After Closed Meeting, Nadler Makes New Claims About Whitaker's DOJ Conduct

Clay Curtis
March 14, 2019

"Unlike in the hearing room, Whitaker did not deny that the president told him to discuss the Michael Cohen case and personnel decisions in the Southern District", Nadler, D-N.Y., told reporters following Wednesday's closed door meeting.

Michael Cohen's lawyer sent a letter Tuesday to the head of the House Oversight Committee clarifying Cohen's testimony that he never sought a pardon from President Donald Trump. Berman is the USA attorney for the Southern District but has recused himself from the Cohen investigation and related matters. Geoffrey Berman, the US attorney in the Southern District of NY, recused himself from cases involving Mr. Trump, who appointed Berman.

But during combative questioning by Democrats, Whitaker was asked by Nadler whether he had "communicated any information" he had learned in briefings with investigators to the president.

Nadler did not get into the specifics of what Whitaker said when he met with Nadler and the top Republican on the panel, Georgia Rep. Doug Collins.

Whitaker "said he did not talk with the president about Mr. Cohen at all, and had no conversations with the Southern District of New York", Collins told reporters.

There was no transcript taken at the meeting, according to the Republican aides, so it wasn't clear exactly what Whitaker said, and it may never be clear.

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Nadler also referred to the Southern District of NY, which is involved in a campaign finance case against Cohen which implicates Mr. Trump.

Nadler's committee is seeking evidence that Trump may have urged Whitaker to put the investigations under the supervision of Berman, a Trump donor and former law partner of Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani who is recused.

Nadler said he wasn't sure what the next steps would be after hearing from Whitaker. Cohen, in connection with a separate investigation, also pleaded guilty to tax and bank-related fraud charges and is expected to report to prison in May to serve a three-year sentence.

Costello insisted that it was Cohen who asked him to raise the issue of a pardon with Giuliani. Trump has denied those claims.

Cohen has met with congressional committees four times since being sentenced, including the televised February 27 hearing led by House Oversight Chairman Elijah Cummings. Cohen's former lawyer, Stephen Ryan, also reportedly discussed a pardon with Trump's lawyers in the weeks after Federal Bureau of Investigation agents raided Cohen's home, office and hotel room.

Collins also dismissed a Nadler statement that Whitaker was involved in conversations about firing one or more USA attorneys as "normal personnel issues". No one in the SDNY office was part of those discussions, Whitaker said.

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