Media are asking us whom we believe in the he said / he said exchange of assertions between Michael Cohen and Donald Trump. Here's how I go about deciding that.
1) What does the source have to gain by lying?
2) What first hand knowledge does the source have? (This is to explore the possibility that the source is simply mistaken)
3) What corroboration is available?
4) Does the source have prior credibility issues?
Here we go. On the matter of whether or not Cohen asked for or Trump offered a pardon, which one is lying?
1) Trump's claim that Cohen sought a pardon is a way to further punish and discredit his former fixer for ratting on Trump. Trump also has a legitimate responsibility to point out if someone has lied to congress. If I believe that Trump had any regard for the rule of law as it applies to lying to congress this would be a draw. That is a shaky belief given his tenuous grip on the truth, his long record of playing fast and loose with the law and his general misunderstanding of the constitution.
Cohen's claim that he did not seek and would not accept a pardon seems to be a stretch. Why wouldn't he seek one very soon after the FBI raided his offices? Why would he not accept it if offered? He may be sincere and he certainly knows the price of lying to congress. So he has nothing to gain by lying to congress again and he knows it. He may have said it as a way to explain how much he regrets lying for Trump. People do that, more to convince themselves than anyone else.
All in all I think Trump has more to gain from lying than Cohen does. Cohen 1, Trump 0
2) Both have first hand knowledge of any exchanges between them. I highly doubt that either has forgotten the content of those discussions. Tied
3) I read the two emails to Cohen that CNN released today. Cohen has testified that Trump talks in "code". It is hard to believe that Trump, or Rudy Giuliani was not dangling a pardon in front of Cohen through an intermediary. But the emails are not from either Trump or RG. I have not seen anything from Cohen asking for one. I have not seen or read anything else to corroborate either side's account. Tied
4) Cohen confessed to and was convicted for lying to congress on behalf of Trump. Trump has had his own fickle relationship with the truth for, um, well, his entire life. So you might well ask yourself which of these two should I believe? For that I consider this: Cohen seems to have had an epiphany about his career of deceit, going to jail can do that for someone who has an ounce of introspection. Trump has, as far as I know, never been held to any meaningful account for any of the thousands of lies he has told. He seems to revel in the idea that he can define the truth through his own willpower. He wouldn't recognize objective truth if it ran over him with a bulldozer. Cohen 1, Trump 0
The decision? Cohen by 2.