Michael Cohen, the President's former fixer and ultimate loyalist, is sending a clear signal to President Donald Trump and his attorney, Rudy Giuliani, that "the truth is not you(r) or your client's friend," according to sources with knowledge of Cohen's thinking.
Two sources familiar with Cohen's thinking say he has "hit the reset button" and is continuing his commitment to speak the "real truth."
In particular, the same sources say Giuliani is wading into dangerous territory when he asks Cohen to "tell the truth" about the Trump Tower meeting with Donald Trump Jr. and Russian meddling in the election.
For the past year, Cohen has vehemently denied participating in or knowing about any collusion with Russia during the 2016 campaign. These new comments from sources close to Cohen suggest he might have information about Trump and others in the President's orbit to share with investigators, though Cohen hasn't publicly revealed any details yet.
Cohen believes that Giuliani and the President are trying to send him a message, a source familiar with Cohen's thinking said. Cohen feels the message is that if he crosses them, they will continue their "attacks" on his character and say that he is lying. Cohen is referring all inquiries to his attorney, Guy Petrillo.
These sources would not comment on whether Petrillo has been meeting with prosecutors in New York and referred inquiries about any potential case to Petrillo.
A source familiar with Cohen's thinking says that he will not be "a punching bag for anyone's defense strategy."
Cohen's team feels there is a strong parallel to John Dean, the former White House counsel to President Richard Nixon, who eventually stepped up and told the truth, not for his career or fear of going to jail, but to do the right thing, two sources close to Cohen said. According to those same sources, when Cohen hears from the Trump team that "if you're a good boy, you'll be fine," it's like what Nixon's White House tried to convey to Dean.
Dean pleaded guilty in October 1973 to conspiracy to obstruct justice in a deal with special prosecutor Archibald Cox in which Cox "promised not to prosecute Dean for any other Watergate‐related crime, reserving only the right to prosecute the lawyer for perjury," The New York Times reported at the time. After being fired earlier that year by Nixon, "(a)t that point and for months to come, the lawyer held out for a full grant of immunity from prosecution before he would agree to testify, saying he refused to be made the 'scapegoat.' The Senate gave him immunity from prosecution based on the use of his Senate testimony, but Mr. Cox held out, insisting on the bargain that Dean accepted," according to Times.
"I would tell Michael Cohen that if he is following my approach he will testify why Trump is unfit to be President of the United States," Dean told CNN. "That is what I did with Nixon for that is what I had concluded."
In television interviews Sunday, Giuliani expressed confidence that Cohen does not have any potentially incriminating information to share with prosecutors, saying he had "zero" worries.
"I do not expect that Michael Cohen is going to lie," Giuliani said on CNN's "State of the Union." "I think he's going to tell the truth, as best he can, given his recollection. And, if he does that, we're home-free."
Giuliani reiterated in a text to CNN Monday morning, "the truth will set you free. The President did nothing wrong with Michael Cohen. Everything has been a dead-end because there is nothing there."
Lanny Davis, Cohen's adviser, is declining to comment on any issue involving the investigation. One source adds that Cohen has not been informed which criminal charges he might be facing.
The sources made it clear that, in his interview with George Stephanopoulos to ABC last month, Cohen carefully chose the areas to distinguish himself from the President: First, one source said, "why did (Cohen) say I respect the FBI? ... Who has said the FBI is a corrupt institution? The President."
Next, Cohen spoke about the Trump Tower meeting, which both the President and Giuliani have claimed is a non-event, the source said. The question remains whether Cohen knows more about the meeting that could be of interest to prosecutors.
Cohen, in the interview, also specifically raised the point that he believes the intelligence communities over Trump.
"If you link them all together, you can see that Cohen is not anyone's punching bag," says one source. "He is exercising his discretion to send a direct message between the eyes to the President of the United States."
Cohen is saying, this source adds, that he is "no longer taking a bullet for you (Trump), no longer a flunky." It is, this source says, "his July 4th moment."
Cohen has been interviewed by Senate and House intelligence committees for about 15 hours and has turned over roughly 2 million documents to investigators, sources say.
This story is breaking and being updated.