Cohen postpones testimony, citing threats from Trump

Michael Cohen, the former attorney and “fixer” for President Trump who is now cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller, is postponing his planned congressional testimony next month, citing threats from Trump.

“Due to ongoing threats against his family from President Trump and Mr. Giuliani, as recently as this weekend, as well as Mr. Cohen’s continued cooperation with ongoing investigations, by advice of counsel, Mr. Cohen’s appearance will be postponed to a later date,” Cohen’s legal adviser Lanny Davis said in a statement.

{mosads}“Mr. Cohen wishes to thank Chairman Cummings for allowing him to appear before the House Oversight Committee and looks forward to testifying at the appropriate time. This is a time where Mr. Cohen had to put his family and their safety first.”

Trump reacted to the news later Wednesday, asserting Cohen had been “threatened by the truth.”

“He doesn’t want to tell the truth for me or other of his clients,” Trump told reporters in the Roosevelt Room of the White House.

There had been high anticipation surrounding Cohen’s testimony before the House Oversight and Reform Committee since Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) announced it earlier in January. The move represented one of the first power plays by House Democrats as they eased into their investigative roles that came with winning the lower chamber’s majority.

Cummings declined to answer questions from reporters on Cohen’s decision to postpone his testimony early Wednesday afternoon.

In a statement, Cummings and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) described Cohen’s concerns as legitimate but emphasized that “not appearing before Congress was never an option.” 

“When our Committees began discussions with Mr. Cohen’s attorney, not appearing before Congress was never an option. We will not let the President’s tactics prevent Congress from fulfilling our constitutionally mandated oversight responsibilities,” the lawmakers said. 

“This will not stop us from getting to the truth. We expect Mr. Cohen to appear before both Committees, and we remain engaged with his counsel about his upcoming appearances,” they said. 

While Trump said earlier this month he is “not worried” about the hearing, he and his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani have excoriated Cohen since he began cooperating with federal investigators. Trump has labeled him a “rat” and suggested he told lies to prosecutors in order to obtain a lighter prison sentence. 

“Well, there is no information. But he should give information maybe on his father-in-law, because that’s the one that people want to look at,” Trump said on Fox News

Cohen’s father-in-law, Fima Shusterman, pleaded guilty in the 1990s to tax fraud charges in connection with his New York taxi business.

Democrats later suggested the comments could amount to witness intimidation and warned the president against obstructing congressional investigations. 

Trump also said Cohen was in trouble on “loans and frauds and taxi cabs.”

“Because where does that money — that’s the money in the family. And I guess he didn’t want to talk about his father-in-law — he’s trying to get his sentence reduced. So it’s pretty sad. It’s weak and it’s very sad to watch a thing like that. I couldn’t care less,” the president said.

Cohen was sentenced in December to three years in prison for a slew of federal charges, including campaign finance violations related to payments made during the presidential campaign to women who claimed to have had affairs with Trump. 

Cohen also pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about plans to build a Trump property in Moscow in connection with Mueller’s sprawling investigation, agreeing to cooperate in the special counsel’s inquiry into Russian interference and potential coordination between the Trump campaign and Moscow. 

Cohen’s planned testimony would have offered lawmakers from both parties an opportunity to question the president’s former personal attorney on a range of subjects. However, a letter released by two Republican lawmakers on Tuesday suggested Cohen planned to severely limit his testimony and refrain from answering questions about ongoing investigations involving Trump. 

Separately, Schiff has been in discussions with Cohen’s attorneys about him potentially testifying before the Intelligence Committee behind closed doors as part of the panel’s revived probe into Russian interference. 

Cohen’s postponement comes after a widely publicized and debated report from BuzzFeed News claiming that prosecutors have evidence Trump directed him to lie to Congress about the Moscow property plans. Mueller’s office, in a rare statement, described BuzzFeed’s account as “not accurate.” 

Giuliani has also faced scrutiny in recent days for espousing conflicting statements about the property plans. Giuliani walked back a statement he made to The New York Times that Trump told him discussions about the property were “going on from the day I announced to the day I won.”

It is unclear whether or when Cohen’s testimony will be rescheduled. He is due to report to federal prison in early March. 

Democrats could also choose to subpoena Cohen to testify. 

Updated at 3:09 p.m.

Tags Adam Schiff Conviction Donald Trump Donald Trump Donald Trump litigation Elijah Cummings Employment Relation Michael Cohen Person Career Politics Politics of the United States Quotation Robert Mueller Rudy Giuliani Stormy Daniels–Donald Trump scandal United States

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