Tags: Donald Trump | Russia Probe | Trump Administration | geoffrey berman | matthew whitaker | investigation | fbi

NY Times: Trump Asked Whitaker to Put Ally in Charge of Cohen Case

united states attorney for the southern district of new york geoffrey berman
Geoffrey Berman (U.S. Attorney's Office/AP)

By    |   Tuesday, 19 February 2019 03:35 PM

President Donald Trump asked former acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker to put an ally in charge of investigating his former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, according to The New York Times.

The Times reported Tuesday that Trump called Whitaker late last year and asked him to put Geoffrey Berman, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York who worked on the Trump transition's legal team in 2017, in charge of the investigation into Cohen and payments made to women who claimed to have had affairs with Trump.

Trump immediately denied the report.

“No, I didn’t,” Trump told reporters at the White House on Tuesday. “There’s a lot of fake news out there.”

Berman had previously recused himself from the probe, which is being conducted by the Southern District, and Whitaker, who stepped down last week after Attorney General William Barr's confirmation, knew Berman could not reverse his recusal, according to the Times.

The White House and the Justice Department declined to comment on the story to the Times. Whitaker referred the newspaper's questions to the Justice Department.

Cohen was recently sentenced to three years in prison after pleading guilty to eight charges, including fraud and campaign finance violations. He is scheduled to testify before Congress at some point before he begins his sentence March 6.

Had Trump asked for an ally to be put in charge of an investigation involving himself it could be viewed as an attempt to obstruct justice that could further add to his legal troubles. Special Counsel Robert Mueller has already been probing whether Trump attempted to obstruct the investigation into Russian election meddling by firing FBI Director James Comey and through other actions.

If the president tried to interfere with a criminal prosecution by putting an ally in charge that “is clearly an attempt to obstruct justice,” said Andrew Napolitano, a former judge who’s a Fox News commentator.

“That is an effort to use the levers of power of the government for a corrupt purpose to deflect an investigation into himself or his allies,” Napolitano added.

Whitaker was asked during a House Judiciary committee hearing whether he ever had any conversations about reassigning or firing anyone with the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office, which is handling the probe into the hush-money payments. Whitaker didn’t answer.

The committee’s chairman, Jerrold Nadler, called the report about Trump’s conduct “very concerning” and said it was 'one of the many reasons' Whitaker must come back to clarify his testimony.

Nadler, a New York Democrat, sent a letter to Whitaker last week asking him to clear up some of his answers, saying that committee members found his testimony “unsatisfactory, incomplete, or contradicted by other evidence.” He cited Whitaker’s response to questioning about whether he’d been asked to make changes to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New York among the examples in which he said the committee had information that contradicted Whitaker’s testimony.

Trump has fumed to advisers about a raid by federal prosecutors of his lawyer and former fixer Michael Cohen in April 2018, and those close to Trump have feared the investigation into Cohen could extend deeper into Trump’s business.

In August, Cohen admitted he made illegal campaign contributions at the behest of Trump and pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations in connection with the hush-money payments. In November, Cohen pleaded guilty to lying to Congress and admitted that he spoke with Trump and Russian officials as late as June 2016 about a potential business deal in Moscow that Cohen told Congress had ended months earlier.

Cohen is due to turn himself in on March 6 to begin serving a three-year prison sentence.

Material from Bloomberg was used in this story.

© 2019 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

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Former acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker was asked by President Donald Trump to put an ally in charge of investigating his former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, according to The New York Times.
geoffrey berman, matthew whitaker, investigation, fbi, special counsel, raid
Tuesday, 19 February 2019 03:35 PM
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