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 CohenTrump offers condolences on frequent foe Cummings: 'Very hard, if not impossible, to replace' Elijah Cummings, Democratic chairman and powerful Trump critic, dies at 68 Schiff says committees will eventually make impeachment inquiry transcripts public MORE to the Justice Department for possible perjury charges over his testimony.

Cohen, President TrumpDonald John TrumpGraham to introduce resolution condemning House impeachment inquiry Support for impeachment inches up in poll Fox News's Bret Baier calls Trump's attacks on media 'a problem' 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 CummingsBlack lawmakers condemn Trump's 'lynching' remarks The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Better Medicare Alliance - Trump's impeachment plea to Republicans Diplomat who raised Ukraine concerns to testify in Trump impeachment probe 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 JordanTrump 'lynching' comparison draws backlash from lawmakers Trump urges GOP to fight for him Trump embarks on Twitter spree amid impeachment inquiry, Syria outrage MORE (R-Ohio), the ranking member on the Oversight panel, and Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsMulvaney faces uncertain future after public gaffes Testimony from GOP diplomat complicates Trump defense Obama: Cummings showed us 'the importance of checks and balances' 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 HillFreshman Democrat Katie Hill denies improper relationship with staffer Lawmakers beat reporters in annual spelling bee competition Young insurgents aren't rushing to Kennedy's side in Markey fight 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.