Michael Cohen told the House Intelligence Committee during what was once private testimony in February that Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow instructed him to lie to Congress about the timing of negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. In a 2017 statement to Congress, Cohen said that negotiations over the proposed building project ended in Jan.
2016 weeks before the Iowa caucuses, when in reality, Cohen would later say, the talks with Moscow continued on into June of the election year when it was all but assured Trump would be the Republican nominee for president. The revelation comes as the House Intel Committee voted Monday to make public Cohen’s February testimony.
“We talked about the entire statement. I can’t tell you … it happened, you know, two-and-a-half years ago. I don’t want to start to expand upon—I’d rather do it in more of a generality,” Cohen testified in February according to the newly released testimony. “We talked about staying on message. And the message was always was whether I was—when I was with Mr. Trump or during these conversations, it was always about to stay on message, which is there’s no Russia, there’s no collusion, there’s no business deals.” During public testimony in January, Cohen also said that Sekulow was involved in crafting his false statement to Congress. “Mr. Trump’s personal lawyers reviewed and edited my statement to Congress about the timing of the Moscow Tower negotiations before I gave it,” Cohen said. “There were changes made, additions, [by] Jay Sekulow, for one.”
The release of Cohen’s testimony comes as House Democrats, led by Intel Committee Chair Adam Schiff are pursuing Trump attorneys to see if they improperly coached witnesses to give false testimony to cover up that then-candidate Trump had what would appear to be a significant conflict of interest as a rising national politician with a potential a deal in Russia worth hundreds of millions of dollars in the balance. When asked about it in Congress as part of the Russia investigation the following year, Cohen said the deal had been cut off before Iowa.
Q: Did Jay Sekulow know that your discussions of Trump Tower Moscow in which you also discussed it with Donald Trump carried past the lowa caucus into June of 2016?
Cohen: I believe so, yes.
Q: Do you recall having conversations with him about it?
Cohen: To the best of my recollection, yes.
Lawyers for Sekulow questioned Cohen’s credibility in a statement: “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.” Schiff, the Washington Post reports, “has asked four attorneys to turn over documents and schedule interviews with the panel, a request they have so far rebuffed, calling it a threat to the long-standing protection of communications between lawyers and their clients.”