Stefanik, Turner urge DOJ to open criminal referral into Michael Cohen

Republican Reps. Elise Stefanik (N.Y.) and Mike Turner (Ohio) are calling on the Department of Justice (DOJ) to open a criminal referral into former President Trump’s ex-fixer, Michael Cohen, for making contradicting statements to a congressional panel in 2019.

In a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland, Turner, the chair of the House Intelligence Committee, and Stefanik claimed Cohen “knowingly” made “false statements” while testifying before the Intelligence Committee in 2019.

The lawmakers reference Cohen’s testimony made in Trump’s civil fraud trial last year, in which he answered “no” when asked if he was honest during his congressional testimony. When asked if he lied under oath during his 2019 testimony about the former president’s personal financial statements during a deposition, Cohen said “yes,” the lawmakers noted.

The letter, dated May 1, is a follow-up to the two lawmakers’ initial criminal referral sent in November, when they first recommended the Justice Department pursue charges against Cohen.

“To date, we received no response from the Biden Justice Department regarding this criminal referral. This is unacceptable,” the latest letter stated.

A criminal referral urges prosecutors to take action but is largely symbolic and does not carry any legal weight.

The letter comes as Cohen, Trump’s onetime personal attorney, is widely expected to be a star witness in the New York district attorney’s case against the former president on 34 counts of falsifying business records.

The charges are centered on a hush money payment Cohen made to adult film actress Stormy Daniels in 2016 to stay quiet about an alleged affair with Trump.

In Cohen’s 2019 testimony before the congressional committee, he said Trump did not ask him to inflate the numbers detailed in his statements of financial condition, which looked into the value of the Trump Organization’s various assets.

Then, while testifying last fall in Trump’s civil fraud trial, Cohen said Trump did direct him and Allen Weisselberg, the Trump Organization’s former chief financial officer, to “reverse engineer” the former president’s assets “in order to achieve the number that Trump had tasked us with.”

Cohen, who has served jail time for crimes that included lying to Congress, later tried to clarify his comments, telling attorneys Trump “speaks like a mob boss” and “[tells] you without specifically telling you” what to do.

Stefanik and Turner argued the DOJ is showing a “double standard” after the prosecution of Steve Bannon, the onetime aide to Trump, and Peter Navarro, Trump’s former White House adviser.

“The obvious implication is that you have politicized and weaponized the Biden Justice Department to help your boss and hurt his political enemy. You are trying to protect the reputation of an admitted perjurer, one who just so happens to be set to testify against former President Trump in New York,” the lawmakers wrote.

A spokesperson for the DOJ confirmed the receipt of the letter, but declined to comment further.

Stefanik is a staunch ally of Trump and has repeatedly defended him in the wake of various legal challenges. A day earlier, Stefanik filed an ethics complaint against special counsel Jack Smith, alleging he is attempting to “unlawfully interfere” with the 2024 election through the federal election subversion case.

The Hill reached out to Cohen’s lawyer for comment.

Updated at 4:55 p.m.

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