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
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
"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
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
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
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.