I previously wrote about the dilemma in which Oversight Committee Chair Elijah Cummings finds himself with the widely viewed perjury of Michael Cohen before his committee. Cummings repeatedly asserted that he would refer Cohen for prosecution for any false or misleading statement. Cohen proceeded to do just that. Now, Cohen and some Democratic members are struggling to avoid the obvious. Cohen has again made himself useful and now it is the Democrats who are protecting him from prosecution. This includes the decision of New York Democrats to hit Paul Manafort with a series of new charges while conspicuously ignoring Michael Cohen’s possible state offenses. Cohen is again useful and thus immune. It appears to have worked. Despite his dramatic promises of swift and certain action, Cummings is now saying that he will not pursue any charges. It is wonderful to be useful.
Despite multiple conflicting sources, Cohen has insisted, “I was extremely proud to be the personal attorney for the president of the United States of America. I did not want to go to the White House. I was offered jobs.” There is little ambiguity here. Either multiple witnesses lied or Cohen once again lied to Congress.
Then Cohen stated, “I have never asked for, nor would I accept, a pardon from President Trump.” That also directly contradicts multiple sources who say his lawyer pressed the White House for a pardon, and that Cohen unsuccessfully sought a presidential pardon after FBI raids on his office and residences last year.
Before Cohen testified, Cummings asked if he remembered the choice he was given to testify truthfully or be nailed to the cross. “Didn’t I tell you that?” Cummings asked. “Yes, you did, more than once,” Cohen replied. He proceeded to choose crucifixion by giving testimony that many in the media have described as perjurious. Now it appears that, if you are useful against the President, there is crucifixion and then there is crucifixion. Cohen’s is more like a letter of explanation type of crucifixion.
Cohen’s attorney Michael Monico wrote the Committee to try to deal with one of these glaring conflicts. The problem is that it has been widely reported that Cohen did seek a pardon and even sent his former lawyer, Stephen Ryan, to discuss a pardon with Trump’s lawyers in the weeks after FBI agents raided Cohen’s home, office and hotel room. So Monico had work to do. He admits now that Cohen did direct his attorney to seek a pardon. That would seem on its face to mean that he lied. However, here is the spin: Cohen did not really mean “never” when he said “never.” Rather, “The sentence was written in the context of Mr. Cohen’s decision in June 2018 to leave the Trump Joint Defense Agreement (the ‘JDA’) and to tell the truth. Further, Mr. Cohen rejected the opportunity to ask for and receive a pardon even though he knew he was going to prison with hardships to his family.”
Accordingly, Cohen said that he “stands by his statement.” What is really bizarre is that he insists that his testimony “could have been clearer and more complete.”
Of course, Cohen is hoping that, just as “never” does not have to mean “never,” it might also be true that crucifixion does not have to mean crucifixion, or at least a criminal referral.
The decision is now left to Cummings on whether he was serious or just spinning. He has indicated that he is not going to carry out his promise for a swift and certain referral. In truth, Congress often tolerates false or misleading statements when a referral would be inconvenient. Consider cases like James Clapper. Truth like promises is a relative concept on Capitol Hill.