▶ Watch Video: Michael Cohen says “this is solely about accountability”

Ahead of former President Donald Trump’s upcoming arraignment on criminal charges, his ex-counsel and “fixer” Michael Cohen said in an interview that while the case is connected to a payment he made to an adult film star, he feels the charge or charges are about holding the former president “accountable.” 

“I’ve never said that it was about me. This is not what so many people want to make it look like,” Cohen told CBS News’ Robert Costa in an interview that aired on “Face the Nation.”  “‘Oh, it’s Michael Cohen’s vengeance against Donald Trump.’ That’s not what this is about. This is solely about accountability. I should not be held accountable for Donald Trump’s dirty deeds.”

“Let him be held accountable,” Cohen said. “Let those in his orbit that are truly accountable, like [former U.S. Attorney General] Bill Barr, right, who he used to weaponize the Justice Department against his critics. Let them be held accountable because it saves and it preserves democracy.”

Trump was indicted by a New York grand jury last week, becoming the first former president in U.S. history to be criminally charged. Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg has been investigating alleged falsified business records connected to a payment — a $130,000 wire transfer to adult film star Stormy Daniels — that Cohen arranged in exchange for her silence about an alleged affair with Trump. The charge or charges have not been revealed, although a source familiar with the investigation told CBS News on Saturday that there will be a felony charge. 

Former Trump attorney Michael Cohen.

CBS News

Trump has denied having any sexual encounter with Daniels as well as any wrongdoing in the case.

His attorney general, Bill Barr, criticized the indictment on Friday at an event sponsored by the National Review magazine, calling it the “archetypical abuse of the prosecutorial function to engage in a political hit job.”

Cohen pleaded guilty in 2018 to eight federal charges of tax evasion, fraud and campaign finance violations related to payments to Daniels and one other person, allegedly through the Trump Organization where he served at the time as a vice president. The former attorney testified that Trump had directed him to make the payments and later accused Trump of the same in greater detail in his 2020 memoir “Disloyal.”

Bragg’s office confirmed the indictment on Thursday and said then that it had contacted Trump’s attorney to arrange his surrender.  Bragg’s office said in a statement on Thursday that more information about when the document could be unsealed would come “when the arraignment date is selected.” One of Trump’s attorneys, Joseph Tacopina, told CBS News via text the following day that his legal team expected Trump to surrender to authorities “likely Tuesday.”

Two of Trump’s attorneys, Tacopina and Susan Necheles, said in a statement that the former president “did not commit any crime” and would “vigorously fight this political prosecution in Court.”

Preet Bharara, a former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York who was fired by Trump and has since criticized his administration, chose not to prosecute Daniels’ case at the federal level when it initially came across his desk. Neither did the office of the previous Manhattan District Attorney, Cyrus Vance. Bharara, who knows Bragg personally, said on “Face the Nation” Sunday that exactly why the current District Attorney’s office chose to move ahead with the Trump indictment will be unclear until the charge or charges against him are revealed in full.

Preet Bharara on “Face the Nation” on April 2, 2023. 

CBS News

“We don’t know. I know the man pretty well, Alvin Bragg … I don’t know what the charges are. We’ve been speculating about them. Maybe there’s new evidence,” Bharara said. 

Noting the possibility that the charges allegedly pertaining to falsified business records could also include campaign finance violations, which some have questioned on the grounds that campaign financing could be considered personal expenses, Bharara said, “I believe, based on the Alvin Bragg that I know … that he has sound legal ground to bring this one.”

Trump is expected to arrive in New York City on Monday night and appear in court in Manhattan the following day. Attorneys have been told that the arraignment itself is set for 2:15 p.m. on Tuesday afternoon. 

CBS News legal analyst Rikki Klieman said that after Trump turns himself in, he will be in custody of the New York Police Department and the Secret Service, but he will be “processed like any other defendant” after he is criminally charged, meaning he will have his mugshot taken and will be fingerprinted