Former Trump attorney turns over Russia documents to U.S. House committee
Documents contain information about Moscow Trump tower project Michael Cohen initially lied about to Congress
U.S. President Donald Trump's former lawyer, Michael Cohen, turned over documents to the House intelligence committee Wednesday related to a Trump real estate project in Moscow — a subject Cohen lied to the committee about in 2017.
Cohen brought the documents to the intelligence panel as he returned to Capitol Hill for a fourth day of congressional testimony, according to a person familiar with Cohen's interview who requested anonymity to speak about the confidential meeting.
Lawmakers have been interested in talking to Cohen about the Moscow project ever since he pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about the subject. Cohen acknowledged in his guilty plea last year that he misled lawmakers by saying he had abandoned the project in January 2016 when he actually continued pursuing it for months after that while Trump campaigned for the presidency.
The Moscow Trump Tower project is one of many under scrutiny as the Democrat-led panel investigates Russian interference in the 2016 election and whether Trump's campaign was involved, among other matters, including Trump's foreign financial dealings.
Cohen has become a key figure in congressional investigations after turning on his former boss and co-operating with special counsel Robert Mueller's probe. He was interviewed privately by both the Senate and House intelligence committees last week and has another day-long meeting with the House intelligence panel behind closed doors on Wednesday.
In his public testimony before the House oversight and reform committee last week, Cohen called Trump a con man, a cheat and a racist. In addition to pleading guilty to the lying last year to Congress, Cohen also pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations and other charges. He is set to begin a three-year prison sentence in May.
Among the issues discussed in Cohen's closed-door interviews with both the House and the Senate last week was the issue of pardons, according to people familiar with those interviews. They requested anonymity to speak about the confidential discussion.
The committee was expected to discuss the subject in Cohen's second day before the committee, according to one of the people familiar with the meeting.
Cohen told Congress last week that he had never asked for and would not accept a pardon from Trump. But that may not be the full story.
According to people with knowledge of the situation, a lawyer for Cohen expressed interest to the Trump legal team in a possible pardon for his client in the aftermath of a raid last April on Cohen's hotel room, home and office. The people spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss it publicly.
The president's attorneys were noncommittal during the conversation with Cohen's lawyer, the people said. Cohen did not participate in the conversation.
Cohen ultimately pleaded guilty and is co-operating against the president in separate investigations by the special counsel and by federal prosecutors in New York.
Asked about the pardon issue Tuesday evening, another Cohen attorney, Lanny Davis, said his client was speaking carefully during his public testimony. He acknowledged on MSNBC that Cohen "was certainly looking at the option of a pardon" before he decided to come clean and turn on Trump.
But since then, Davis said, Cohen has been clear that he wouldn't accept a pardon.
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 lawmakers have requested information about talks on possible pardons for Cohen and other defendants close to the president who have become entangled in Mueller's investigation.
House intelligence committee chairman Adam Schiff, a Democrat, said after last week's private meeting with Cohen that the committee had "additional document requests" that they were discussing with him. Schiff would not comment on the substance of the interview but said it helped "to shed light on a lot of issues that are very core to our investigation."
Other investigations underway
The intelligence committee investigation is one of several probes Democrats have launched in recent weeks as they delve deeper into Trump's political and personal dealings.
On Monday, House judiciary committee chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., sent 81 letters to Trump's family and associates seeking documents and information. Nadler said he would investigate possible obstruction of justice, corruption and abuse of power.
Trump has said Cohen "did bad things unrelated to Trump" and "is lying in order to reduce his prison time."