Cohen told lawmakers that Trump lawyer Sekulow instructed him to lie about Moscow tower project: report

The president's former personal lawyer Michael CohenMichael Dean CohenI'm not a Nazi, I'm just a dude: What it's like to be the other Steve King Wyden blasts FEC Republicans for blocking probe into NRA over possible Russia donations Hope Hicks defends accuracy of her congressional testimony MORE told lawmakers during a closed-door hearing earlier this year that Trump attorney Jay SekulowJay Alan SekulowTrump, RNC sue to block California law requiring release of tax returns Voters sue California over tax return law targeting Trump Team Trump blasts California bill requiring candidates release tax returns to appear on ballot MORE instructed him to lie about when negotiations for a Trump Tower in Moscow ended, The Washington Post reported Monday.

Cohen falsely claimed in 2017 testimony that talks on the Moscow project ended in January 2016 before later admitting that discussions continued into June of the presidential election year.


Democrats in the House are currently investigating whether attorneys representing Trump and his family obstructed the panel’s investigation into Russian interference by shaping or editing false testimony.

“We’re trying to find out whether anyone participated in the false testimony that Cohen gave to this committee,” House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffAre Democrats turning Trump-like? Schiff offers bill to make domestic terrorism a federal crime New intel chief inherits host of challenges MORE (D-Calif.) told the Post in an interview.

The Moscow Trump Tower, which never came to fruition, was under discussion while the intelligence community says Russian was engaging in a multipronged election interference campaign with the intention of helping to elect Trump.

During two closed-door hearings before the House Intelligence Committee, Cohen was more specific about the changes Sekulow asked him to make, including saying Jan. 31, 2016, was the date on which discussions about the Moscow project ended, people familiar with his testimony told the Post.

Sekulow told Cohen the date was significant because it came before the Feb. 1 Iowa caucuses, the opening contest of the White House race, Cohen reportedly told the committee.

Cohen’s claims led Schiff to request documents from Sekulow; Alan Futerfas, Donald Trump Jr.Donald (Don) John TrumpDick Cheney to attend fundraiser supporting Trump reelection: report House chairman warns foreign governments to 'cease and desist' spending money at Trump properties Chris Cuomo: 'I should be better than the guys baiting me' MORE's attorney; Alan Garten, the Trump Organization's top lawyer; and Abbe Lowell, Ivanka TrumpIvana (Ivanka) Marie TrumpDick Cheney to attend fundraiser supporting Trump reelection: report Trump Jr. dismisses conflicts of interest, touts projects in Indonesia Ivanka Trump talking to lawmakers about gun reform legislation: report MORE's attorney. 

The four lawyers through their own counsels declined to comply with the document request or submit to interviews on April 5, describing the requests as “unprecedented” and outside the scope of the panel’s oversight authorities in a letter to the committee.

They also claimed the information requested would fall under attorney-client privilege.

"The privilege doesn’t apply if it’s being used to conceal a crime or a fraud,” Schiff told the Post in response to the lawyers declining to comply. “And if the attorneys were conferring amongst themselves and Mr. Cohen about a false statement they were going to make to our committee, there’s no privilege that protects that kind of conduct.”

Jane Serene Raskin and Patrick Strawbridge, attorneys for Sekulow, told the Post that “Cohen’s alleged statements are more of the same from him and confirm the observations of prosecutors in the Southern District of New York that Cohen’s ‘instinct to blame others is strong.’”

“That this or any Committee would rely on the word of Michael Cohen for any purpose — much less to try and pierce the attorney-client privilege and discover confidential communications of four respected lawyers — defies logic, well-established law and common sense,” they added.

When Cohen told the House Oversight Committee during a public hearing in January that Sekulow made changes to his 2017 statement, Sekulow called the assertion “completely false.”

The Hill has reached to representatives for Lanny Davis, Cohen's spokesman and lawyer, for comment on the Post's report.

A spokesman for the House Intelligence Committee did not immediately respond to a request for comment about Cohen's testimony.

Cohen is currently serving a 3-year sentence for lying to Congress, financial crimes and campaign finance violations.

The claims from Cohen's testimony come as the Trump White House digs in against Democrats' attempts at oversight in the wake of the completion of special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerTrump calls for probe of Obama book deal Democrats express private disappointment with Mueller testimony Kellyanne Conway: 'I'd like to know' if Mueller read his own report MORE's investigation into the Kremlin's 2016 meddling. 

Mueller did not accuse Trump or members of his campaign with conspiring with Russia, but laid out several instances of possible obstruction of justice from the president. 

Since the release of Mueller's redacted report by the Justice Department, the White House has repeatedly refused House Democrats' subpoenas for records and demands for officials' testimony.