(Written by Nicholas Fandos and Maggie Haberman)
Michael Cohen on Wednesday provided new documents to the House Intelligence Committee that he said illustrated changes made at the request of President Donald Trump’s lawyers to a knowingly false written statement that he delivered to Congress in 2017, according to three people familiar with the matter.
Cohen, in what is expected to be his last visit to Capitol Hill, brought multiple drafts of his 2017 statement along with emails with Trump’s lawyers about its drafting, hoping to back up claims that he made last week at an open hearing before the House Oversight and Reform Committee. In that session, Cohen testified that there were “changes made, additions” to the original written statement, including about the length of negotiations over a proposed Trump Tower project in Moscow during the 2016 presidential campaign.
It was not immediately clear how many changes were made by the Trump lawyers, including Jay Sekulow, or how drastic those changes were. Two of the people familiar with the documents and Cohen’s testimony, who were not authorized to speak publicly about the closed-door session, said that at least some of the changes appeared to play down the knowledge of the president’s eldest daughter, Ivanka Trump, about the project.
At the very least, the exchange between Cohen and the president’s lawyers suggests that the lawyers had detailed knowledge of what he was going to tell Congress. Cohen said last week that though Trump did not explicitly direct him to lie, he “made clear to me” through his actions that “he wanted me to lie.”
Other people familiar with the discussions that took place at the time of Cohen’s original testimony said that it was Cohen himself who wrote that the Moscow project ended before the Iowa caucuses in January 2016, when Trump was a candidate.
That statement turned out to be false, and in November 2018, Cohen pleaded guilty to lying to Congress. In fact, he said, discussions about the project had gone on much longer and Trump had greater involvement than he had led the congressional committees to believe.
The documents were delivered by Cohen as he appeared for yet another session with congressional lawmakers investigating Trump, his campaign and his businesses, his last before he reports for his prison sentence this spring. Lawmakers on the Intelligence Committee also pressed Cohen on Wednesday and in an earlier session last week for more details on a range of claims he made publicly, including whether he sought out or was offered a potential pardon.
CNN first reported that Cohen had produced the documents Wednesday. He had alluded to them before the Oversight and Reform Committee, specifically mentioning Sekulow, one of Trump’s personal lawyers, as someone who proposed alterations to his 2017 statement.
“There were changes made, additions — Jay Sekulow, for one,” Cohen said in the oversight hearing. “There were several changes that were made, including how we were going to handle that message, which was — the message of course being the length of time that the Trump Tower Moscow project stayed and remained alive.”
Sekulow disputed Cohen’s testimony last week. In a statement, he said that the testimony “that attorneys for the president edited or changed his statement to Congress to alter the duration of the Trump Tower Moscow negotiations is completely false.” On Wednesday, he referred to his previous statement when asked about Cohen’s documents.
The people familiar with the discussions that took place at the time of Cohen’s original testimony said that Cohen’s lawyers had signed off on all of the changes proposed by Trump’s legal team. They also said that Trump’s lawyers had at the time no indication that the dates Cohen cited in the statement were inaccurate.
Cohen’s team shared his proposed statement with the Trump lawyers because at the time they had a formal agreement to work together to defend the president and his personal lawyer.
Speaking with reporters after Wednesday’s session, Rep. Adam B. Schiff, D-Calif., and the Intelligence Committee’s chairman, acknowledged only that Cohen had provided the committee “additional documents,” noting that it had found him to be fully cooperative.
“There may be additional documents that he still has to offer and his cooperation with our committee continues,” Schiff said. The chairman had previously indicated that he planned to make a transcript of Cohen’s testimony public at some unspecified future date.
Republicans on the committee did not speak with reporters after the interview concluded. And in a brief statement, Cohen said he would be willing to provide additional information to the committee if it requested it.
The new details punctuated — somewhat quietly — an extraordinary and explosive week of congressional testimony from Cohen, once one of Trump’s closest aides. The peak came last Wednesday, when Cohen took the witness stand publicly before the Oversight and Reform Committee to accuse Trump of racism, bullying and outright fraud. In each venue, Republicans repeatedly pointed to Cohen’s own confessed crimes and his record of lying to Congress and the public in an attempt to discredit his testimony against the president.
Still, the public session and his private interviews with the House and Senate Intelligence Committees in the days surrounding it are certain to provide newly ascendant Democrats in the House with fresh investigative leads as they scrutinize Trump’s circles. The House Intelligence Committee is scheduled to hold a public hearing next week with Felix Sater, another Trump associate involved in the Moscow project.