WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump‘s former personal lawyer and one-time “fixer” Michael Cohen‘s testimony to Congress regarding any potential pardon for his crimes could have been clearer, but he never personally asked the president for such a reprieve, Cohen’s lawyer said.
In a statement to lawmakers on Tuesday, Cohen’s legal team sought to clarify his recent testimony amid questions over whether Cohen sought, or Trump offered, a pardon to the man, who one declared he would take a bullet for the Republican president but has since flipped to cooperate with federal prosecutors.
Cohen, who reports to prison in May for campaign finance crimes and previously lying to Congress, said at a public hearing before a House panel last month, “I have never asked for, nor would I accept, a pardon from President Trump.”
Trump himself challenged that claim. In a tweet on Friday, Trump said that Cohen “directly asked me for a pardon. I said NO. He lied again!” Cohen, in his own tweet, responded, calling the president’s assertion “another set of lies.”
In Tuesday’s letter, an attorney for Cohen said his testimony about not seeking a pardon referred to the period after Cohen decided to break from Trump in June 2018 and left their joint defense agreement.
“Cohen rejected the opportunity to ask for and receive a pardon even though he knew he was going to prison with hardships to his family,” Cohen lawyer Michael Monico said in the letter, to the U.S. House Oversight and Reform Committee.
Cohen has met with congressional committees four times since being sentenced, including the televised Feb. 27 hearing led by House Oversight Chairman Elijah Cummings.
Representatives for Cummings, a Democrat, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the letter.
(Reporting by Karen Freifeld and Mark Hosenball; Writing by Susan Heavey; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)