Republican congressmen Mark Meadows and Jim Jordan on Thursday sent a letter to Attorney General Bill Barr, claiming Michael Cohen “willfully and intentionally” lied while testifying in front of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform.
Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer and self-described fixer, testified publicly in front of the committee Wednesday ahead of his prison sentence for financial crimes and lying to Congress about Trump’s business dealings with Russia. The letter accuses Cohen of lying again about his desire to secure a position in the White House and his contracts with foreign entities, among other things.
“Cohen’s testimony before the Committee… was a spectacular and brazen attempt to knowing and willfully testify falsely and fictitiously to numerous material facts,” the letter reads. “His testimony included intentionally false statements designed to make himself look better on a national stage.”
The Justice Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Meadows and Jordan did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
“Mr. Cohen testified truthfully before the House Oversight Committee,” said Cohen’s attorney, Lanny Davis. “He took full responsibility for his guilty pleas. He also backed up much of his testimony with documents. It may not be surprising that two pro-Trump Committee members known have a baseless criminal referral. In my opinion, it is a sad misuse of the criminal justice system with the aura of pure partisanship.”
In the letter, Meadows and Jordan allege that Cohen did not disclose reportable contracts with foreign government entities. They point to a specific contract Cohen held with BTA, a bank in Kazakhstan. Meadows said on Wednesday during the hearing that Cohen had received $900,000 dollars from the bank. (Meadows also accused Cohen of failing to register as a foreign agent with the Justice Department.)
A lawyer for BTA said it is not a government entity and Cohen only received about $300,000. Kazakhstan’s sovereign wealth fund previously held a majority stake in the bank, but that changed several years ago, before Cohen’s contract, the lawyer said.
Cohen was apparently hired by the bank to help recover funds in the U.S. related to an ongoing lawsuit and money-laundering scandal, according to his testimony.
“BTA Bank—which is owned privately, not by the government of Kazakhstan—certainly did not pay Michael Cohen $900,000 for his worthless ‘service,’ or anything like it,” said Matthew L. Schwartz of Boies Schiller Flexner LLP, a lawyer for BTA.
“Cohen was recommended to BTA Bank in 2017 as a person who had access to the best legal resources, and was hired by BTA to assemble a winning team,” Schwartz continued. “Instead, [he] did absolutely nothing of value, and BTA quickly tore up its agreement with him. Since that time, BTA has cooperated fully with all law enforcement investigations of Michael Cohen.”
Two individuals with knowledge of BTA’s efforts to recoup funds in 2017 said the bank was actively seeking individuals across the world who could help with the recovery process.
The letter from the congressmen to Barr also claims Cohen lied about his desire and attempt to secure a job in the White House, which came to the attention of federal prosecutors in Manhattan, according to court filings.
“Mr. Cohen repeatedly testified that he did not seek employment in the White House following President Trump’s election,” the letter to Barr reads. “This is demonstrably, materially and, intentionally false. This testimony is in direct conflict with court filings made by the United States Attorney’s Office for the SDNY.”
Cohen had told friends and associates during the presidential transition that he was expecting Trump to appoint him to a senior post in the administration—possibly, even, something as high as White House chief of staff, as The Daily Beast reported last year. Instead, Cohen was relegated to the periphery of Trump’s orbit.
Many of those close to Trump—his aides, his outside advisers, his legal team—have decided that this is possibly the easiest immediate attack against Cohen: something small and petty they feel they can show he clearly lied about, and a factor that could paint Cohen as a jilted former lackey.
“There are a number of people who can testify that he was relentlessly seeking a government position and was very upset he did not get one,” Rudy Giuliani, a Trump attorney, told The Daily Beast on Wednesday. “Another area of provable perjury.”
Giuliani said that “is one of Cohen’s many perjurious statements” in his testimony, without citing the other specific examples.
Cohen was testifying privately in front of the House intelligence committee Thursday when the letter to Barr was sent.