Trump’s former lawyer Cohen returns for more congressional testimony

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen returned to Capitol Hill on Wednesday for closed-door testimony to the U.S. House of Representatives Intelligence Committee on subjects expected to include whether he was offered a presidential pardon.

Michael Cohen, the former personal attorney of U.S. President Donald Trump, arrives to testify to the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., March 6, 2019. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

Cohen, who delivered explosive public testimony last week before a different House committee calling Trump a “racist,” “conman” and “cheat,” arrived for his testimony carrying a brown file folder and wheeling a black suitcase.

Two congressional sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Cohen was expected to face questions from intelligence panel members on the issue of a pardon from his former boss. The sources added that Trump’s representatives maintain that Cohen’s team first raised the issue of receiving a pardon while the former lawyer’s representatives have said the opposite.

The sources said Cohen also likely would be questioned about the extent of Trump’s personal involvement in pursuing a tower project in Moscow during the 2016 presidential campaign. Trump at the time had denied any links to Russia but has since defended the proposed tower project, which never materialized.

One congressional source said the Senate Intelligence Committee already has questioned Cohen about the Moscow tower and pardon issues.

Cohen’s testimony on Wednesday was the latest in a series of appearances before congressional panels, most of them private. His televised Feb. 27 testimony before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform was followed by a rapid expansion of Democratic investigations focusing on Trump. Democrats took control of the House from Trump’s fellow Republicans in January.

Intelligence panel members also were expected to question Cohen on Wednesday about Trump’s discussions with advisors in 2017 about how to respond when news reports first surfaced revealing that senior campaign figures including his son Donald Trump Jr., son-in-law Jared Kushner and campaign chairman Paul Manafort met in June 2016 with a Kremlin-linked Russian lawyer named Natalia Veselnitskaya, one of the sources said.

Trump’s son arranged the meeting after being promised “dirt” on Trump’s Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton. When news of the meeting broke, Trump Jr. issued a statement saying the meeting was set up to discuss adoption policy, not politics, but later admitted he had been expecting intelligence on Clinton.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller is preparing to submit to U.S. Attorney General William Barr a final report on his investigation into whether Trump’s campaign conspired with Russia and whether the president has unlawfully sought to obstruct the probe. Trump has denied collusion and obstruction, Russia has denied election interference.

Cohen, who once said he would take a bullet for Trump, is due to report to prison on May 6 to begin a three-year sentence after pleading guilty last year to criminal charges including tax evasion, bank fraud and campaign finance violations.

The session before the House Intelligence Committee was Cohen’s second. He also appeared before the panel last week behind closed doors.

Reporting by Mark Hosenball; Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and Will Dunham

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