In addition to the dramatic public testimony before Congress this week by Donald Trump’s former fixer Michael Cohen, lawmakers also met with Cohen behind closed doors, where reportedly more legal bombshells surfaced.
In a report on Saturday, The Washington Post revealed that lawmakers are now probing whether someone in Trump’s orbit discussed offering a pardon to Cohen, who has pleaded guilty to lying to Congress, tax evasion, making a false statement to a financial institution, and a campaign contribution violation.
Cohen is cooperating both with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into possible collusion by the Trump campaign in Russia’s attacks on the 2016 U.S. election and with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York.
The newspaper noted that Cohen’s lawyer, Lanny Davis, told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow that “new information was developed that really could be game-changing.” He was referring to Cohen’s closed-door testimony before the House and Senate intelligence committees this week. Because of that new information, Cohen will return to Congress on Wednesday to continue testifying.
Davis added that the testimony involved “lying and obstruction evidence.”
Democratic House Intelligence Committee member Eric Swalwell told Maddow, “We truly were at the edge of our seats, listening intently as Mr. Cohen told us information that he certainly did not tell us in October 2017 when we interviewed him, and he certainly did not testify to in the open hearing.”
Swalwell also told NPR’s Ari Shapiro that he is “convinced that there is at least one indictment waiting for President Trump.” That was a reference to Trump, via Cohen, allegedly making hush money payments during the campaign to women he’d had affairs with, and then repaying Cohen while president, according to Cohen’s testimony.
Regarding the possible pardon discussions with someone linked to Trump, the Post’s sources could not confirm that they took place. Lawmakers did ask Cohen about it, though. Here’s what the newspaper said: “It was not immediately clear what, if anything, Cohen told lawmakers to pique their interest. Depending on the details, such pardon talks could be incendiary, suggesting an effort to dissuade Cohen from cooperating with law enforcement.” In other words, it could be further evidence of obstruction of justice if true.
Previously, Cohen has said he never asked Trump for a pardon in exchange for his loyalty, and would not accept one if it was offered. However, as Cohen has demonstrated previously, his statements aren’t always credible. But citing “people familiar with the matter,” the Post said Cohen’s “knowledge on the topic seems to extend beyond that statement.”