Trump says Michael Cohen won't flip. Those close to him aren't so sure.
President Donald Trump said Saturday that he doesn't think Michael Cohen, his embattled lawyer, will turn on him despite an FBI raid on Cohen's offices and ongoing legal battles.
In a series of tweets, Trump claimed some sections of the media are "going out of their way to destroy Michael Cohen and his relationship with me in the hope that he will 'flip,'" but expressed confidence that his longtime personal attorney would stand by him.
FBI agents raided Cohen's office, hotel and residence recently in search of information about payments made to adult film star Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal, according to people familiar with the investigation but not authorized to discuss it publicly.
The search warrants also sought bank records, records on Cohen's dealings in the taxi industry and his communications with the Trump campaign, the sources said.
The specific focus of the investigation and possible federal crimes have not been disclosed by the U.S. attorney’s office, but in a filing last Friday they did confirm that the investigation that led them to raid Cohen's offices "largely centers on his personal business dealings" and has been going on for months.
Cohen, 51, has denied wrongdoing. Trump has blasted the raid, calling it "an attack on our country" while reiterating his view that special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election is a "witch hunt" and a "disgrace."
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Amid growing speculation that the White House was concerned Cohen could be persuaded to cooperate with federal prosecutors, NBC News spoke to five sources close to Cohen and Trump this week.
They conveyed a general concern that if confronted with the prospect of jail time — and with the White House seemingly distancing the president from his attorney — Cohen would not remain loyal to the man he once said he'd take a bullet for.
One individual, who's worked closely with Cohen for 10 years, said that "Michael might believe he won't flip on the president but he will."
"It's one thing to be loyal when you're taking shots in the press," the individual continued. "It is another thing to be loyal to a guy who hasn't been loyal to you when it's going to ruin your family."
Those who spoke to NBC News also relayed a broader fear that the ongoing criminal investigation into Cohen by prosecutors from New York's Southern District is ultimately designed as a way to get to Trump.
One staffer, asked whether the White House is concerned Cohen will flip, said "Of course! Just look at how they're portraying him. They're trying to make him look like Paul Manafort. Some low level staffer..."
Asked whether the president himself was worried, the staffer added that "He's worried about attorney client privilege" and said Cohen had likely acted as more of an informal adviser than a lawyer.
Not everyone NBC News spoke to was quite so concerned, however. "What's he flipping on?" one source close to the president asked. "The Trump org is a business not the mob," they added. "It's ridiculous."
NBC News requested comment from lawyers for Cohen and Trump but have not received a response.
On Wednesday, attorneys for Cohen asked a federal judge to appoint a so-called special master to decide which of Cohen’s merials seized by federal investigators can be viewed by prosecutors.
At a hearing Monday in the U.S. District Court in New York, Judge Kimba Wood denied Cohen’s request for a temporary restraining order to block the investigators from reviewing the materials seized from Cohen’s temporary residence and two office spaces during the raid.
Wood said she was open to having the materials reviewed by either a “filter team” or a special master.
The judge ordered Cohen’s attorneys and the government’s lawyers to recommend names to fill the role.
Meanwhile, a federal judge on Friday told lawyers for Cohen that he needs to file a declaration in court in order to delay a civil lawsuit filed by Daniels. The suit seeks to dissolve a confidentiality agreement preventing her from talking about an alleged affair with Trump.
Cohen sought to delay the civil case after the FBI raid and argued that because the allegations in the lawsuit overlap with the criminal investigation, his civil rights "may be adversely affected if this case proceeds."
Daniels' attorney, Michael Avenatti, objected to the requested delay and said he was pleased with the outcome of the hearing.
Avenatti said outside court it was "clear to me Michael Cohen and the president do not want to publicly state" that Cohen intends to invoke the Fifth Amendment.
Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, has offered to return the $130,000 she was given days before the 2016 presidential election so she can "set the record straight."
Trump spoke publicly about Daniels case for the first time earlier this month, saying he was not aware of the payment made by Cohen to the porn actress just days before he was elected. The president also said he did not know where the $130,000 came from. Cohen has said it came out of his own pocket.