Cohen lawyer Lanny Davis says his client doesn't want to be 'dirtied' by a presidential pardon
WASHINGTON - Lanny Davis, a lawyer for President Donald Trump's former attorney and fixer, Michael Cohen, said Wednesday that Trump's alleged direction of hush payments to two women amounts to impeachable offenses and that Cohen has no interest in being "dirtied" by a presidential pardon of his crimes.
Davis' comments came during a whirlwind media tour the morning after Cohen admitted in federal court in Manhattan that he violated campaign finance laws by paying hush money to two women at what he said was at Trump's behest.
In a string of radio and television interviews - including two that aired simultaneously on TV - Davis delivered an array of stinging assessments of Trump that served to further distance Cohen from a president for whom he once said he would take a bullet.
As Davis made the rounds, Trump broke his silence on Cohen's pleas, writing in a wise-cracking tweet: "If anyone is looking for a good lawyer, I would strongly suggest that you don't retain the services of Michael Cohen!"
In a round of media interviews, Davis suggested that Cohen has information that would be of interest to the special counsel and other law enforcement officials scrutinizing Trump, but he stopped short of offering details.
On Wednesday, New York state's tax-collecting agency said it had issued a subpoena to Cohen for information related to the president's personal charity, the Donald J. Trump Foundation.
A spokesman for the agency said that the subpoena was sent "in light of the public disclosures" made Tuesday. The spokesman would not specify what the subpoena seeks.
Both Trump and his foundation have already been sued by the New York attorney general, who alleged that the foundation had engaged in "persistently illegal conduct" under the future president's leadership. The state tax-collecting agency and the attorney general are still investigating.
In multiple interviews, Davis, a Democrat who served as special counsel to former president Bill Clinton, noted that Cohen grew disillusioned with Trump after watching his friendly demeanor toward Russian President Vladimir Putin at their July summit in Helsinki, Finland.
"He certainly found Donald Trump as president to be unsuitable to hold the office after Helsinki," Davis said on NBC's "Today" show. "He worried about the future of our country with somebody who was aligning himself with Mr. Putin."
In interviews, Davis also sized up the implications for Trump of allegedly having directed Cohen to make payments to former Playboy model Karen McDougal and adult-film star Stormy Daniels. Both women have alleged that they had sexual affairs with Trump, which he has denied.
"There is no dispute that Donald Trump committed a crime," Davis, a major supporter of Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential bid, asserted on MSNBC's "Morning Joe."
"Donald Trump is guilty of a crime, and a president of the United States being guilty of a crime is far beyond what has been classically called impeachable offenses," Davis said during an interview that aired earlier on NPR. (That view was at odds with those of several legal commentators who also appeared on the morning shows.)
Asked on NPR whether Cohen would accept a pardon of his admitted crimes from Trump, Davis gave an emphatic "no."
"I know that Mr. Cohen would never accept a pardon from a man that he considers to be both corrupt and a dangerous person in the Oval Office, and he has flatly authorized me to say under no circumstances would he accept a pardon from Mr. Trump," Davis said.
He went on to criticize Trump as someone "who uses the pardon power in a way that no president in American history has ever used a pardon, to relieve people who have committed crimes who are political cronies of his."
"Mr. Cohen is not interested in being dirtied by a pardon from such a man," Davis said.
Among those who have received Trump pardons: controversial former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, conservative commentator Dinesh D'Souza and Lewis "Scooter" Libby, former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney.
While on CNN a little later, he offered that Cohen would probably be willing to testify before Congress about what he knows about Trump's knowledge of Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Davis raised eyebrows on that front on Tuesday night, saying during an interview on MSNBC that Cohen has knowledge "of interest" to special counsel Robert Mueller, who is probing the Russian interference and whether there was coordination between Russia and Trump's campaign.
On "The Rachel Maddow Show" on MSNBC, Davis said his client had "knowledge about the computer crime of hacking and whether or not Mr. Trump knew ahead of time about that crime and even cheered it on."
Davis also discussed that issue with The Washington Post. "I know everyone's interested in the same question: What does [Cohen] know and is it going to be harmful to Trump?" Davis told the Post.
During Wednesday's media blitz, Davis said he was choosing his words carefully as he continued to talk about the subject.
"I said it's my observation that Mr. Cohen has knowledge that would be of interest to the special counsel about the issue of whether Donald Trump ahead of time knew about the hacking of emails, which is a computer crime that was the subject of the indictment of the 12 Russians," Davis said on CNN. "And we'll just have to see what Mr. Cohen is able to say from direct knowledge when and if he discusses this with the special counsel."
Speaking of the special counsel, Davis had nothing but praise for Mueller and the way he has conducted his investigation.
"He's a great man, operating silently like a submarine. No leaks," Davis said.
Between TV interviews on Wednesday, Davis also spoke with newspapers, including The Washington Post again.
In that inteview, as he did during several TV appearances, Davis encouraged donations to Cohen's new "Truth Fund," which has been set up on the GoFundMe website. Davis said the fund was set up to defray Cohen's legal expenses.
Davis described Cohen as a man who is now committed to "the truth, his family and his country."
Cohen's page to raise funds says it is seeking a $500,000 goal. It describes itself as helping Cohen and his family.
This article was written by Isaac Stanley-Becker, John Wagner and Tom Hamburger, reporters for The Washington Post.