White House defends Trump’s claim that Cohen asked him for a pardon
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders reasserted during Monday’s press briefing that President Donald Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, lied before Congress last month when he claimed that he never asked the President for a pardon.
“I’m not going to get into specifics of things that are currently under review by the (House) Oversight Committee and other committees. What I can tell you is that Cohen’s own attorney stated and contradicted his client when he said he was aware that those conversations had taken place,” Sanders said.
“We know Michael Cohen lied to Congress prior to his testimony, most recently. We know he’s lied at least twice in that hearing. I think that it’s time to stop giving him a platform. Let him go on to serve his time and let’s move forward,” she added.
Cohen told members of Congress last month that he never asked the President for a pardon.
“I have never asked for it, nor would I accept a pardon from President Trump,” Cohen had testified.
Multiple sources familiar with the matter told CNN that the prospect of a Cohen pardon was raised more than once between Cohen’s lawyer and attorneys representing the President. The depth of those discussions — including whether a pardon was truly on the table in exchange for Cohen’s cooperation — is being disputed publicly among the different factions.
Cohen’s current attorney, Lanny Davis, said that Cohen’s testimony is not inconsistent with his legal team’s inquiry into a pardon. He said in a statement that prior to Cohen’s decision to leave a joint defense agreement with Trump’s legal team and cooperate with federal investigators, Cohen “was open to the ongoing ‘dangling’ of a possible pardon by Trump representatives privately and in the media.”
But Trump has insisted that Cohen lied about the matter, tweeting aboard Air Force One on Friday that Cohen’s lawyers “totally contradicted him. He lied!”
“Additionally, he directly asked me for a pardon. I said NO. He lied again! He also badly wanted to work at the White House. He lied!” Trump continued.
Congressional investigators are now looking into the pardon discussions.
During Monday’s briefing, Sanders also refused to address the issue of Trump’s checks to Cohen while occupying the Oval Office, allegedly to refund hush money payments, instead referring reporters to the President’s personal attorneys.
Pressed further, Sanders only reiterated Trump’s claim that he did not violate any campaign finance laws and referred reporters to the President’s personal attorneys.
Sanders also declined to say whether Trump is indeed “Individual-1,” as referenced in federal court documents related to the special counsel’s investigation.
“I’m not going to comment on an ongoing case,” Sanders said.
Cohen said in his congressional testimony last month that Trump is “Individual-1.”
Sanders was also asked why the President has not ruled out a pardon for his former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort.
“The President has made his position on that clear,” Sanders replied. “He’ll make a decision when he’s ready.”