Michael Cohen not in trouble for misleading committee, House chairman says

March 13, 2019 GMT

The Democratic chairman of the House Oversight Committee said Wednesday that he will not attempt to punish Michael Cohen for misleading the committee last month when he claimed he’d never asked President Trump for a pardon.

Rep. Elijah Cummings said Cohen, Mr. Trump’s former personal lawyer, has since clarified through his own lawyer that his testimony “could have been clearer.”

Cohen now says he was only referring to a specific period of time in his testimony, according to a letter from his lawyer.

The Maryland Democrat said that was good enough to get Cohen off the hook. He could have faced prosecution for lying to Congress.

“Our practice on this committee is to give witnesses an opportunity to clarify their testimony, and that is what Mr. Cohen has done,” Mr. Cummings said. “I do not see the need for further action at least at this time.”

Mr. Cohen seemed unequivocal in his Feb. 27 testimony, saying in his opening statement that “I have never asked for, nor would I accept, a pardon from President Trump.”

His lawyers in their new letter say he stands by that statement only so far as it refers to after June 2018, when he left a joint defense agreement with Mr. Trump.

Cohen’s lawyers have previously admitted that another lawyer acting on behalf of Cohen, also a lawyer, did sound out the president’s lawyers.

The new letter does dispute Mr. Trump’s claim that Cohen directly asked him for a pardon.

“At no time did Mr. Cohen personally ask President Trump for a pardon nor did the president offer Mr. Cohen the same,” the letter says.

Cohen has already pleaded guilty to lying to Congress on a previous occasion, and during his appearance last month, Mr. Cummings repeatedly admonished him that his credibility was in doubt and any further lies wouldn’t be tolerated.

On Wednesday, Republicans on the committee challenged Mr. Cummings to live up to that.

Reps. Jim Jordan and Mark Meadows have already asked the Justice Department to investigate whether Cohen should face new charges over misleading the committee, and they said his lies go beyond the pardon comment.

They said federal prosecutors in New York say Cohen sought employment in the Trump administration something Cohen repeatedly denied in the hearing.

Mr. Meadows on Twitter also mocked the Cohen lawyers’ letter as an exercise in dissembling.

“They’re walking back a claim made unequivocally under oath. ‘Never’ didn’t really mean ‘never.’ Laughable,” Mr. Meadows said.