In his testimony before Congress last week, former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen said under oath that he hadn’t sought a pardon from the president after his office was raided by the FBI last spring.
“I have never asked for, nor would I accept, a pardon from Mr. Trump,” he said at the hearing.
Now, Cohen’s current lawyer, Lanny Davis, says that Cohen was once interested in a possible pardon from the president, according to the Wall Street Journal.
“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,” Davis told the Journal. He referenced the “ongoing ‘dangling’ of a possible pardon by Trump representatives privately and in the media.”
Earlier this week, the Journal reported that Cohen’s former lawyer Stephen Ryan discussed the possibility of a pardon with Trump’s lawyers, including Rudy Giuliani, after the raid, but not that Cohen had directed Ryan to do so.
Davis said that this telling of the story is not inconsistent with Cohen’s testimony last week.
“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,” Davis told the Journal. “His statement at the Oversight Hearing was true—and consistent with his post-joint defense agreement commitment to tell the truth.”
He also discussed the issue with the New York Times:
“At that point in time, when he was still part of their club, he was willing to explore it,” Mr. Davis said of Mr. Cohen. “Nothing came of it, and he got more frustrated that he was” being toyed with, he added.
So it seems what Davis is saying is that since he was hired by Cohen, Cohen has never sought a pardon nor considered taking one. But in his statement to Congress, Cohen said “never,” not “never, since hiring Lanny Davis.”
In Cohen’s private testimony to Congress, he apparently disclosed information about the administration “dangling” a pardon. Davis said that his testimony involved “lying and obstruction evidence.”
Still, it’s unclear whether this new information could hurt or harm Cohen, and the Russia probe in general.
The stakes are high for both sides. If Trump’s representatives sought a bargain with Cohen to gain assurances not to cooperate with prosecutors, it would raise questions about whether the intent was to obstruct justice. Were Cohen to intentionally mislead Congress, a crime to which he has already pleaded guilty, it could open him to additional prosecution and the prospect of a longer prison sentence.
Congressional investigators announced on Sunday they’d be looking into who sought presidential pardons and what happened in those conversations. They’ve requested documents from Trump’s lawyers on the subject.