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Michael Cohen: Sekulow discussed pardon to ‘shut this whole thing down’

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Michael Cohen told Congress he had multiple discussions with Jay Sekulow, President Donald Trump’s personal defense attorney, about potentially receiving a pardon.

According to a newly-released transcript of Cohen’s closed-door testimony to the House Intelligence Committee at the end of February, Cohen told lawmakers he had “quite a few … direct conversations” with Sekulow “around the time” of several ongoing congressional and federal investigations into Trump.

Cohen said he and Sekulow talked about a “global pardon,” which Sekulow allegedly discussed as part of an attempt to “shut this whole thing down.”

“This is how they were potentially going to do it, and everybody would just get a pardon,” Cohen testified. “And he said, well, it wouldn’t be a pardon, it would be a pre-pardon, because nobody’s been charged yet.”

Read more: Michael Cohen reportedly told Congress that Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow instructed him to lie about the Trump Tower deal

Cohen pleaded guilty to multiple federal crimes in two criminal investigations, and is serving a three-year prison sentence. He pleaded guilty to one count of lying to Congress as part of the special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation; and he pleaded guilty to several counts of tax evasion, bank fraud, and campaign-finance violations as part of the Manhattan US attorney’s office investigation into his and Trump’s business dealings leading up to the 2016 US election.

Cohen told the House Intelligence Committee that ultimately the discussion about pardons didn’t go anywhere because when an individual is pardoned, they forfeit their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, which means they can be called in to testify to Congress about matters they were pardoned for.

“So it ultimately just became, that’s not really something that could be accomplished, because then [investigators would] have the right, again, to ask [witnesses] questions, everyone on the team,” Cohen said.

Daniel Goldman, the senior adviser and director of investigations for Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee, also asked Cohen to clarify whether the message he got from Sekulow was that “the President was considering to give you and others a pardon.”

Read more: There’s a huge loophole in a new DOJ filing that Trump cited to block Don McGahn from testifying before Congress

“No,” Cohen replied. “My testimony is that topic came up, and I had conversations with Jay Sekulow regarding the possibility of pardons.”

He added: “In our conversations, it was always about the client … where [Sekulow] would say to me that the client is … sorry that you’re going through this, I just got off the phone with him, or I just left him, and, you know, he loves you and … can’t believe this is happening. And then topics of conversation that included pardons also came up.”

Cohen also testified that “an individual who has a relationship to somebody inside the White House” and who is “closely connected to the President” spoke to him about pardons in person, on the phone, and potentially via text or email as well. Cohen said he would not name the individual because the information pertains to an ongoing criminal investigation.

It’s not the first time Cohen has implicated Sekulow in criminal activity. At another point during his testimony, Cohen also said Sekulow instructed him to lie to Congress about the now defunct Trump Tower Moscow project.

According to Cohen, Sekulow told him to testify that negotiations for the deal ended on January 31, 2016. In fact, as he told Mueller’s office when pleading guilty last year, talks continued through June of that year.

All the while, Cohen briefed Trump family members and top executives at the Trump Organization on the deal’s progress.

Following Cohen’s testimony, the House Intelligence Committee sent document requests to Sekulow and three other lawyers connected to Trump and his family members to gauge whether they were involved in drafting Cohen’s initially false congressional testimony.

“Cohen’s alleged statements are more of the same from him and confirm the observations of prosecutors in the Southern District of New York that Cohen’s ‘instinct to blame others is strong,'” Sekulow’s lawyers Jane Serene Raskin and Patrick Strawbridge said in a statement to The Washington Post on Monday.

“That this or any Committee would rely on the word of Michael Cohen for any purpose — much less to try and pierce the attorney-client privilege and discover confidential communications of four respected lawyers — defies logic, well-established law and common sense,” the statement added.

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