Those gestures mark a shift in attitude for Cohen, who told me last August he would take a bullet for the president. They also correspond to a shift Cohen has experienced in the way strangers are talking about him, as he enters this next phase in the criminal investigation. “For months, every article written about Michael was calling him a thug, a moron, someone who was all mobbed up,” one friend of Cohen’s told me. “Those words are mentioned millions and millions of times. He had tabloid guys heckling him at dinner with his family telling him he was going to jail, paparazzi yelling at him as he goes in and out of his hotel.” Earlier this week, however, a woman chased him down the street, shouting at him that he could be a hero if he cooperates with the government and brings President Trump down. Last week, another person attempted to get a message to Cohen, saying, “Please let him know that he could go down in history as the man that saved this country. I think his family would be so proud of him. Even people like me that were disgusted with the things we heard on those audio recordings, would totally forgive him.”

Cohen’s friends have been whispering encouragements, too, particularly after the president distanced himself from Cohen earlier this month by telling reporters that he “liked” Cohen, in the past tense. “He’s frustrated,” one person close to Cohen told me. “Washington is actively pushing him away as opposed to protecting him or welcoming him back in, when, at the same time, he has all these people telling him that he could change the course of the midterms, or 2020.”