President Trump claimed on Friday that his former personal lawyer and fixer, Michael D. Cohen, “directly” asked him for a pardon, a sharp escalation of a fight over the veracity of Mr. Cohen’s testimony last week to the House Oversight and Reform Committee.
Mr. Trump made the claim on Twitter, referring to Mr. Cohen’s testimony to Congress in which Mr. Cohen said the president lied to the public about business interests in Russia, lied to reporters about stolen Democratic emails and told Mr. Cohen to lie about hush payments to cover up sexual misconduct.
Mr. Cohen quickly responded in a tweet of his own, calling Mr. Trump’s assertions “lies.”
Mr. Cohen was referring to two women who had claimed to have had affairs with the president, and who were paid to keep quiet about them during the 2016 presidential campaign.
The question of whether Mr. Cohen sought a pardon has been a point of contention since his testimony last week before the House Oversight and Reform Committee, when he said under oath that he had never sought one.
His current lawyer, Lanny J. Davis, acknowledged this week that Mr. Cohen’s previous lawyer had inquired about a pardon soon after the F.B.I. searched Mr. Cohen’s home and office in April 2018. But Mr. Davis said that inquiry came about because the president’s team had “dangled” the possibility of one in implicit statements.
The exchange between the two men highlighted the stakes for both in establishing whether Mr. Cohen was credible in the accusations he has made against the president in his congressional testimony and in providing information to federal prosecutors.
It also highlighted again the continued questions about Mr. Trump’s pardon power and how he might use it as the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, wraps up his investigation, while other federal prosecutors and Democrats in Congress intensify theirs and expand their scope into the president’s business career.
Mr. Trump was asked Friday about the possibility of a pardon for Paul Manafort, who served as his campaign chairman for a period in 2016. Mr. Manafort was sentenced to 47 months in prison on Thursday in one of two cases brought against him by Mr. Mueller’s team.
“I haven’t discussed it,” Mr. Trump said, referring to a pardon for Mr. Manafort.
Speaking to reporters outside the White House before leaving on a trip to Alabama and Florida, Mr. Trump elaborated in his comments about what he said were Mr. Cohen’s discussions about a pardon.
“It was a stone-cold lie,” Mr. Trump said about Mr. Cohen’s claims that he had never sought a pardon. “And he’s lied about a lot of things, but when he lied about the pardon, that was really a lie.”
Mr. Trump continued: “His lawyers said that they went to my lawyers and asked for pardons. And I can go a step above that, but I won’t do it now.”