- Michael Cohen testified to Congress in February that President Donald Trump’s personal attorney Jay Sekulow had discussed a “global pardon” as part of an effort to “shut this whole thing down,” according to a transcript released Monday.
- Cohen told the House Intelligence Committee that the offer came as multiple congressional and federal criminal investigations into Trump were picking up speed.
- Cohen also testified that “an individual who has a relationship to somebody inside the White House” and is “closely connected to the president” spoke with him about pardons in person, on the phone, and potentially via text or email.
- He said he would not name the person because the information pertains to an ongoing criminal investigation.
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Michael Cohen told Congress at the end of February that he had multiple discussions with Jay Sekulow, President Donald Trump’s personal defense attorney, about potentially receiving a pardon.
According to a transcript released on Monday of Cohen’s closed-door testimony to the House Intelligence Committee, Cohen told lawmakers he had “quite a few” direct conversations with Sekulow “around the time” of several congressional and federal investigations into Trump.
Cohen said he and Sekulow talked about a “global pardon” that Sekulow discussed as part of an attempt to “shut this whole thing down.”
“This is how they were potentially going to do it, and everybody would just get a pardon,” Cohen testified. “And said, well, it wouldn’t be a pardon, it would be a pre-pardon, because nobody’s been charged yet.”
Cohen, now serving a three-year prison sentence, pleaded guilty to one count of lying to Congress as part of the special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, and to several counts of tax evasion, bank fraud, and campaign-finance violations as part of the Manhattan US Attorney’s Office’s investigation into his and Trump’s business dealings leading up to the 2016 US election.
Cohen told the House Intelligence Committee that ultimately the discussion about pardons didn’t go anywhere because when a person is pardoned they forfeit their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, meaning they can be called in to testify to Congress.
Cohen said that “it ultimately just became, that’s not really something that could be accomplished, because then” investigators would “have the right, again, to ask” questions of witnesses and “everyone on the team.”
Daniel Goldman, the senior adviser and director of investigations for Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee, asked Cohen to clarify whether the message he got from Sekulow was “that the president was considering to give you and others a pardon.”
“No,” Cohen replied. “My testimony is that topic came up, and I had conversations with Jay Sekulow regarding the possibility of pardons.”
He added: “In our conversations, it was always about the client, you know, where he would say to me that the client is, you know, sorry that you’re going through this, I just got off the phone with him, or I just left him, and, you know, he loves you and, you know, can’t believe this is happening. And then topics of conversation that included pardons also came up.”
Cohen also testified that “an individual who has a relationship to somebody inside the White House” and is “closely connected to the president” spoke with him about pardons in person, on the phone, and potentially via text or email. Cohen said he would not name the person because the information pertains to an ongoing criminal investigation.
It’s not the first time Cohen has implicated Sekulow in criminal activity. At another point during his testimony, Cohen said Sekulow instructed him to lie to Congress about the now defunct Trump Tower Moscow project.
Cohen said Sekulow told him to testify that negotiations for the deal ended on January 31, 2016, when in fact, as he told Mueller’s office when pleading guilty last year, they continued through June of that year.
All the while, Cohen briefed Trump family members and top executives at the Trump Organization on the deal’s progress.
Following Cohen’s testimony, the House Intelligence Committee sent document requests to Sekulow and three other lawyers connected to Trump and his family members to gauge whether they were involved in drafting Cohen’s initially false congressional testimony.
“Cohen’s alleged statements are more of the same from him and confirm the observations of prosecutors in the Southern District of New York that Cohen’s ‘instinct to blame others is strong,'” Jane Serene Raskin and Patrick Strawbridge, lawyers for Sekulow, said in a statement to The Washington Post on Monday.
“That this or any Committee would rely on the word of Michael Cohen for any purpose – much less to try and pierce the attorney-client privilege and discover confidential communications of four respected lawyers – defies logic, well-established law and common sense,” the statement said.