Michael Cohen: Trump's ex-lawyer 'asked about presidential pardon' contrary to his denials

Revelation comes Cohen sues Trump Organisation for millions of dollars in 'unpaid legal fees'

Andrew Buncombe
Thursday 07 March 2019 19:03
Michael Cohen says authorities 'are happy' after concluding closed-door testimony before the House Intelligence Committee

Donald Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen allegedly asked about the possibility of a presidential pardon, contradicting what he recently told a congressional hearing.

The 52-year-old, who for more than a decade worked as Mr Trump’s legal fixer, last week told the House of Representative’s oversight committee he had not sought a pardon from the man now occupying the Oval Office.

“I have never asked for it, nor would I accept a pardon from President Trump,” he said, as he delivered a scathing attack on the president, terming him “a conman” and “a racist”.

But reports suggest Cohen did indeed ask about the possibility of a presidential pardon, after FBI agents raided his offices and home in the spring of 2018 having received a referral from special counsel Robert Mueller, who is heading the Russia investigation. The Wall Street Journal said the conversations about a possible pardon involved Stephen Ryan, Cohen’s attorney at the time, and Jay Sekulow, Rudy Giuliani and Joanna Hendon, who then made up the president’s personal legal team.

The revelation emerged as Cohen sued the Trump Organisation, seeking $1.9m in what he claimed were unpaid legal costs. He also said the organisation owed him another $1.9m as part of his criminal sentence. In a complaint filed in a New York state court in Manhattan, Cohen said the Trump Organisation breached its obligations to indemnify him after it became clear he would cooperate in investigations into his work.

The Journal said Mr Trump’s lawyers “dismissed the idea of a pardon at the time”, but Mr Giuliani, who still represents the president, “left open the possibility“ of a future pardon.

On Thursday, a spokesman for Cohen, Lanny Davis confirmed to ABC News his client had asked Mr Ryan to meet with Mr Giuliani.

Mr Davis claimed Cohen stood by his testimony last week, saying that last year he was part of a joint defence agreement with the president and many of his advisors.

“Prior to Michael Cohen’s decision to leave the ‘Joint Defence Group’ and tell the truth on July 2 2018, Michael was open to the ongoing ‘dangling’ of a possible pardon by Trump representatives privately and in the media,” Mr Davis said.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez questions Michael Cohen: 'do you think we need to review financial statements and tax returns in order to compare them'

“During that time period, he directed his attorney to explore possibilities of a pardon at one point with Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani as well as other lawyers advising President Trump.”

The suggestion that Cohen contradicted his most recent testimony of Capitol Hill will be seized on supporters of the president, who have long sought to portray the former lawyer as unreliable. Mr Trump described his appearance before the committee as “shameful”.

Mr Giuliani tweeted: “The defence now to Cohen saying under oath he NEVER asked for a pardon is a familiar one; What’s The Meaning of Never. Serial liars often try the same deception too often. Let’s hope Congress and DoJ are outraged at Cohen’s disrespecting them by perjuring himself repeatedly.”

The revelation Cohen sought a pardon came a day after he completed his fourth and final day of testimony before congressional investigators. He emerged from a closed-door session of the House intelligence committee to tell reporters: “I believe they’re happy and I have given them my assurance that any additional information that they need I will continue to cooperate.”

The committee’s chairman, Democrat Adam Schiff, said: “He was fully cooperative with the committee. I think the members found it an enormously productive session.”

Cohen is due to go to jail in May to serve a three-year his term after he last year pleaded guilty to charges of tax evasion, bank fraud, and campaign finance violations in relation to hush money payments made to two women, Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, on the eve of the 2016 election.

He also pleaded guilty to a separate charge brought by Mr Mueller’s office that he lied to Congress about discussions over the construction the the planned Trump Tower building in Moscow.

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