One of the curious aspects of the public hearing before the House Oversight Committee was the limited interest in past discussions of a pardon by Cohen with Trump or his legal team. Only a passing reference was made in the hearing, but Cohen said unequivocally that “I have never asked for, nor would I accept, a pardon from Mr. Trump.” The Wall Street Journal has a report that cast some doubt on that sworn statement. It is reporting that Cohen’s lawyer at the time Stephen Ryan not only pressed for a pardon after the FBI raid on Cohen but suggested that, absent a pardon, he might flip. If true, the story could be another instance where the truth of Cohen’s testimony is subject to challenge despite a pledge from the Committee Chair Elijah Cummings that he would push for a perjury prosecution for any false statements. Cohen already has been accused of perjury and there has already been a call for a request for a perjury investigation from GOP members.
the Wall Street Journal is reporting that Ryan made the pitch in no uncertain terms but that Trump’s lawyers turned him down. That is a positive move by the Trump team though the story suggests that the team would not rule out any pardon in the future.
Ryan is a respected and experienced lawyer with the law firm of McDermott, Will & Emory.
If true, that leave only one of two possibilities. First, Cohen lied under oath . . . again. That is always a real possibility by a witness who has shown as little legal ethics and legal skills. The second possibility is that Ryan made a major proposal to the Trump team without informing his client. That would raise serious ethical issues. Counsel does not have to check with their clients about every point of discussion with prosecutors or other lawyers.
However, Rule 1.4 states:
Rules of Professional Conduct: Rule 1.4–Communication
(a) A lawyer shall keep a client reasonably informed about the status of a matter and promptly comply with reasonable requests for information.
(b) A lawyer shall explain a matter to the extent reasonably necessary to permit the client to make informed decisions regarding the representation.
(c) A lawyer who receives an offer of settlement in a civil case or proffered plea bargain in a criminal case shall inform the client promptly of the substance of the communication.
A pitch for a pardon is a major step in representation. The question is whether Ryan took it upon himself to allegedly push for such a pardon without any discussion with or permission from his client.