Trump attorney Cohen overshadows Mueller probe

President TrumpDonald John TrumpAl Gore: Trump has had 'less of an impact on environment so far than I feared' Trump claims tapes of him saying the 'n-word' don't exist Trump wanted to require staffers to get permission before writing books: report MORE’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, overshadowed much of the conversation surrounding Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE's investigation on Sunday, as Trump’s legal team reportedly prepares for Cohen to cooperate with federal investigators.

Political analysts note that there is likely incredible pressure on Cohen, who the The New York Times also reported has been the target of Trump's criticism for years.

Trump on Saturday insisted Cohen will remain loyal to him even after the FBI raided the lawyer’s office, home and hotel room earlier this month.

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“The New York Times and a third rate reporter named Maggie Haberman, known as a Crooked H flunkie who I don’t speak to and have nothing to do with, are going out of their way to destroy Michael Cohen and his relationship with me in the hope that he will ‘flip,’ ” the president wrote on Twitter, referring to the Times story reporting that Trump’s lawyers are gearing up for Cohen to cooperate with authorities.

“Sorry, I don’t see Michael doing that despite the horrible Witch Hunt and the dishonest media!” Trump added. Trump often refers to Mueller's probe as a "witch hunt." Mueller's investigation encompasses Russia's election interference but has a wide scope to include Trump associates and business matters.

"It's hard to imagine that in his complicated financial history there aren't some places where lines have been crossed," GOP strategist and ABC News contributor Alex Castellanos said Sunday on ABC's "This Week," referring to the president. "Imagine those things locked up in Michael Cohen's vault now on a tasty plate that Robert Mueller serves up to a Democratic House next year. This is serious."

Attorney Alan Dershowitz in a Sunday interview also on “This Week" said he doesn’t know if Cohen will “flip” on Trump, but noted the “enormous abilities” prosecutors have to pressure witnesses. 

"I think it's very hard not to flip when they're threatening you with long, long imprisonment. But I don't think we know the answer to that question. I don't know enough about Michael Cohen,” Dershowitz, who is also an opinion contributor to The Hill, said.

It is not clear how key a role Cohen plays in Mueller's investigation. Bloomberg reported that court documents show his business dealings have been the target of a federal criminal probe for months, but the search of his property partly resulted from a referral by Mueller. 

Republican Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsSenate Judiciary announces Kavanaugh's confirmation hearing NRA will spend M to support Kavanaugh for Supreme Court: report Planned Parenthood launches six-figure Supreme Court ad campaign MORE (R-Maine), who sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is conducting an investigation into Russia's election interference, noted that the Justice Department rather than special counsel Mueller has been handling accusations against Cohen.

“But let me just say that I don’t see him as being a central figure in this,” Collins told NBC’s “Meet the Press" of Cohen.

“The fact that the special counsel referred the allegations against Mr. Cohen back to the Justice Department and was referred to a U.S. attorney suggests to me that it is not intimately connected to the Russia probe," she said.

But the president has continued to connect the two issues. Trump responded to the news of the raid, in part, by criticizing Mueller.

White House counselor Kellyanne ConwayKellyanne Elizabeth ConwayTrump claims tapes of him saying the 'n-word' don't exist Trump wanted to require staffers to get permission before writing books: report The Memo: Omarosa fury shows no signs of cooling MORE said Sunday that Trump's "concern has been for Michael Cohen and the way he has been treated."

Conway argued it’s “completely not true” that Trump is only loyal to himself, as was alleged in the Times story.

“He stands up for people in his inner circle and people he knows when he thinks they are being treated unfairly,” Conway told CNN’s “State of the Union" of the president.

“And he's done it again and again," she said. "He shows a great sense of loyalty to people whom he thinks [are] being treated unfairly.” 

Ahead of the raids, Cohen was already in the spotlight for his connection to another scandal swirling around Trump. The president’s longtime personal attorney admitted he paid adult-film star Stormy Daniels $130,000 ahead of the 2016 presidential election.

Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, has said the payment was meant to purchase her silence about an alleged affair with Trump.

The FBI in its raid on Cohen’s office and hotel room earlier this month reportedly seized evidence related to his payment to Daniels. Cohen's own legal team is seeking a delay of a hearing for Daniels's lawsuit regarding the nondisclosure agreement, due to the concurrent FBI investigation into Cohen.

They have also sought to suppress the release of evidence seized in the raid, citing attorney-client privilege, according to CNN, causing some Trump opponents to speculate the evidence is damaging to the president.

Dershowitz, who has repeatedly defended Trump during the course of the special counsel’s probe into Russia's election meddling and any potential ties between Trump campaign staff members and Moscow, said the current legal pressure on Cohen likely indicates “an epic battle for” the Trump confidant’s “soul and cooperation.”

“They can threaten [him] essentially with life imprisonment. They can threaten his parents. They can threaten his spouse,” warned Dershowitz. “They have these enormous abilities to really put pressure and coerce a witness.”