Cohen Defends Pardon Claims

News  |  Mar 13, 2019

Michael Cohen's lawyer, in an effort to show Cohen did not perjure himself before the House Oversight Committee when he said he never asked for a pardon from President Trump, submitted a letter claiming Cohen only was speaking about a specific period of time. 

Associated Press

Michael Monico told Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) in the letter that Cohen, once President Trump’s personal attorney, had asked his lawyer to explore the possibility of a pardon before Cohen left a joint-defense agreement and turned against Trump last June. Cohen hasn’t done so since, Monico said.


Cohen’s public committee testimony last month “could have been clearer and more complete” when it came to pardons, Monico wrote in the letter obtained by the Associated Press. Cohen’s remarks about not seeking a pardon pertained to the time after his split from Trump, Monico said.

“In retrospect, while the sentence could have been clearer regarding the time frames, the sentence is true, and Mr. Cohen stands by his statement,” Monico wrote.


Monico said Cohen had asked his previous lawyer to ask about a possible pardon after an FBI raid on his New York City home, office and hotel room in April 2018 because Trump had “publicly dangled the possibility of pardons when commenting about ongoing investigations.”

“With that in mind, as a past member of the joint defense team, Mr. Cohen asked his then attorney to discuss with another Trump attorney possible pardon options consistent with the president’s prior public declarations,” Monico said.

Nothing ever came of that effort, he said.

House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings issued the following statement in response to Cohen's letter:

“Our practice on this Committee is to give witnesses an opportunity to clarify their testimony, and that is what Mr. Cohen has done. I do not see the need for further action—at least at this time. However, I understand that Mr. Cohen may have answered more detailed questions on this same topic the day after our hearing when the Intelligence Committee had him in for a closed session.  We will review that transcript when it becomes available and determine whether any additional steps are required.”

Associated Press:  

Giuliani said last Thursday he was contacted in May or June about a possible pardon for Cohen. He said his answer was that the president “is not going to consider or give any pardons now.”


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 investigators want to know if the prospects of presidential pardons were somehow offered or used inappropriately.

Congressional investigators are also looking into whether anyone on Trump’s legal team tried quietly to reach out to Cohen last year before he turned on the president and as his legal problems mounted.

Cohen says an attorney close with Rudy Giuliani, Robert Costello, did contact him. Cohen submitted to Congress emails from Costello, one of which said Cohen "could 'sleep well tonight' because he had 'friends in high places."  


Two emails -- both dated April 21, 2018, and among documents provided to Congress by the President's former attorney and fixer -- do not specifically mention a pardon. Cohen, in his closed-door congressional testimony, has provided these emails in an effort to corroborate his claim that a pardon was dangled before he decided to cooperate with federal prosecutors ... 

But the attorney who wrote those emails, Robert Costello, told CNN that Cohen's interpretation of events is "utter nonsense." Costello said that Cohen asked him to raise the issue of a pardon with Giuliani.

"Does dangled mean that he (Cohen) raised it and I mentioned it to Giuliani, and Giuliani said the President is not going to discuss pardons with anybody? If that's dangling it, that's dangling it for about 15 seconds," said Costello, who has a four-decade long relationship with Giuliani and was exploring potentially representing Cohen.

A source with knowledge of Cohen's thinking at the time disputes Costello's version of events and insists it was Costello who was pushing his relationship with Giuliani. Another source familiar with the emails said that Trump's legal team was trying to keep Cohen in the fold as a way to keep him quiet, hinting that a pardon could be in the mix at some point.


Costello said he first started talking to Cohen after Cohen was raided by the FBI in April 2018, when Cohen was still part of the Trump joint defense agreement. Costello said he was looped in on Cohen's case by his law partner, Jeffrey Citron, who had a previous relationship with Cohen. Citron told Cohen in an email that Costello had experience both with the Southern District of New York and dealing with "highly sensitive matters."

No retainer was signed, according to Costello. At the time, Stephen Ryan was representing Cohen in the exhaustive review of documents seized from Cohen ... 

Costello said that one reason he spoke to Giuliani was because Cohen was concerned that Trump had soured on him -- or thought that he had soured on Trump -- following a New York Times report that detailed Trump's poor treatment of Cohen ... 

"He wanted to make sure that the boss or the big guy knew that he didn't hate Trump. That he wasn't blaming Trump," Costello said. "There were reports out there that Trump hated Cohen, and that Cohen hated Trump... Michael couldn't say whether Trump hated him. He didn't think so. But he wanted to make sure that Trump knew that he didn't hate Trump."

The morning after Costello's first email was sent, Trump tweeted about Cohen. "Most people will flip if the Government lets them out of trouble, even means lying or making up stories. Sorry, I don't see Michael doing that despite the horrible Witch Hunt and the dishonest media!" the President tweeted.

Costello included a "PS" message in his follow-up email, which was sent after Trump's tweet, noting the "very positive comments about you from the White House. Rudy noted how that followed my chat with him last night."

Michael Cohen’s lawyer sends letter to Congress clarifying pardon talk (AP)

Cummings Responds to Letter from Cohen’s Attorney Clarifying Pardon Testimony (press release)

Exclusive: Lawyer said Michael Cohen could 'sleep well tonight' after speaking to Rudy Giuliani (CNN)