Cummings refuses to join GOP's criminal referral of Cohen over perjury concerns

The head of the House Oversight and Reform Committee on Wednesday rejected the request of two GOP committee members to join them in making a criminal referral of Michael CohenMichael Dean CohenJudiciary chair demands Hope Hicks clarify closed-door testimony Court filings show Trump, Cohen contacts amid hush money payments Judge says probe tied to Trump hush-money payments is over MORE to the Justice Department for possible perjury charges over his testimony.

Cohen, President TrumpDonald John TrumpCould Donald Trump and Boris Johnson be this generation's Reagan-Thatcher? Merkel backs Democratic congresswomen over Trump How China's currency manipulation cheats America on trade MORE's former personal attorney, told the Oversight and Reform Committee in sworn testimony last month that he had never solicited a pardon from the president, though his own lawyer has since sought to clarify those comments.

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“Our practice on this Committee is to give witnesses an opportunity to clarify their testimony, and that is what Mr. Cohen has done. I do not see the need for further action — at least at this time," Chairman Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsDHS chief to Pelosi: Emergency border funding 'has already had an impact' Cummings tears into DHS chief for conditions at migrant border facilities EXCLUSIVE: Career officials rebut claims of White House interference in security clearance process MORE (D-Md.) said in a statement on Wednesday.

Cummings, however, noted that he will review the transcript of Cohen's closed-door testimony with the House Intelligence Committee, and lawmakers on the panel can then "determine whether any additional steps are required.”

His response came 20 minutes after Reps. Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanDOJ, Commerce slam House Dems contempt vote as 'political stunt' White House blasts 'shameful and cynical' Barr, Ross contempt vote House votes to hold Trump Cabinet members Barr, Ross in contempt MORE (R-Ohio), the ranking member on the Oversight panel, and Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsLawmakers request documents on DC councilman ethics investigation House Republicans dismissive of Paul Ryan's take on Trump The 27 Republicans who voted with Democrats to block Trump from taking military action against Iran MORE (R-N.C.) asked Cummings in a letter to join them in their referral, stating that the president's former personal lawyer was "unequivocal" when he denied he would seek a pardon.

"In light of mounting evidence, it appears Cohen likely lied under oath during his appearance before the Committee," they write, alleging that his sworn testimony "appears on its face to be demonstrably false."
 
"Cohen's denial of ever seeking a pardon, which he made during his carefully crafted opening statement, contained no qualifiers about the context of his statement. ... In fact, there is no mention whatsoever in Cohen's prepared testimony about the joint defense agreement. Simply put, Cohen's denial of ever seeking a pardon, as uttered under oath in his testimony, was absolute and unequivocal," they continue.
 
The two Republicans, who are members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus and allies of Trump, pointed to the comments made by Rep. Katie HillKatherine (Katie) Lauren HillHouse Dems, Senate GOP build money edge to protect majorities Live coverage: House Oversight examines Trump family separation policy Lawmakers urge young women to run for office at DC conference MORE (D-Calif.), a member of the panel, who said she would "imagine that Chairman Cummings will end up referring him."
 
"I don’t know if he lied or not," Hill said. "Chairman Cummings is incredibly deliberate. I know that he's reviewing the entire testimony, all the transcripts with [Jordan], who also is going to make sure that we get to the bottom of this," Hill said on "Fox News Sunday."
 
The back-and-forth letters come one day after Michael Monico, an attorney for Cohen, sent a letter to Cummings seeking to clarify his testimony.
 
“In retrospect, while the sentence could have been clearer regarding the time frames, the sentence is true, and Mr. Cohen stands by his statement,” the letter reads.
 
Monico, however, maintained that his client was telling the panel the truth when Cohen said he had not sought a pardon, because he was referring to the time since a joint-defense agreement with the president ended last June.
 
While Cohen had told his lawyers to explore the possibility of a pardon when it was offered by the president's legal representatives following last year's FBI raids on his home and office, he did has not asked for a pardon since his joint-defense agreement ended, Monico said.

Monico also writes that Cohen “rejected the opportunity to ask for and receive a pardon even though he knew he was going to prison with hardships to his family.”

Lanny Davis, one of Cohen's attorneys, said in a statement that the letter sent to Cummings addressed the issue Jordan raised.

"As the letter stated, Mr. Cohen’s testimony was truthful. The letter provided greater time frame context for that testimony," he said.

"Isn’t it interesting that neither Mr. Jordan nor any Republican on the committee has ever mentioned the hush money checks signed by President Trump, proving that the president committed a felony as part of the Stormy Daniels illegal hush money scheme? Federal prosecutors have stated that scheme was directed and coordinated by President Trump. Why does Mr. Jordan ignore this?” Davis asked.

Questions about whether Cohen may have perjured himself during his public testimony have swirled over his statement that he “never asked for, nor would I accept a pardon from President Trump.”

Trump later alleged that Cohen directly asked him for a pardon, but Cohen quickly disputed that claim.

Updated at 2:37 p.m.