Michael Cohen and Donald Trump appear to be officially on the outs. In fact, the man who once said he'd take a bullet for the president now appears to have flipped from Team Trump. And these
Cohen quotes about Trump show just how fast their relationship fizzled.
After more than a decade of serving as Trump's fixer and personal attorney — not to mention his devotion as a self proclaimed Trump loyalist — Cohen went public Tuesday with
a secret recording of a 2016 conversation he'd had with Trump. In the recording, which was provided to CNN's Cuomo Prime Time by Cohen's attorney Lanny Davis, Trump and Cohen are heard discussing a potential hush-money payment designed to bury a former Playboy model's allegations of an affair with the then-presidential candidate. (Trump has denied the affair ever happened, and his team similarly denied that a payment was ever made.)
While Cohen's decision to release this audio recording certainly marks his clear departure from Trump's camp, it was preceded by a few signs his once unwavering loyalty was... well, wavering. In the months since FBI investigators raided Cohen's homes and office, Trump's former attorney has increasingly expressed frustration and dismay at the
lack of support he's received from Trump.
Recently, Cohen has said his "first loyalty"
rests with his family and country, signaling that he may be willing to work with special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into allegations of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia's meddling in the 2016 election, which Trump has repeatedly denied. But just how did Cohen go from reportedly describing himself as "the sixth Trump child" to flipping on the president? These Cohen quotes show the lawyer's relationship with Trump isn't what it used to be. Yana Paskova/Getty Images News/Getty Images
In 2015, then-Daily Beast reporter Tim Mak was verbally threatened by Cohen after reaching out to the Trump campaign for comment regarding reports Trump's first wife, Ivana, had said Trump raped her. (Trump denies this, and Ivana has retracted her claim.)
"Mark my words for it, I will make sure that you and I meet one day over in the courthouse and I will take you for every penny you still don't have, and I will come after your Daily Beast and everybody else that you possibly know," Cohen can be heard saying in
a recording of his call with Mak. "Do not even think about going where I know you're planning on going."
Cohen refused to give Mak a statement on Ivana's claim, maintaining there was "no story" and continued to attempt to intimidate him. According to Mak,
Cohen's threats went on. "You write a story that has Mr. Trump's name in it with the word 'rape,' and I'm going to mess your life up," Mak quoted Cohen as having said. "For as long as you're on this frickin' planet… you're going to have judgments against you, so much money, you'll never know how to get out from underneath it."
"I Wish I Were There...To Protect Him"
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In September 2017, Cohen expressed dismay about having been left behind in New York following Trump's election victory and subsequent move to the White House
in an interview with Vanity Fair reporter Emily Jane Fox. "At times I wish I were there in D.C. more, sitting with him in the Oval Office like we used to at Trump Tower, to protect him," Cohen said. "I feel guilty that he's in there right now almost alone."
Cohen went on to claim that "high-ranking individuals" had made "a concerted effort" to keep Trump loyalists like him out of Washington, D.C. and the White House.
"One Man Who Wants To Do So Much Good...Needs Support"
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Vanity Fair, Cohen appeared to get emotional when discussing what he characterized as Trump's need for his — and other Trump loyalists' — support. "One man who wants to do so much good with so many detractors against him needs support," Cohen said in that same interview.
"There's No Money In The World That Could Get Me To Disclose Anything"
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"There's no money in the world that could get me to disclose anything about them," Cohen told
Vanity Fair in reference to a tell-all book deal about the Trumps he claimed he was offered near the end of the 2016 election. Cohen claimed he was initially offered $10 million but attempted to negotiate for $100 million because he "just wanted to see how high I could get them up and then say no."
"I'm The Guy Who Would Take A Bullet For The President"
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Perhaps no Cohen quote is as infamous as his claim he'd take a bullet for Trump. "I'm the guy who stops the leaks," Cohen said in his
Vanity Fair interview. "I'm the guy who protects the president and the family. I'm the guy who would take a bullet for the president." Joe Raedle/Getty Images News/Getty Images
Cohen reportedly described himself as "the sixth Trump child" while speaking with
Vanity Fair, and noted that his protection of the Trump family looked a lot like family loyalty. "The same way that you'd protect a sibling is the same way that I'd protect the children," he said. "The same way that I'd protect your parents is the same way that I'd protect the president and Melania." Yana Paskova/Getty Images News/Getty Images
When asked if there might ever come a point when he would sever his ties with Trump — Cohen had claimed his association with the president sometimes resulted in criticism and negative attention on his family — Cohen remained adamant that
his loyalty was unwavering, saying "I'd never walk away." Cohen's loyalty to Trump appeared to still be intact in March when he defended himself against Stormy Daniels' claim that he threatened her in comments to Vanity Fair. Cohen also reiterated his support and loyalty to the Trump family in that interview. "I truly care about him and the family — more than just as an employee and an attorney," Cohen said in reference to Trump.
But less than six months later, it appeared as if Cohen was already having a change of heart. "My wife, my daughter and my son have my first loyalty and always will," he told ABC News in early July during
his first in-depth interview since his home and office were raided by the FBI. "I put family and country first."
According to ABC News, Cohen "strongly signaled his willingness to cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller... even if that puts President Trump in jeopardy."
"I Will Not Be A Punching Bag"
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Cohen also said he wouldn't stand to be made a scapegoat. "I will not be a punching bag as part of anyone's defense strategy," Cohen told ABC News when asked how he'd respond
if Trump attempted to discredit him. "I am not a villain of this story, and I will not allow others to try to depict me that way."
"I Would Call On All Americans To Do The Same"
Cohen has also begun to distance himself from some of Trump's more controversial opinions. "I don't agree with those who demonize or vilify the FBI. I respect the FBI as an institution, as well as their agents," he told ABC News before also
refusing to criticize Mueller's investigation into Russian election meddling.
"I don’t like the term witch hunt," Cohen said, striking a markedly
different tone than President Trump has. "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."
"Accepting The Denial Of Mr. Putin Is Unsustainable"
Cohen also spoke out directly against
Trump's tweeted support of Russia's denial of election meddling, telling ABC News "Simply accepting the denial of Mr. Putin is unsustainable." Trump's former personal attorney went on to say he respected U.S. intelligence agencies' "unanimous conclusions" on Russian meddling.
He Thinks Donald Jr.'s Trump Tower Meeting Was "A Mistake"
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In his interview with ABC News, Cohen called Donald Trump Jr.'s meeting with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, who had reportedly promised to pass along damaging information about then-Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton
a mistake. "I believe it was a mistake by those from the Trump campaign who did participate," he said of the meeting. "It was simply an example of poor judgment."
Along with dropping his secretly-recorded audio tape,
Cohen also reportedly alleged this week that Trump did in fact have advance knowledge of Donald Jr.'s meeting with Veselnitskaya. According to CNN, Cohen has claimed he was present when Trump was not only told about the Russians' offer to meet and dish dirt on Clinton, but also approved his son's plans to go ahead with the meeting. Trump has maintained that he did not know of Donald Jr.'s June 2016 meeting until more than a year after it had happened.
But Trump may be in trouble as, according to CNN, Cohen appeared willing to discuss his assertion with Mueller, proving Trump's former attorney may no longer feel any loyalty to the president.