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Michael Cohen — the former personal attorney to President Donald Trump who pleaded guilty to tax evasion, bank fraud and campaign finance violations — will not accept a pardon from the commander in chief and is willing to share additional information about his former boss with special counsel Robert Mueller’s team, his lawyer said.
“Not only is he not hoping for it, he would not accept a pardon,” Lanny Davis, Cohen’s attorney, said Wednesday on “Today” about his client.
“He considers a pardon from someone who acted so corruptly as president to be something he would never accept,” Davis added.
Davis said his client had hit “a reset button” and wanted “to tell the truth from now on” about Trump. During a separate interview with MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Davis cited Trump’s controversial summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki as “a significant turning point” that made Cohen “worry about the future of our country.”
He said Cohen — who once bragged he’d take a bullet for Trump — had told him he felt Trump was “a scary person” who “sometimes acts mentally scary.”
Davis also told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow on Tuesday night that Cohen “has knowledge on certain subjects that should be of interest” to Mueller’s team, which is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 race.
Cohen, Davis said, “is more than happy to tell the special counsel all that he knows, not just about the obvious possibility of a conspiracy to collude and corrupt the American Democracy system in the 2016 election … but also 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.”
As he waited to go on air, Davis also said that Cohen has information about improprieties in the Trump charitable foundation that would be of interest to the New York attorney general, who is investigating the foundation. He did not offer specifics.
Among the charges that Cohen pleaded guilty to on Tuesday were campaign finance violations, including two counts related to hush-money payments made to women. He also said he made the payments “at the direction of a candidate,” meaning Trump.
Trump’s name didn’t come up in the federal courtroom in Manhattan, but Cohen said he had paid two women, apparently porn actress Stormy Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal, “at the direction” of an unidentified candidate in 2016, and that a $150,000 payment in August 2016 was for the “principal purpose of influencing” the 2016 presidential election. Both Daniels and McDougal have said they had past relationships with Trump. Asked if he knew that what he did was illegal, he told the court yes.
Cohen said in March that he had used money from a home equity loan to pay $130,000 to Daniels, who has said she had an affair with Trump more than a decade ago. He told the court Tuesday that after using the money from the loan for the payment, he was reimbursed by the unnamed candidate.
Trump addressed the $130,000 for the first time in April, saying he was not aware of the payment made by Cohen.
But, in May, Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani revealed that Trump had repaid Cohen the $130,000, even though Cohen had said previously he’d paid Daniels out of his own pocket and without Trump’s knowledge.
Trump then took to Twitter to affirm Giuliani’s claims, posting that Cohen “received a monthly retainer, not from the campaign and having nothing to do with the campaign, from which he entered into, through reimbursement, a private contract between two parties, known as a non-disclosure agreement, or NDA.” Trump called such agreements “very common among celebrities and people of wealth.”
Meanwhile, Davis said in a statement that Cohen made the plea so “his family can move on to the next chapter.”
The Constitution gives the president virtually unlimited power to issue pardons for federal crimes, but there are two historical instances where a president has issued someone a pardon and that person refused it. In both situations, the Supreme Court weighed in, affirming the right of a person to waive a presidential pardon.
President Andrew Jackson pardoned a man convicted of robbing a postal worker. The man waived the pardon, and in 1833 the Supreme Court ruled that it takes acceptance to make a presidential pardon valid.
“A pardon is a deed, to the validity of which delivery is essential, and delivery is not complete without acceptance,” the court wrote in its opinion. “It may then be rejected by the person to whom it is tendered, and if it be rejected, we have discovered no power in a court to force it on him.”
In 1915, the court reached a similar conclusion in the case of a New York newspaper editor who pleaded the Fifth Amendment and refused to testify in a criminal case. President Woodrow Wilson gave him a pardon to force him to testify, but the editor refused the pardon, and the Supreme Court ruled that he had the right to do so and did not therefore lose his Fifth Amendment protection.