From Trump’s protector to enemy Michael Cohen’s extraordinary transformation

Last week, Cohen’s adviser Lanny Davis disclosed that the 52-year-old had changed his party registration back to Democrat. A source told CNN this week that Cohen is willing to hit the campaign trail and donor circuit to fight Trump, and publicly call out anything he considered to be lies from the President. And since pleading guilty to multiple criminal counts over the summer, Cohen has been in contact with a range of investigators, including from special counsel Robert Mueller’s office — no doubt an effort to try to receive a lighter prison sentence.

In an interview with the Associated Press on Tuesday, the President derided Cohen as a "low level" PR person who did "very small legal work" for him. Trump also outright accused Cohen of having lied under oath in August when he told a federal judge that it was at Trump’s direction that he facilitated hush agreements for women who alleged to have had affairs with the President.

Cohen pleaded guilty in a Manhattan federal court to eight criminal counts in August, including tax evasion, making false statements to a bank and campaign finance violations. He admitted that "in coordination and at the direction of a candidate for federal office" — Trump — he kept information that could have harmed the President from becoming public during the 2016 election.

While the tax evasion and false statement charges were rooted in Cohen’s taxi medallion business, the campaign finance charges were directly related to his work for Trump — specifically, payments Cohen made or helped orchestrate that were designed to silence adult film star Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal. Trump has denied having affairs with both women.

In addition, Cohen and his attorney met Wednesday with federal prosecutors from the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York and with officials from the New York Attorney General’s office, according to people familiar with the matter. Both of those offices are continuing to investigate various aspects of Trump’s family business and charitable organization, CNN has reported.

Cohen and his attorney Guy Petrillo have met with investigators and lawyers at the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance, according to a department spokesman. That office, CNN has reported, is conducting an inquiry into possible tax fraud at the Trump Organization based on evidence included in the August charges against Cohen from federal prosecutors. It is also examining whether the company kept accurate books and records, as the failure to do so is a state crime.

In a dramatic set of raids in the spring, investigators collected millions of documents, recordings and data from Cohen‘s home, hotel room and office. They included audio files that Cohen secretly made of his private conversations with Trump. The surreptitious recordings were particularly striking given the fact that Cohen made a name for himself over the years as Trump’s most strident defender and loyalist.

For Trump, who famously values loyalty above all else and is wary of trusting even those in his inner-most circle, Cohen‘s evolution epitomizes the ultimate betrayal. And for Cohen, who is looking at the daunting possibility of jail time, turning his back on the President is likely the only feasible way to protect his family and salvage his reputation.