Ex-Trump lawyer Michael Cohen told his attorney to 'explore' potential presidential pardon last year

Key Points
  • Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump's former personal lawyer, asked his attorney to "explore" a presidential pardon last spring.
  • Last week, Cohen told lawmakers he would never ask for or accept a pardon from Trump.
  • Rudy Giuliani, one of Trump's lawyers, seized on the latest development from Cohen, accusing him of lying before Congress yet again.
Michael Cohen, the former personal attorney of President Donald Trump, departs the U.S. Capitol after testifying before a closed House Intelligence Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, February 28, 2019.
Joshua Roberts | Reuters

Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump's former personal lawyer and fixer, told his attorney to "explore" a potential pardon last year with Trump's legal team, according to Lanny Davis, one of Cohen's current lawyers.

The development, first reported by The Wall Street Journal, appears to contradict public statements Cohen gave to the House Oversight Committee last week. "I have never asked for, nor would I accept, a pardon from President Trump," he said during his testimony.

Davis, however, said he and Cohen stand by the testimony because it was referring to the time period after Cohen left his joint defense agreement with Trump.

"We stand by his public testimony before Oversight Comm as referring to post-JDA time frame statement," Davis said. "He authorized me after July 2 to say he would never accept a pardon if offered and I did." Cohen's lawyer at the time of the joint defense agreement was Stephen Ryan.

Davis added that "Trump and his legal advisors had dangled the possibility of a pardon for a while."

The Journal had previously reported that an attorney for Cohen raised the possibility of a pardon in the aftermath of federal agents' raids on his residence and office last April. He eventually hired Davis to become the public face of his defense and to break with Trump.

Cohen later pleaded guilty to several federal crimes, including lying to Congress and campaign-finance violations. He is scheduled to report to prison May 6 for a three-year sentence.

Rudy Giuliani, one of Trump's lawyers, seized on the latest development, accusing Cohen of lying before Congress yet again.


Giuliani told The New York Times that lawyers for people under investigation in the various probes into the Trump campaign and his administration had reached out to him to gauge whether the president would give pardons.

Giuliani told NBC News that "several lawyers and reporters" have asked him over the past eight to 10 months about whether Trump would pardon people who have come up during the course of the investigations.

"I can't tell you exactly what I said to the lawyers because it's privileged," Giuliani told NBC. "I can tell you I said to them the president will not consider a pardon now nor will the president give a pardon now."