The committee’s investigation reportedly stems from claims made by former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen that those lawyers helped edit false testimony he gave to Congress in 2017 about a Trump Tower project in Moscow. Cohen also claimed the lawyers dangled a presidential pardon to maintain his loyalty.
The committee has sent document requests to the four lawyers: Jay Sekulow, Alan S. Futerfas, Alan Garten, and Abbe Lowell. Sekulow is a lawyer for Trump, Futerfas represents Donald Trump Jr., Garten is the top lawyer at the Trump Organization, and Lowell is a lawyer for Ivanka Trump.
Those lawyers took part in a joint defense agreement in order to coordinate responses to inquires by Congress and the Justice Department, according to the Times.
Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) sent the lawyers a letter on May 3 that stated: “Among other things, it appears that your clients may have reviewed, shaped and edited the false statement that Cohen submitted to the committee, including causing the omission of material facts.”
“In addition, certain of your clients may have engaged in discussions about potential pardons in an effort to deter one or more witnesses from cooperating with authorized investigations,” it said.
In a statement on behalf of the group, Sekulow’s lawyer Patrick Strawbridge accused Schiff of seeking a “truly needless dispute.”
“Instead of addressing important intelligence needs, the House Intelligence Committee appears to seek a truly needless dispute — this one with private attorneys — that would force them to violate privileges and ethical rules,” he told the Times.
“As committed defense lawyers, we will respect the constitution and defend the attorney-client privilege — one of the oldest and most sacred privileges in the law.”
Strawbridge also said the inquiry appears to be “far afield from any proper legislative purpose.” He also questioned Cohen’s credibility, and noted that Cohen’s lawyer, Lanny Davis, has acknowledged that Cohen wrote the testimony in question.
Cohen reportedly told the House Intelligence Committee in August 2017 that the Trump Organization stopped pursuing the Moscow project in January 2016, that he had never discussed potential travel to Russia with Trump in connection with the project, and he played down the president’s knowledge of the project.
Later he pleaded guilty to making false statements to Congress, then later told the Intelligence Committee in closed testimony in February and March that lawyers in the joint defense agreement had reviewed and suggested edits to his statement. He also told Congress, again later, that he had regularly briefed Trump’s children on the project’s progress.
The battle between the committee and the Trump-associated lawyers is the latest battle between the House and the Trump administration. Democrat House chairmen have demanded records, from the fully-unredacted special counsel report to Trump’s financial records for the past ten years.
The White House has vowed to fight the requests and argues that they do not have any “legislative purpose.” Democrats counter it is within their oversight responsibilities.
The request comes after Special Counsel Robert Mueller determined in March that there was no evidence of criminal wrongdoing by the Trump campaign with Russia, and he declined to prosecute anyone for obstructing justice.