife, my daughter and my son, and this country have my first loyalty," Cohen said, when pressed on past comments that he'd take a bullet for the president on "Good Morning America."

"I will not be a punching bag as part of anyone's defense strategy," Cohen told ABC News' George Stephanopoulos. "I am not a villain of this story, and I will not allow others to try to depict me that way."

The president's former attorney has previously said he'd "do anything" for the president, but in the interview, which was not on camera, he took a different tone on the investigation Trump has called a "witch hunt."

"I don't agree with those who demonize or vilify the FBI," Cohen said. “When they searched my hotel room and my home, it was obviously upsetting to me and my family. Nonetheless, the agents were respectful, courteous and professional. I thanked them for their service and as they left, we shook hands."

Last month, Trump said Cohen was no longer his personal attorney. "No, he's not my lawyer anymore, but I always liked Michael. And he's a good person," Trump told reporters.

Cohen also said he was not involved in any Russian meddling into the 2016 election.

The lawyer was ensnared in a federal investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election earlier this year, when FBI agents raided his office and hotel room after receiving a referral from special counsel Robert Mueller III. The raid seized documents related to several issues, including a payment made to a pornographic actress known as Stormy Daniels, who has claimed she had a sexual relationship with Trump years ago. The White House has denied her claim.

Cohen has not been charged with a crime; he was recently interviewed by the Senate and House committees investigating the matter.

Cohen also broke with his past statement that he paid off Stormy Daniels of his own initiative, refusing to answer ABC on whether the president directed him to make the payment or promised reimbursement.

"I want to answer. One day I will answer," Cohen said. "But for now, I can't comment further on advice of my counsel."

The president has also said he didn't think Cohen would cooperate with federal authorities.

"Most people will flip if the Government lets them out of trouble," Trump tweeted in April. "Sorry, I don't see Michael doing that."

Michael Avenatti, Stormy Daniels' attorney, tweeted Monday that Cohen is "trying to get Trump to pay his legal bills & is playing games" by doing the interview.

"If he has info & truly loves this country then he needs to come forward NOW. There is nothing stopping him. If not, it will be obvious he lied to the public in an effort to paint himself as a good guy," Avenatti said.

Cohen recently changed attorneys, retaining former federal prosecutor Guy Petrillo, splitting with lawyers obtained in a partnership with the president's attorneys, according to ABC News.

In recent days, Cohen has seemingly sought to clear his name. On Thursday, he tweeted that he wasn’t involved in Russian collusion and he was "owed an apology." He also seemed to revel in the media attention; he tweeted on Sunday that his "silence was broken!"

The interview, he told ABC News, was a step towards "resolution."

“I want to regain my name and my reputation and my life back," he said.