March 08 | 2019
President Donald Trump has been lambasting Michael Cohen again, tweeting on Friday morning that his former personal attorney and fixer “lied” to Congress when he said he never asked for a presidential pardon. According to legal expert Ross Garber, tweeting on this matter was “beyond ill-advised” for the president, Law & Crime reported.
When Cohen (who is set to begin serving a three-year prison sentence in May) publicly testified before the House Oversight Committee on February 27, he stated that he had no interest in a presidential pardon from Trump for any of the crimes he has pleaded guilty to and had not asked him for one. Trump’s tweet targeted this claim directly:
Bad lawyer and fraudster Michael Cohen said under sworn testimony that he never asked for a Pardon. His lawyers totally contradicted him. He lied! Additionally, he directly asked me for a pardon. I said NO. He lied again! He also badly wanted to work at the White House. He lied!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 8, 2019
But in an official statement on Thursday, Cohen’s attorney, Lanny Davis, tried to make clear that he is not contradicting his client.
Davis has been representing Cohen since 2018. Prior to hiring him, Davis said, Cohen had a joint defense agreement with Trump’s legal team. And Davis said that the entire time he has been representing Cohen, the former Trump fixer has expressed no interest in a pardon from the president.
Davis stated that “after July 2, 2018, Mr. Cohen authorized me as a new lawyer to say publicly Mr. Cohen would never accept a pardon from President Trump even if offered. That continues to be the case. And his statement at the Oversight Hearing was true — and consistent with his post-joint defense agreement commitment to tell the truth.”
Davis’ statement did not “contradict” Cohen’s testimony that he had not asked Trump for a pardon. However, Cohen did ask his lawyers to discuss the issue with Trump’s legal team, Davis said — apparently drawing a distinction between asking about a pardon and requesting a pardon.
Davis told ABC News Cohen’s claim to Congress was “literally true,’” because his client “never asked President Trump for a pardon. His lawyer explored the disingenuous ‘dangle’ repeatedly floated by Rudy [Giuliani] and Trump in one meeting and never followed up.”
After Cohen’s Feb. 27 testimony, some of Trump’s Republican allies in Congress alleged that he committed perjury during his testimony. Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio and Rep. Mark Meadows (who chairs the House Freedom Caucus) sent a letter to Attorney General William Barr asking the Justice Department to investigate him for perjury.
Trump’s new tweet on Friday about the pardon, if true, would show conclusively that Cohen misled Congress on the topic. But his former lawyer snapped back, calling the president a liar:
Just another set of lies by @POTUS @realdonaldtrump. Mr. President…let me remind you that today is #InternationalWomensDay. You may want use today to apologize for your own #lies and #DirtyDeeds to women like Karen McDougal and Stephanie Clifford.
— Michael Cohen (@MichaelCohen212) March 8, 2019
Garber, a CNN legal analyst, told Law & Crime, “It is beyond ill-advised for the president to be tweeting about this. Republicans have demanded that DOJ conduct a perjury investigation. And Trump just identified himself as a key witness.”
Trump has previously contradicted other witnesses’ testimony, but he has yet to testify under oath himself, as Lawfare executive editor Susan Hennessey observed:
The president is accusing an American citizen of committing a crime by lying about a matter which the president has direct knowledge of. He did the same to Comey. If he wants to accuse people of perjury, he should be willing to do so under the same penalties.
— Susan Hennessey (@Susan_Hennessey) March 8, 2019