After the April 2018 raid of Michael Cohen’s home, office, and hotel room rattled the White House and Trump world writ large, attorneys for the former Trump personal lawyer approached the president’s legal team about the possibility of a presidential pardon, the Wall Street Journal reported Monday. The ask reportedly came when Cohen’s attorney at the time, Stephen Ryan, was working side-by-side with Trump’s lawyers to figure out what documents seized by the FBI during the raid might be protected by attorney-client privilege. Trump’s legal team, which included Jay Sekulow and Rudy Giuliani, apparently rejected the idea, but, according to the Journal, Giuliani left open the possibility of a future pardon for the Trump consigliere.
Cohen testified before the House Oversight Committee last week he had not asked to receive a presidential pardon, saying: “I have never asked for, nor would I accept, a pardon from Mr. Trump.” This leaves open the question of whether Cohen was aware of the pardon discussion initiated by his attorney who, according to the WSJ, “left the impression that if Mr. Cohen couldn’t rely on a pardon, he might cooperate with prosecutors from the Manhattan U.S.
attorney’s office investigating Mr. Cohen…” Giuliani, for his part, would not confirm whether Cohen’s lawyer had requested a pardon, but the longtime Trump confidant turned Russia investigation lawyer has said that attorneys have reached out to him about potential pardons. “I would assume, ones representing Cohen” were among them, Giuliani semi-cryptically told the WSJ. Cohen changed attorneys shortly after the raid, document review and reported presidential stiff arm, marking a strategic shift by breaking with President Trump.
Trump has said in the past that he did not offer Cohen a pardon, though he loves to publicly muse about his pardon-granting ability. “I’m not taking anything off the table.,” Trump said of Cohen. While the Constitution gives the president great latitude when it comes pardons, former federal prosecutors told the Journal that “[d]angling the prospect of a presidential pardon to discourage someone from assisting prosecutors in a criminal investigation could constitute witness tampering or obstruction of justice.”