With the question of President Trump's possible meddling in criminal cases that could implicate him front and center, former acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker appeared Wednesday for an interview with House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler and, Nadler says, made a slight but significant change in the account he gave in an open hearing of his conversations with the president.
U.S. President Donald Trump's former personal lawyer and one-time "fixer" Michael Cohen's testimony to Congress regarding any potential pardon for his crimes could have been clearer, but he never personally asked the president for such a reprieve, Cohen's lawyer said.
Two Republican staff members in the room backed up Collins' version.
The U.S. Attorney's Office in Manhattan declined to comment.
Trump challenged that, tweeting that Cohen had "directly asked" him for a pardon.
"Collins described Whitaker's conversations about Berman and the campaign finance case as questions for his personal staff. "(Whitaker) had no conversations with the Southern District of NY", he said.
Whitaker, who left the Justice Department after Attorney General William Barr's arrival last month, caused alarm among Democrats when Trump appointed him acting attorney general without Senate confirmation in November, after ousting former Attorney Jeff Sessions last November.
They said federal prosecutors in NY say Cohen sought employment in the Trump administration - something Cohen repeatedly denied in the hearing.
Collins also dismissed a Nadler statement that Whitaker was involved in conversations about firing one or more US attorneys as "normal personnel issues".
According to Collins' legal counsel, Whitaker said in the meeting that he "does not remember" any conversations with Trump regarding Cohen.
But during combative questioning by Democrats, Whitaker was asked by Nadler whether he had "communicated any information" he had learned in briefings with investigators to the president.
News reports said Trump did lash out at Whitaker, but Whitaker said in the hearing that he did not.
Collins said that Whitaker suggested the conversations about district attorneys were normal personnel issues, and to characterize those comments otherwise were 'an overreach and a stretch.' Collins added that Whitaker said he hadn't had any conversations with officials in the Southern District of NY.
Speaking with reporters, Nadler said there were three main takeaways from the meeting.