Cohen Delays Testimony Amid 'Threats' 01/24 06:23

Cohen Delays Testimony Amid 'Threats'  01/24 06:23

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Donald Trump's former lawyer, Michael Cohen, 
will not testify before a House committee next month as scheduled, his adviser 
said Wednesday, depriving Democrats for now of a prime opportunity to 
scrutinize Trump, his links to Russia and payments to buy the silence of a porn 
star.

   Cohen indefinitely delayed his Feb. 7 appearance before the House Oversight 
and Reform Committee. He blamed threats from Trump and the president's 
attorney-spokesman, Rudy Giuliani, and cited his own ongoing cooperation in 
special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation.

   Cohen adviser Lanny Davis said the decision was made on advice of Cohen's 
lawyers.

   "This is a time where Mr. Cohen had to put his family and their safety 
first," Davis said in a statement.

   The statement did not detail the threats. But Trump and Giuliani have 
publicly urged the Justice Department to investigate Cohen's father-in-law, 
insinuating he was part of some unspecific criminal activity. Trump, for 
example, told Fox News this month that Cohen "should give information maybe on 
his father-in-law, because that's the one that people want to look at."

   Asked about the claim of a threat, Trump accused Cohen of lying.

   "He's only been threatened by the truth, and he doesn't want to do that, 
probably for me or other of his clients," Trump said at the White House. "He 
has other clients also, I assume, and he doesn't want to tell the truth for me 
or other of his clients."

   Trump's fixer-turned-foe is a central figure in Mueller's investigation into 
possible coordination between Russia and Trump's campaign. Cohen also played a 
pivotal role in buying the silence of a porn actress and a former Playboy 
Playmate who both alleged they had sex with Trump. The president has denied 
their claims.

   Cohen pleaded guilty last year to campaign finance violations and other 
offenses connected to the payments. Federal prosecutors have said Trump 
directed Cohen to make the payments during the campaign.

   Newly empowered Democrats wanted to make Cohen the first high-profile 
witness since they regained control of the House and have promised an 
aggressive effort to investigate the president. They have pledged to limit 
their questioning to avoid interfering with any investigations.

   It is unclear how long Cohen is seeking to delay his testimony, but Cohen 
"looks forward to testifying at the appropriate time," Davis said.

   Cohen is scheduled to report to prison on March 6 to begin a three-year 
sentence.

   Democrats have suggested they may subpoena Cohen to compel his testimony and 
the committee's chairman, Rep. Elijah Cummings, said Cohen could be brought 
from prison to appear before Congress.

   "We will get his testimony," Cummings said.

   In a statement, Cummings and Rep. Adam Schiff, who heads the House 
Intelligence Committee, said they understood the "completely legitimate 
concerns" Cohen raised about threats. But, they added, it "was never an option" 
for Cohen not to appear before Congress.

   The committees have been in touch with Cohen and offered to work with law 
enforcement to enhance security measures to protect his family and is in touch 
with Cohen's lawyers about when he would testify, they said.

   "We will not let the president's tactics prevent Congress from fulfilling 
our constitutionally mandated oversight responsibilities," the chairmen said in 
a statement. "This will not stop us from getting to the truth."

   In November, Cohen also pleaded guilty to lying to Congress. He admitted 
that he said negotiations over the development of a Trump-branded tower in 
Moscow had ended in January 2016 but had actually continued until at least June 
2016, well into Trump's presidential campaign. Cohen has said he lied to be 
consistent with Trump's "political messaging" and to minimize the public's 
understanding of Trump's ties with Russia.

   Republicans, in their questioning at a Cohen hearing, probably would have 
seized on a disputed BuzzFeed News story that Trump instructed Cohen to lie 
before Congress.

   The special counsel's office issued a rare public statement after the story 
ran last week disputing elements of the article. BuzzFeed stands by the story 
and has asked for clarity from Mueller's team.


(KA)

© 2019 CHS Inc.