Despite what the convicted felon said in his latest testimony before Congress, Michael Cohen did pursue a pardon from President Trump after the FBI raided his office, home, and hotel room. You may remember he denied asking for a pardon and acted as though he wouldn’t want one anyway. In a detailed article in the Wall Street Journal, the dots are connected and though Cohen didn’t literally ask for a pardon himself, his former lawyer did.
Mr. Cohen’s attorney at the time, Stephen Ryan, discussed the possibility of a pardon with lawyers for Mr. Trump in the weeks after the Federal Bureau of Investigation raided Mr. Cohen’s home, office, and hotel room, the people said. The pardon discussions occurred while Mr. Ryan was working alongside lawyers for Mr. Trump to review files seized from Mr. Cohen’s premises by the FBI to determine whether they were protected by attorney-client privilege.
Cohen told the House Oversight Committee, “I have never asked for, nor would I accept, a pardon from Mr. Trump.” The now-disbarred lawyer was talking like a lawyer. Techniquely Cohen didn’t ask for a pardon, his lawyer did on his behalf. The fact that Cohen said he wouldn’t accept a pardon is ridiculous. Who believes that? Who would serve a full sentence if a pardon could be issued?
So, Trump’s law team of Rudy Guiliani, Jay Sekulow, and Joanna Hendon turned down Mr. Ryan’s request and then Ryan essentially threatened that Cohen would talk to the Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s office. It’d be a shame if Cohen had to sing like a canary, now wouldn’t it? Guiliani did leave open the possibility that Trump might pardon Cohen in the future. Ryan also asked an outside lawyer for the Trump Organization and the company’s general counsel about a pardon. Clearly, Cohen’s attorney was pursuing all avenues on behalf of Cohen. But the weasely Cohen was able to sit before the committee and say he’d never asked for a pardon. Lawyers, amirite?
Guiliani says it was all business as usual with his denial of a pardon now but maybe the president would pardon him later.
When lawyers have approached Mr. Giuliani about a presidential pardon for their client, “I always give the same answer which is, ‘The president is not going to consider any pardons at this time and nobody should think that he is,’” Mr. Giuliani said. He added that he also tells lawyers, referring to the president: “Whatever happens in the future, that is his prerogative.”
And, as predicted, Cohen decided to put himself and his family first and turn on his former employer. After hearing his testimony in the committee hearing, we all know how he speaks of the president and his organization now. It’s all fun and games and millions of dollars pocketed until the feds show up.
After the document review was completed, Mr. Cohen hired a new attorney and publicly broke with the president, saying in an ABC News interview that his “first loyalty” was to his family and country. He has since spoken extensively to investigators in the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office, which is now probing the Trump Organization, the president’s real-estate company, and to special counsel Robert Mueller’s office, which is investigating whether Mr. Trump or any of his associates colluded with Russia to sway the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign. Mr. Trump has denied collusion and Russia has denied meddling.
Now the Democrats doing Congressional oversight with a zeal have included Cohen as they cast their wide net Monday issuing demands for documents from 81 people or organizations. The House Judiciary Committee wants to check out any possible witness tampering or obstruction of justice with the possibility of a future pardon hanging out there.
Congressional investigators have requested information about conversations between attorneys for Mr. Cohen and the president. In letters sent Monday to dozens of Trump associates—including Mr. Sekulow; former White House counsel Don McGahn; and Mr. Cohen—the House Judiciary Committee sought documents related to “possible pardons” for Mr. Cohen, former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and former national security adviser Mike Flynn.
Dangling the prospect of a presidential pardon to discourage someone from assisting prosecutors in a criminal investigation could constitute witness tampering or obstruction of justice, according to former federal prosecutors.
President Trump can pardon anyone he wishes to pardon. Guilani’s point is that they want to wait until the investigations are over before acting on pardons. Trump hasn’t pardoned anyone involved in any of the ongoing investigations. Yet.
Mr. Trump has repeatedly declined to rule out pardoning his former aides being investigated by special counsel Robert Mueller and New York federal prosecutors. Asked in November whether he would pardon Mr. Manafort, who was convicted in August of eight counts of fraud and in September pleaded guilty to another two federal crimes, Mr. Trump said it was “very sad what’s happened to Paul” but said he hadn’t offered to pardon him. But, the president added: “I’m not taking anything off the table.”
Mr. Trump hasn’t pardoned any of his associates charged in continuing investigations, and Mr. Giuliani has said the president won’t consider pardons while the investigations are still underway. But, Mr. Giuliani said in an interview late last year, Mr. Trump “reserves the power to do it if and when it’s appropriate.”
I’ll be surprised if Trump doesn’t pardon at least Manafort but probably more after this is finished. We’ll see what happens.