Federal prosecutors have requested documents from a New York lawyer about cryptic interactions he had with President Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, shortly after the FBI raided Cohen’s home in April.
The lawyer, Robert Costello, said in a statement Wednesday that he was preparing to provide the materials to the U.S. attorney’s office and accused Cohen or his lawyer of having “selectively” leaked copies of their email exchanges “to bolster the false narrative that they originally tried to peddle in the media last week.”
CNN reported earlier in the day that Costello had told Cohen he could “sleep well tonight” because he had “friends in high places,” according to emails the network said it reviewed. CNN reported that Costello said he was in touch with Trump lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani, who thanked him for opening a “back channel” of communication to Cohen.
The communications are important because Cohen recently alleged to lawmakers that Trump allies dangled the prospect of a pardon to him after the FBI raid, though he has also acknowledged he directed his own attorney, Stephen Ryan, to approach Giuliani about a possible pardon. Costello’s emails could be viewed as evidence supporting the assertion that a pardon was dangled to Cohen — though CNN reported the emails it reviewed never specifically referenced a pardon. Costello disputed he was trying to send a furtive signal.
“To repeat myself, Michael Cohen and his counsel’s interpretation of events is utter nonsense,” he said in the statement. “This statement: ‘Sleep Well tonight, you have friends in high places’ was a tongue-in-cheek reference to a Garth Brooks song, to a client whose state of mind was highly disturbed and had suggested to us that he was suicidal. We were simply trying to be decent human beings. There is no hidden message.”
A spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office declined to comment.
Meanwhile, the House Oversight and Reform Committee chairman on Wednesday rejected Republican calls for a new investigation into Cohen and whether he again lied to Congress about seeking a pardon from Trump.
But Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.) left open the possibility of further action against Cohen if new evidence of perjury is found.
Cummings’s statement came the day after a Cohen attorney sent him a letter clarifying Cohen’s remarks and acknowledging he “could have been clearer and more complete” during an exchange about whether he ever sought a pardon from Trump.
“Our practice on this Committee is to give witnesses an opportunity to clarify their testimony, and that is what Mr. Cohen has done,” Cummings said. “I do not see the need for further action — at least at this time.”
Cohen testified before the oversight panel on Feb. 27 to publicly tell his side of the story. He is going to jail for committing several crimes that he says were committed to protect Trump, including lying to Congress about the timeline of a Trump Organization effort to build a tower in Moscow.
During his testimony, Cohen told the committee: “I have never asked for, nor would I accept, a pardon from President Trump.”
Trump challenged that, tweeting that Cohen had “directly asked” him for a pardon.
Later, Cohen’s attorney Lanny Davis clarified that Cohen had directed a former attorney to discuss with Trump’s lawyers the possibility of a pardon but that Cohen had never sought one from Trump directly and that those conversations ceased when Cohen severed legal ties with Trump.
Rep. Jim Jordan (Ohio), the Oversight Committee’s ranking Republican, asked Cummings before an unrelated hearing last week what he plans to do to hold Cohen “accountable.”
But Republicans were already calling for an investigation before the discrepancy over the pardon came out.
The day after Cohen testified, Jordan and Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) sent a letter to Attorney General William P. Barr submitting evidence that they allege shows Cohen lied during his appearance. That initial document did not include a reference to Cohen seeking a pardon from Trump, but it included six other references to times the pair said Cohen committed perjury.
During Cohen’s hearing, Republicans repeatedly brought up his conviction of perjury as a reason he couldn’t be trusted.