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Cohen Told Congress He and Trump Lawyer Spoke of ‘Global Pardon’

Billy House and Shahien Nasiripour
Cohen Told Congress He and Trump Lawyer Spoke of ‘Global Pardon’

(Bloomberg) -- Michael Cohen, Donald Trump’s ex-fixer, told a House panel earlier this year that he had discussed the possibility of a “global pardon” with one of the president’s attorneys, a move that Cohen said was meant to “shut this whole thing down,” according to a newly released transcript.

Cohen told the House Intelligence Committee in closed testimony on Feb. 28 that he had additional discussions about possible pardons with another person he described as being close to Trump, according to a transcript released by the panel late Monday. But Cohen appeared to contradict himself on the timing of some of those discussions, raising questions about the veracity of his testimony.

At one point, Cohen said he didn’t believe he discussed the possibility of a pardon with Trump attorney Jay Sekulow after FBI agents raided his home, hotel room and office in April 2018 as part of an investigation into Cohen’s finances. Yet later during his Feb. 28 testimony, Cohen said his pardon discussions with Sekulow occurred “definitely after” the raid. He said later in the hearing that he didn’t recall the sequence of events.

Cohen also said he had close to 20 conversations with Sekulow in advance of 2017 appearances before Congress, when Cohen falsely testified that discussions within the Trump Organization about a possible Trump tower in Moscow had ended in January 2016.

“We talked about staying on message. And the message was always was whether I was -- when I was with Mr. Trump or during these conversations, it was always about to stay on message, which is there’s no Russia, there’s no collusion, there’s no business deals,” Cohen said about his conversations with Sekulow.

Cohen later said that negotiations about the Moscow tower didn’t end until June 2016, roughly five months later.

Rudy Giuliani, a lawyer for Trump, said on Twitter: “Jay Sekulow is one of the very most ethical lawyers and honest men I have ever known. Michael Cohen is a serial liar. Cohen should be prosecuted for his blatant perjury before the House committee. Jay should receive the most effective and ethical lawyer of the year award.”

Cohen, who earlier this month reported to federal prison to serve a three-year sentence for crimes including lying to Congress, testified at least twice before the House Intelligence Committee in February and March after pleading guilty to nine felonies last year.

Cohen spent his last few months before prison testifying to congressional panels about Trump’s business practices, alleged frauds, and the ways in which Trump’s associates tried to keep him quiet. Trump’s allies portrayed his appearances as a last-ditch effort to reduce his sentence by spreading falsehoods.

The Intelligence Committee’s voted Monday along party lines to release the Cohen transcripts.

Adam Schiff, the committee’s chairman, told reporters that there were details in the transcript that reveal extensive discussions Cohen had with members of a joint defense legal team, including Sekulow, about his testimony in 2017 regarding the Trump tower Moscow negotiations, and knowledge that testimony was false.

Cohen also went into detail about the president’s “familiarity with his written testimony, the knowledge that testimony was false, but nonetheless was approved by the president, according to Mr. Cohen.”

Cohen told the panel that he would have accepted a pardon from Trump early in the investigation into his finances, without specifying a timeframe. But Trump’s associates kept pushing it back, telling Cohen “you have to wait until you get further down,” he testified.

Sekulow told Cohen that the reason for his possible pardon was “because there’s no Russia, there’s no collusion, and this whole matter should just go away,” Cohen said.

Ultimately, Cohen said he came to believe Trump wouldn’t pardon him or anyone else connected to the president who came under prosecutors’ scrutiny, including his former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, and longtime political counselor, Roger Stone.

“So he’s going to keep it on message so that Manafort stays silent, and Roger Stone, and they just go along with, again, the narrative, but he’ll let them rot in jail forever,” Cohen said of Trump. “He just doesn’t care. It’s all about him.”

Schiff said the committee would meet on Wednesday to decide what to do about the Justice Department’s defiance last week of a subpoena for documents involving the early stages of the FBI’s and department’s counter-intelligence investigation that turned into Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe.

“We will have a vote. I don’t want to characterize it yet,” Schiff said.

Lanny Davis, a lawyer for Cohen, praised Schiff for making the transcripts public. “Michael Cohen lied only once and that was to Congress — specifically for the benefit (and in accordance with the directives) of Donald Trump to cover for Trump’s repeated public lies during the 2016 campaign of no Russia deals or contacts,” Davis said in a statement on Monday night. 

(Adding Lanny Davis comment in final paragraph.)

--With assistance from Kevin Cirilli.

To contact the reporters on this story: Billy House in Washington at bhouse5@bloomberg.net;Shahien Nasiripour in New York at snasiripour1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Kevin Whitelaw at kwhitelaw@bloomberg.net, John Harney

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