ABC started off Friday’s Good Morning America playing clips from their exclusive interview with President Trump’s ex-lawyer Michael Cohen, who was sentenced to three years in prison this week for lying to Congress about Trump’s business dealings with Russia and for directing hush money payments to Trump’s alleged former mistresses Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, before the 2016 election.
Despite his dishonest reputation, Cohen was treated like a hero by ABC anchor George Stephanopoulos, who praised him for his “honesty” while inviting him to bash the president.
In the first excerpt, Stephanopoulos repeatedly asked Cohen to hammer home how Trump “lied” about these things to influence the 2016 election, which Cohen happily obliged to. The only real pushback he gave Cohen was one question, where he asked,
“So what do you say to people and, you know, there are a lot of people watching who are going to be thinking, ‘but, wait a second, he lied for so long. Why should we believe him now?’”
That question was out of character from the rest of the interview, where Stephanopoulos gives Cohen ample room to bash Trump, with questions like:
Do you think President Trump is telling the truth about that [Russia]?
If he were sitting in this chair what would you say to him?
How does this end for Donald Trump?
Why do you think President Trump is lashing out against you in such a personal way daily almost now calling you weak, calling you a liar? Is he afraid?
Stephanopoulos also sympathized with Cohen, gushing that he was a changed man:
When you look back at the Michael Cohen who spent ten years with Donald Trump, what would you say to him on that first day?
Was yesterday the hardest day of your life or is that going too far?
...Yet you feel you've turned a corner.
To his co-anchors, Stephanopoulos praised Cohen’s “honesty” in implicating Trump.
He’s very honest there at the end. He wants to make amends, does not know exactly how to do it... I think he’s in a lot of pain right now. I think this has been painful for him, painful for his family and as he just said right there, to be on the wrong side of the President of the United States is something that most people don't go through and he just feels he has to get his side of the story out.
He added of Cohen, "I think he has been on something of a journey...to make amends."
Read the partial transcript below:
Good Morning America
STEPHANOPOULOS: You worked for him for a long time. I was around you many, many years ago where you seemed to be having fun.
COHEN: There was a lot of fun going on at the Trump organization.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Working with Donald Trump.
COHEN: I enjoyed working with my colleagues there as well.
STEPHANOPOULOS: When did it change?
COHEN: You know, I can't give you a specific time that it went from point a to point B. It was just a change. I will tell you that the gentleman that is sitting now in the Oval Office, 1600 Pennsylvania avenue, is not the Donald Trump that I remember from Trump Tower. He's a very different individual.
STEPHANOPOULOS: What's happened to him?
COHEN: I think the pressure of the job is much more than what he thought it was going to be. It's not like the Trump organization where he would bark out orders and people would blindly follow what he wanted done. There's a system here. He doesn't understand the system. And it's sad because the country has never been more divisive and one of the hopes that I have out of the punishment that I've received as well as the cooperation that I have given, I will be remembered in history as helping to bring this country back together.
STEPHANOPOULOS: The special counsel did say that you were doing your best to tell the truth about everything related to their investigation, everything related to Russia. Do you think President Trump is telling the truth about that?
STEPHANOPOULOS: That’s a big statement. If he were sitting in this chair what would you say to him?
COHEN: Lay off Twitter. Run the country the way that we all thought that you would. Be able to take the Democrats, Republicans, bring them together and bring the country together instead of dividing the country.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You think he has ears to hear that?
COHEN: I don't know. I don't think so.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Was yesterday the hardest day of your life or is that going too far?
COHEN: It's an understatement.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Yet you feel you've turned a corner.
COHEN: I know I have.
STEPHANOPOULOS: When you look back at the Michael Cohen who spent ten years with Donald Trump, what would you say to him on that first day?
COHEN: What were you thinking? You knew better. You know better.
STEPHANOPOULOS: How does this end for Donald Trump?
COHEN:You know, that sort of gets into the whole investigation right now between the special counsel's office, the attorney general's office. You also have the southern district of New York. I don't want to jeopardize any of their investigations.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You're still cooperating?
COHEN: If they want me, I'm here and I'm willing to answer whatever additional questions that they may have for me.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Right, but you're saying there are certain areas you can't get into because you're still cooperating with them?
COHEN: Correct. And out of respect for process.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Why do you think president Trump is lashing out against you in such a personal way daily almost now calling you weak, calling you a liar? Is he afraid?
COHEN: Seems like it. That's what he does. That's what he does.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Are you afraid of him?
COHEN: It's never good to be on the wrong side of the President of the United States of America, but somehow or another this task has now fallen onto my shoulders and as I also stated, I will spend the rest of my life in order to fix the mistake that I made.
STEPHANOPOULOS: How are you going to do that?
COHEN: I don't know. One day at a time.
STEPHANOPOULOS: He’s very honest there at the end. He wants to make amends, does not know exactly how to do it.
CECILIA VEGA: Is that do you think why he's talking right now?
STEPHANOPOULOS: I think that’s part of it. I think he’s in a lot of pain right now. I think this has been painful for him, painful for his family and as he just said right there, to be on the wrong side of the President of the United States is something that most people don't go through and he just feels he has to get his side of the story out.
VEGA: To hear him say Trump is not telling the truth on Russia is a very big deal.