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By Jonathan Allen
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said Friday that his former fixer Michael Cohen directly asked him for a pardon, in contradiction of statements Cohen made under oath before a House committee last week.
“Bad lawyer and fraudster Michael Cohen said under sworn testimony that he never asked for a Pardon,” Trump tweeted on his way to visit tornado-devastated Alabama. “His lawyers totally contradicted him. He lied! Additionally, he directly asked me for a pardon. I said NO. He lied again! He also badly wanted to work at the White House. He lied!”
Trump and his allies have been trying to undermine the credibility of Cohen, his onetime friend and personal lawyer, who pleaded guilty last year to lying to Congress about his efforts to secure a Trump development project in Moscow and campaign-finance violations stemming from hush-money payments he made in relation to allegations that Trump was unfaithful to his wife.
The Trump Moscow project has been an item of interest for special counsel Robert Mueller and congressional investigators looking into links between the Trump operation and Russia.
Cohen fired back on the same platform, invoking the names of two women who received money in exchange for their silence.
“Just another set of lies by @POTUS @realdonaldtrump. Mr. President…let me remind you that today is#InternationalWomensDay,” Cohen tweeted. “You may want use today to apologize for your own #lies and #DirtyDeeds to women like Karen McDougal and Stephanie Clifford.”
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders did not immediately respond to a request for comment about where, when and how Cohen asked Trump “directly” for a pardon.
Cohen attorney Lanny Davis said Thursday that Cohen, through his lawyer at the time, had inquired about the possibility of a pardon when he was still part of the president’s orbit — before deciding on July 2, 2018, to leave a “joint defense group” and pursue a legal strategy that involved making allegations against the president.
“During that time period, he directed his attorney to explore possibilities of a pardon at one point with Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani as well as other lawyers advising President Trump,” Davis said in a statement.
But last week, when he testified before the House Oversight and Reform Committee, Cohen said he never asked Trump to let him off the legal hook. He made the assertion as part of an opening statement in which he sought to persuade his audience that, while he had been convicted of lying to Congress, he no longer had any inclination to do so.
“For those who question my motives for being here today, I understand,” he said. “I have lied, but I am not a liar. I have done bad things, but I am not a bad man. I have fixed things, but I am no longer your ‘fixer,’ Mr. Trump.”
Cohen added, “I have never asked for, nor would I accept, a pardon from President Trump.”
Cohen also testified that he did not want to work in the White House — a point of contention between him and Trump, who says that Cohen sought employment there after the 2016 election.