Michael Cohen has weighed in on the recent spate of clemency acts by Donald Trump, carried out in keeping with a tradition for outgoing "lame duck" presidents, after his Democratic opponent in the election on 3 November Joe Biden was officially proclaimed president-elect.
“Once you get that pardon, you’re no longer able to invoke the Fifth Amendment … All of these people may ultimately be his downfall simply because they’ll be testifying against him,” Michael Cohen says about the implications Pres. Trump may face from pardoning political allies. pic.twitter.com/3d1kW5IHIZ— MSNBC (@MSNBC) December 28, 2020
Interviewed on MSNBC on 28 December, the president’s former personal attorney predicted that the pardon spree, which extended to over a dozen high-profile individuals such as former 2016 campaign figures Paul Manafort, George Papadopoulos, Roger Stone, and Michael Flynn, who featured in the Robert Mueller “Russiagate” investigation, may be Donald Trump’s downfall after he hands the reigns over to Biden.
“Do I think any of these people should be receiving pardons? Absolutely not. I would have received one had I agreed not to come out, not to speak truth to power”, said Cohen.
He then gave his prediction for further impending clemency activity by Trump in the last few weeks of his presidency.
“That's when he'll probably try to drop the pardon power for Jared, Don, Ivanka, Eric, Allen Weisselberg [Trump Organisation CFO], whoever he thinks will possibly get a federal indictment”, said Cohen.
However, the pardons could potentially backfire for Trump, says Cohen, as after receiving the clemency one was no longer able to invoke the Fifth Amendment – one’s right against self-incrimination – since one “cannot be charged”.
“So all of these people may ultimately be his downfall… simply because they’ll be testifying against him, either for a court or a tribunal”, believes the man who was once dubbed Trump’s “fixer”.
Cohen added that if he were in a position to do so, he would ask Donald Trump:
“Why don’t you knock off the nonsense with the pardons? Why don’t you turn around and think about all of the Americans, each and every day, that are dying?”
‘Mounting Amount of Evidence’
Earlier, dwelling on his own fate, Michael Cohen claimed on 24 December he was "not interested" in a presidential pardon, while asserting that Trump might potentially be facing legal issues after leaving the White House.
"It has to do with his finances, it has to do with his tax returns, it has to do with his properties, it has to do with the personal financial statements that he had made and provided in order to obtain loans", said Cohen on CBSN.
According to the disbarred lawyer, a plethora of investigations might cause legal trouble for Trump post-office in January, including congressional inquiries as well as probes by the attorneys general of New York and Washington, D.C. and the Manhattan district attorney.
According to Cohen, investigators are "well-prepared" with their evidence to "move relatively quickly".
"I do believe that there is a mounting amount of evidence that they will be prosecuting upon", Cohen said. "Some of it of course is civil, and other parts of it are criminal".
Michael Cohen pleaded guilty in 2018 to charges of fraud, tax evasion, campaign finance violations, and lying to Congress, and was sentenced to three years in federal prison. His convictions included orchestrating payments to two women to keep them from speaking publicly about alleged affairs with Donald Trump.
Cohen was granted home confinement in May due to the COVID-19 pandemic earlier this year.
Slew of Pardons
Donald Trump began announcing various pardons and commutations late on 23 December, with Michael Flynn, who briefly served as national security adviser before pleading guilty to lying to the FBI, and former 2016 campaign staffer George Papadopoulos among the first on the list.
Pardons for former adviser Roger Stone, convicted in November 2019 on seven felony counts, including witness tampering, and Paul Manafort, who in 2018 was convicted of not disclosing foreign bank accounts or registering as a foreign lobbyist on behalf of the government of a former Ukrainian president, Viktor Yanukovich, were announced the next evening.
Clemency also extended to former Republican allies who once served in Congress and military contractors involved in a deadly shooting of Iraqi civilians. The slew of pardons and commuted sentences also included loyalists like White House adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner's father, Charles.