Before his public testimony before the House Oversight Committee, Michael Cohen was the subject of several threatening tweets by Donald Trump that went after his family. On television, Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani backed up these threats, making it clear that he found nothing wrong with Trump trying to intimidate a witness. Now ABC News is reporting that Giuliani or others connected to Trump may have made further efforts to learn what Cohen had to say and stop him from testifying against Trump in the first place.
In April of 2018, shortly after the FBI raid on Cohen’s home and office, Trump’s “fixer” was approached by a pair of lawyers who claimed to be working with Giuliani. ABC’s sources claim that those attorneys talked with Cohen on and off for two months. They argued that Cohen should stick with his joint-defense agreement with Trump rather than splitting with Trump and trying to work out any kind of agreement with the special counsel and U.S. attorneys. And they offered a “plan B,” according to which they would join Cohen’s legal team and continue to shuttle information between his attorneys and Trumps, even if the joint-defense plan became untenable.
Cohen appears to have expressed some doubt that the attorneys were actually part of Trump’s team. In response, one of the pair showed him a photo with Giuliani as proof they were working together. Giuliani has declined to comment, but in his refusal to talk he claimed “attorney-client privilege,” which would seem to confirm some sort of involvement.
During the conversations, Cohen was pressured to stand by Trump, accept the help of the attorneys, and ignore any offers from the Southern District of New York or special counsel. While there appears to have been no specific offer of a pardon if Cohen went along, the sources indicate that such an offer may have been “implicit.” Whether or not a pardon was part of the package, it’s clear that the intention of these unnamed attorneys was to influence Cohen, to restrict his testimony, and to protect Trump. At the very least, the offer appears to have included providing a pair of high-power attorneys to someone who was having trouble dealing with the cost of his legal team—if he covered for Trump.
If these attorneys were genuinely sent by Rudy Giuliani to influence Cohen’s legal decision in a way that benefited Trump, even if that decision placed Cohen at additional legal risk, there are potential issues of both attempting to influence a witness and legal malpractice.
Lanny Davis, who has served as Cohen’s representative though much of the period following the raid, has given a statement saying that Cohen “was open to the ongoing ‘dangling’ of a pardon” in the period in which these attorneys were talking to him. Whether this contradicts Cohen’s testimony that he never sought a pardon from Trump is going to be open to interpretation — and require a lot more detail on what was said at both ends.
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