Ex-Trump fixer Michael Cohen will not testify before Congress next month, lawyer says
WASHINGTON — Michael Cohen, President Trump’s former personal lawyer, will not testify before Congress next month, one of his attorneys said Wednesday — which could quash, at least temporarily, liberals’ hopes for a public hearing in which Trump’s ex-fixer aired the president’s dirty laundry.
Lanny Davis, an attorney for Cohen said in a statement, ‘‘Due to ongoing threats against his family from President Trump and Mr. [Rudolph] 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 had been scheduled to appear before the House Oversight Committee on Feb. 7.
‘‘This is a time where Mr. Cohen had to put his family and their safety first,’’ Davis said.
It is not clear to which ‘‘threats’’ Davis was referring, and Davis declined to provide more detail. A person familiar with Cohen’s account said the threats have not been reported to law enforcement.
Trump said of the claim he had threatened Cohen: ‘‘I would say he’s been threatened by the truth. He’s only been threatened by the truth. And he doesn’t want to do that, probably for me or other of his clients.’’ The president has been publicly critical of Cohen for his cooperation with Special Counsel Robert Mueller and has suggested Cohen’s father-in-law ought to be investigated.
Giuliani, the president’s current lawyer, has highlighted problems with Cohen’s credibility. Giuliani was particularly skeptical of Cohen after BuzzFeed News reported last week that Cohen told Mueller’s office Trump had directed him to lie to Congress — an account the special counsel disputed in an unprecedented public statement.
‘‘If you believe Cohen, I can get you a great deal on the Brooklyn Bridge,’’ Giuliani said.
It was not immediately clear that lawmakers would easily allow Cohen to back out of his commitment to appear.
House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings, Democrat of Maryland, and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, Democrat of California, said in a joint statement that they ‘‘certainly understand the completely legitimate concerns for the safety and security of Mr. Cohen and his family members in light of the attacks last week by President Trump and again this past weekend by his attorney, Rudy Giuliani.’’
But the lawmakers added that they had ‘‘repeatedly offered our assistance to work with law enforcement to enhance security measures for Mr. Cohen and his family,’’ and in their discussions with 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,’’ Cummings and Schiff 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.’’
Cohen had announced to some fanfare earlier this month he had accepted an invitation to testify from Cummings ‘‘in furtherance of my commitment to cooperate and provide the American people with answers.’’ The hearing seemed as if it could be eventful.
Cohen pleaded guilty last year to multiple crimes, including lying to Congress about a possible Trump Tower project in Moscow and arranging hush money payments to women who had alleged having had affairs with Trump. He was sentenced to three years in prison and is expected to report to prison on March 6, about a month after the scheduled testimony date.
Trump’s critics had hoped Cohen might, at the very least, offer unflattering revelations about the president. He had claimed in court to have helped cover up Trump’s ‘‘dirty deeds.’’
Almost immediately, though, lawmakers raised questions about how much Cohen could say about the topic of most interest to the public — the information Cohen was said to provide to Mueller — because Mueller’s investigation is ongoing, and Cohen would probably be restricted in what he could say.
When Cohen announced he was testifying, Cummings said, ‘‘I want to make clear that we have no interest in inappropriately interfering with any ongoing criminal investigations, and to that end, we are in the process of consulting with Special Counsel Mueller’s office.’’
It was not clear if Cohen would still be able to testify before he reports to prison or whether he could in some way offer testimony after that.