Nov 14, 2023 - Politics & Policy

House Republicans issue criminal referral for Michael Cohen

Former President Donald Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen arrives with his attorney Danya Perry at Trump's civil fraud trial at New York State Supreme Court on October 25, 2023 in New York City

Michael Cohen arrives with his attorney Danya Perry at Trump's civil fraud trial at New York State Supreme Court on Oct. 25 in New York City. Photo: Spencer Platt/Pool/Getty Images

Former Trump fixer Michael Cohen is facing a criminal referral sent by two top House Republicans on Tuesday, who claim he lied to Congress in 2019.

Why it matters: It's the latest example of Trump loyalists in the House using their congressional power to go after the former president's enemies as he faces dozens of felony charges.

  • Criminal referrals are symbolic, as it's left to prosecutors to file criminal charges.

Driving the news: Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) and House Intelligence Chair Michael Turner (R-Ohio) wrote to Attorney General Merrick Garland on Tuesday to refer evidence of Cohen's alleged perjury and false statements under oath.

  • "The Biden Justice Department must take off its partisan blinders and investigate disgraced fraudster and disbarred attorney Michael Cohen, a felon previously convicted for lying to Congress, who just admitted to lying again to Congress," Stefanik said in a statement.

Zoom in: Cohen was called last month as a key witness in the New York civil fraud trial over a $250 million lawsuit that alleges that Trump, his eldest children and the Trump Organization committed years of financial fraud.

  • The House Republicans said that when Cohen appeared in court last month, he "admitted that the testimony he gave before the [Intelligence] Committee in 2019 was knowingly and intentionally false."
  • Cohen responded "yes" to a question about whether he lied under oath in a 2019 Congressional testimony by denying that Trump told him to inflate numbers on the former president's personal financial statements.

Between the lines: Cohen said later that Trump did not specifically ask him to change financial statements, but the former president "speaks like a mob boss, and ... tells you what he wants without specifically telling you."

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

Earlier this month, Stefanik filed a judicial ethics complaint against the New York judge presiding over the Trump civil fraud trial.

The big picture: This is not the first time House Republicans have referred Cohen to the DOJ for alleged perjury.

  • In 2019, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and then-Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) also demanded the DOJ investigate Cohen for perjury during the same congressional testimony — but for claiming he didn't seek a job in Trump's White House and denying he committed bank fraud.

Go deeper: Trump files to dismiss lawsuit against Michael Cohen

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