Donald Trumps former personal lawyer has told an interviewer that his first allegiance is to his family. Is he about to change tack?

After months of stillnes, Michael Cohen, the former personal lawyer to Donald Trump who is the target of a multifaceted federal criminal investigation, sat for an interview with ABC News that was published on Monday morning.

Cohen revealed that his allegiance to Trump is perhaps not as absolute as it has previously seemed.

Cohen has said he would” take a bullet” for Trump and “grab” anyone who attacked Trump” by the neck “.

But in fact, he told interviewer George Stephanopoulos:” My wife, my daughter and my son have my first loyalty and always will. I set family and country first .”

What does Cohen's apparent change of heart entail, for him and for Trump? Here are the key questions 😛 TAGEND

Is Cohen' flipping ‘?

Potential witnesses are said to “flip” when they go from being targets of a criminal investigation to entering some kind of deal with prosecutors in which they agree to cooperate in exchange for a reduction in charges or sentencing.

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There are signs Cohen is actively attempting such a deal, significantly including his recent hire of a new lawyer, Guy Petrillo, formerly a federal prosecutor in the Southern District of New York( SDNY ), the office currently prosecuting Cohen. Petrillo's relationships with SDNY prosecutors could hasten a deal.

” Once I understand what charges might be filed against me, if any at all, I will defer to my new counseling, Guy Petrillo, for guidance ,” Cohen told ABC.

How bad would that be for Trump?

If Cohen reachings a deal with attorneys, the consequences could be serious for Trump and his family on multiple fronts. As a vice-president in the Trump Organization who worked closely with Trump for a decade, Cohen was entrusted with delicate undertakings including promoting real estate deals in Russia and coordinating payoffs for women who claimed to have had affairs with Trump. The chairman denies all wrongdoing and has denied multiple affairs.

Trump and three of his children- Ivanka, Don Jr and Eric- have also been accused by the New York state attorney general of contravening charity laws in the operation of the Trump Foundation. Cohen is likely to know a lot about how the foundation worked. Trump has denied wrongdoing and called the lawsuit a Democratic make chore.

But the prosecutor for whom Cohen may be most valuable is the special counsel, Robert Mueller, who is investigating ties between the Trump campaign and Moscow. Cohen has close personal ties to Ukrainian and Russian immigrants and managed communications between the Trump Organization and Russian entities. Mueller might expect Cohen to be able to testify, for example, about whether anyone in the Trump campaign ever fostered foreign nationals linked to Russian hackers to publicize emails stolen from Hillary Clinton- conduct that could be criminal.

Trump has denied all knowledge of wrongdoing by his campaign and calls the Russia investigation a “witch-hunt”.

Cohen told Stephanopoulos:” I don't like the term witch-hunt. 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 .”

Is Cohen making a play for a forgivenes?

Trump's habit of stimulating seemingly spontaneous, high-profile forgiveness has led to speculation Cohen may be seeking the same. Among those whom Trump has pardoned in so far are the rightwing fireband Dinesh D'Souza; discriminatory Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio; and former Dick Cheney aide Lewis “Scooter” Libby.

There is, however, good reason to believe Cohen is not looking for a forgivenes. Legal analysts say gambling on a pardon would be a wild strategy for a lawyer of Petrillo's caliber and standing. And Cohen could face criminal charges brought by the country of New York or another state that Trump would be powerless to pardon, as the constitution states the president may merely pardon federal crimes. So a forgivenes might not keep Cohen out of prison.

Remind me why Cohen is in trouble?

Cohen has not been charged with a crime but his mansions, offices and electronic devices were raided on 9 April by FBI agents looking for evidence of suspected crimes including bank scam, wire hoax, tax fraud, campaign finance violations and possibly more.

One lead attorneys are seeking grew out of multiple suspicious activity reports filed by a bank that flagged big money flows into and out of a limited liability firm( LLC) Cohen set up just before the 2016 presidential election. Cohen employed the company, Essential Consultants, to send $130,000 to Stormy Daniels, a porn superstar who alleges an affair with Trump, among other pays.

The account was also used to receive hundreds of thousands of dollars from corporations seeking to improve access to the president. The potential charges carry maximum possible sentences of decades in prison. That is a price Cohen does not sound prepared to pay on behalf of his former employer.

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

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