During private testimony in March, Michael Cohen, the former “fixer” lawyer to President Donald Trump, stated under oath he was asked to lie to Congress in 2017 by other lawyers representing the president.
The news comes about as transcripts from a committee hearing two months ago were released by the House Intelligence Committee on Monday evening, per reporting from CNN.
According to those transcripts, Cohen said he was asked by another Trump lawyer, Jay Sekulow, to lie under oath about the details of a Trump deal with Russia, the Trump Tower project in Moscow.
The Trump campaign once alleged that negotiations between Russian officials and the Trump Organization had ended in January of 2016 — which is what Cohen told Congress in previous testimony. As part of a plea arrangement with the Mueller investigation, however, Cohen admitted that his previous testimony was false.
The transcripts detail how Cohen was asked to lie under oath by individuals acting on behalf of Trump, according to reporting from CNN.
“Just to be perfectly clear about this, the statement about the Trump Tower negotiations ending in January that was part of your original draft was false, and Mr. Sekulow knew that it was false?” asked Adam Schiff, chairman of the Intelligence Committee.
“Yes sir,” responded Cohen.
Cohen went on to state that Sekulow told him to “stay on message,” which, according to him, was touting the official line by Trump’s team that there was “no collusion, there’s no business deals” with the Kremlin.
Cohen told the committee behind closed doors that lawyers for Trump helped him to frame his message before he testified before Congress in 2017.
“Mr. Trump’s personal lawyers reviewed and edited my statement to Congress about the timing of the Moscow Tower negotiations before I gave it. There were changes made, additions, [by] Jay Sekulow, for one,” Cohen said, per reporting from Slate.
Cohen added that Sekulow was the one who decided on the January 2016 timeline as the official word of the campaign for when the negotiations ended. According to reporting from the New York Times, those negotiations actually ended well into the presidential campaign season, up to (and possibly beyond) when Trump accepted the Republican nomination for president.
Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani defended Sekulow after the transcripts were made public.
“Michael Cohen is a serial liar. Cohen should be prosecuted for his blatant perjury before the House committee. Jay should receive the most effective and ethical lawyer of the year award,” Giuliani wrote in a tweet.
Lying under oath is a serious and felonious crime. Asking for someone else to lie under oath on your behalf, known as suborning perjury, is also a felony.
It’s unclear, if the allegations by Cohen against Sekulow are true, whether Trump had any knowledge of him trying to influence his former lawyer, or if Trump had directly told Sekulow to coach Cohen how to respond to Congressional testimony in 2017.