Washington : 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.
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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.
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