WASHINGTON (AP) – President Donald Trump’s former lawyer on Wednesday returned to Capitol Hill for a fourth day of testimony as Democrats pursue a flurry of investigations into Trump’s White House, businesses and presidential campaign.
Michael Cohen became a key figure in those investigations after turning on his former boss and cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe. He was interviewed behind closed doors by both the Senate and House intelligence committees last week and was due for another private, daylong meeting with the House intelligence panel on Wednesday.
Cohen also testified publicly before the House Oversight and Reform Committee, where he called Trump a con man, a cheat and a racist. He pleaded guilty last year to lying to Congress, campaign finance violations and other charges and is set to begin a three-year prison sentence in May.
Among the issues discussed in Cohen’s closed-door interviews with both the House and the Senate was the issue of pardons, according to people familiar with those interviews. They requested anonymity to speak about the confidential discussion.
The issue is expected to come up again during Cohen’s return visit. Though Cohen told Congress last week that he had never asked for nor would accept a pardon from Trump, a lawyer for Cohen expressed interest to the Trump legal team in a possible pardon for his client in the aftermath of a raid last April on Cohen’s hotel room, home and office, according to people familiar with the encounter who weren’t authorized to discuss it by name and spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The president’s attorneys were noncommittal during the conversation with Cohen’s lawyer, Stephen Ryan, the people said. Cohen did not participate in the conversation.
No pardon was given, and Cohen ultimately wound up pleading guilty and cooperating against the president in separate investigations by the special counsel and by federal prosecutors in New York. Another of Cohen’s lawyers, Lanny Davis, said on MSNBC Tuesday evening that Cohen was referring to the time after he turned on Trump when he testified that he wouldn’t accept a pardon.
There is nothing inherently improper about a subject in a criminal investigation seeking a pardon from a president given the president’s wide latitude in granting them. But lawmakers have requested information about talks on possible pardons for Cohen and other defendants close to the president who have become entangled in Mueller’s investigation.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said after last week’s private meeting with Cohen that the committee had “additional document requests” that they were discussing with him. Schiff would not comment on the substance of the interview but said it helped “to shed light on a lot of issues that are very core to our investigation.”
The intelligence panel is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election and whether Trump’s campaign coordinated with the Russians. It also is looking into Trump’s foreign financial dealings and whether there was obstruction of justice. It is one of several probes Democrats have launched in recent weeks as they delve deeper into Trump’s political and personal dealings.
On Monday, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., sent 81 letters to Trump’s family and associates seeking documents and information. Nadler said he would investigate possible obstruction of justice, corruption and abuse of power.
Cohen pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about the duration of negotiations over a Trump real estate project in Moscow. In addition, he pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations for his involvement in payments to two women who allege they had affairs with Trump, affairs that Trump denies.
Federal prosecutors in New York have said Trump directed Cohen to arrange the payments to buy the silence of porn actress Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal in the run-up to the 2016 campaign. Cohen told a judge that he agreed to cover up Trump’s “dirty deeds” out of “blind loyalty.”
Cohen said in the Oversight testimony that Trump directed him to arrange the hush money payment to Daniels. He said the president arranged to reimburse Cohen, and Cohen took to the hearing a check that he said was proof of the transaction.
Trump has said Cohen “did bad things unrelated to Trump” and “is lying in order to reduce his prison time.”
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