Michael Cohen testified this week that he turned against President Trump over issues ranging from his conduct during the Helsinki summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin to his controversial remarks about the Charlottesville violence in 2017.
But a key Trump administration official, who inadvertently played a central role in Wednesday’s House hearing, has claimed there is another reason for Cohen’s betrayal—that his wife was being threatened with jail time unless he “turned on” Trump.
The assertion was made in a Facebook entry by Department of Housing and Urban Development official Lynne Patton in January. The post has taken on new relevance given Cohen’s testimony Wednesday.
“What many of you may not be aware of is the fact that I can personally confirm that the ONLY reason Michael Cohen ‘turned on’ the President of the United States is because Mueller threatened to throw his wife in jail for up to 30 years. Period,” Patton posted on Jan. 18.
“She is the co-guarantor of a $20M personal loan that Mueller discovered Michael secured back in 2015 by falsely inflating the value of his taxi medallions—effectively making her part & parcel to the federal charge of ‘Making False Statements to a Financial Institution,’ to which Cohen ultimately plead guilty,” she continued, adding that was also the reason a “longtime taxi medallion partner” was granted immunity.
Despite Patton’s suggestion that Mueller had jurisdiction over the loan issues, it was the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York that investigated and brought charges against Cohen related to bank fraud and personal business dealings. Mueller only charged Cohen with one count of making false statements to Congress, to which he pleaded guilty.
Both SDNY and the special counsel’s office declined to comment on Patton's claim.
Cohen's attorney, Lanny Davis, also did not respond to Fox News' request for comment on the claim.
Patton, who goes back with Cohen and said she considered him "one of my very best friends," is not the first to suggest Cohen’s wife was at legal risk. The Wall Street Journal reported in December that prosecutors had evidence that implicated her in potential criminal activity, but reported that she was never charged.
The president has also referred to Cohen's wife, tweeting in December: “He makes up stories to get a GREAT & ALREADY reduced deal for himself and get his wife and father-in-law (who has the money?) off Scott Free.”
During Wednesday's hearing, Cohen was pointedly asked when he reached his "breaking point" with Trump, after having worked for him for 10 years.
"There are several factors. Helsinki. Charlottesville. Watching the daily destruction of our civility to one another," Cohen responded.
But Trump, too, challenged the veracity of Cohen’s statements, citing Cohen's newly reported book proposal. The Daily Mail exclusively obtained a proposal dated Jan. 24, 2018, penned by Cohen, which apparently painted the president in a positive light. Cohen reportedly was shopping the pitch to book publishers just weeks before the FBI raided his office as part of the SDNY criminal investigation into his personal business dealings last April.
Trump said the revelation of Cohen’s proposal contradicts his congressional testimony -- as it was written after incidents he cited as a turning point like Charlottesville -- and renders him “totally discredited.”
Cohen also testified this week that Trump was “a racist,” a “conman,” and “a cheat.”
Patton, who attended the hearing on an invitation from Republican committee member Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., ended up being pulled into the drama when Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., accused her of being a “prop” for Republicans to counter the claims of racism. Patton is black.
“I was not there to represent an entire race of people. I was there to represent one man,” Patton told “Fox & Friends” on Thursday, touting Trump’s economic record and what those gains have meant for African Americans.