NEW YORK — President Donald Trump's longtime personal lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen could be sending the White House yet another warning shot by adding a close friend of Bill and Hillary Clinton to his legal team.
Lanny Davis confirmed his hiring Thursday, saying in a statement that he and Cohen had talked "many times in the last two weeks" and that the former Trump confidant "deserves to tell his side of the story."
Cohen, who once boasted he would "take a bullet" for Trump, told ABC's George Stephanopoulos last weekend that he now puts "family and country first" and that protecting the president is not his priority.
Cohen, 51, even took his change of heart to Twitter, scrubbing mentions and photos from a profile that previously identified him as "Personal attorney to President Donald J. Trump."
"My wife, my daughter and my son have my first loyalty and always will," said Cohen in the off-camera interview reported on "Good Morning America" on Monday. "I put family and country first."
Davis said he was struck by Cohen's sincerity in the interview, his first since federal agents raided his home, office and hotel room in April as part of an investigation into his business dealings.
Among other things, investigators are looking into a $130,000 payment he handled as part of a confidentiality agreement with porn star Stormy Daniels, who says she had an affair with Trump in 2006. Trump denies that.
Davis and Cohen's other lawyer, former federal prosecutor Guy Petrillo, did not immediately respond to messages.
Davis, 72, was a special counsel to President Bill Clinton and regularly appeared on television to defend the Democrat during his 1998 impeachment.
He was a crisis manager for Martha Stewart in the wake of her stock scandal and Penn State University after its former football assistant coach Jerry Sandusky was arrested for molesting children.
By hiring Davis, Cohen could be signaling that he's done waiting for Trump's help and wants a skilled communicator on his team to temper the public relations fallout if he's indicted or cooperates, former Assistant U.S. Attorney Harry Sandick said.
"He has to prepare for the possibility that he could be charged," said Sandick, a white collar defense lawyer at the New York City law firm Patterson Belknap Webb and Tyler. "It would be foolish just to sit around and assume that the pardon is coming."
Davis said in his statement that he had been following Cohen's case with "great interest" and in May, before his hiring, suggested Trump fire personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani after Giuliani claimed the president had reimbursed Cohen for the Daniels payment.
Davis argued that Giuliani had become a "fact witness on a crucial question" about the context of the payment and should be questioned before a grand jury. Trump denied reimbursing Cohen and said Giuliani needed to "get his facts straight."
Cohen hasn't been charged.
He wouldn't tell Stephanopoulos if he would cooperate with prosecutors. But he also didn't to dampen such speculation, taking issue with some of Trump's criticisms of the special counsel's Russia investigation and even going out of his way to praise the FBI.
He repeated previous denials that he had any involvement with Russian attempts to interfere with the 2016 presidential election, but he refused to criticize the investigation led by former FBI Director Robert Mueller.
"I don't like the term 'witch hunt,'" Cohen was quoted as saying.
Cohen was Trump's self-described fixer and a key player in the Trump Organization for more than a decade, regularly berating reporters and threatening lawsuits against anyone who posed a challenge to his boss.
In a Fox News interview last year, Cohen declared: "I will do anything to protect Mr. Trump." He told Vanity Fair, "I'm the guy who would take a bullet for the president," adding, "I'd never walk away."