Michael Cohen, the former attorney of President Donald Trump, is delaying his testimony before Congress next month, claiming, without evidence, that the president and his current lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, are threatening him and his family.
Lanny Davis, Cohen’s attorney, issued the following statement regarding his client’s decision to postpone his testimony before the House Oversight Committee on February 7th in connection to hush payments he made to an adult film star who said she had an affair with the president:
— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) January 23, 2019
Cohen voluntarily agreed to appear before the panel, according to committee Chairman Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD). It was slated to be the panel’s first hearing since Democrats took over as the majority in the House.
“Last November, the American people voted overwhelmingly for Congress to do two things — address the core issues that affect their daily lives, and fulfill our constitutional responsibility to serve as an independent check and balance on the executive branch by restoring accountability and transparency,” Cummings said in a statement announcing the committee’s upcoming schedule. “This initial set of hearings will serve both goals by launching our broad review of the skyrocketing prices of prescription drugs, hearing directly from President Trump’s longtime personal attorney, and focusing on sweeping legislative reforms to strengthen our democracy in [anti-corruption legislation] H.R. 1.”
Responding to Cohen’s cancelation, President Trump told reporters that his former lawyer is “threatened by the truth” — not by him or his attorney.
The oversight committee said Cummings re-sent letters to the White House and the Trump Organization seeking documents related to payments Cohen made to “silence women” who said they had affairs with Trump prior to the 2016 election.
The committee’s ranking member, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) has accused Cummings of using the panel for political purposes rather than “legitimate oversight.”
“The Democrats’ star witness has admitted to providing intentionally false and misleading testimony to Congress. He is also a witness in ongoing law-enforcement matters, including special counsel [Robert] Mueller’s probe,” he said.
On December 12, a federal judge sentenced Cohen to three years in prison on nine counts, including tax evacuation, excessive campaign contribution, causing an unlawful corporate contribution and false statements to a bank for arranging to pay two women to keep silent about the affair allegations.
In the plea agreement, Cohen said he paid $130,000 to Stormy Daniels — also known as Stephanie Clifford — shortly before the 2016 presidential election for her to keep quiet about an affair she said she had with Trump after he married first lady Melania Trump. Cohen said he made the payment “at the direction of the candidate,” referring to Trump. Cohen said he also paid former Playboy Karen McDougal, who also said she had an affair with Trump.
The president has denied both affairs.
Cohen also faced legal troubles related to Mueller’s investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election and potential collusion by the Trump campaign. One of the counts for which he was sentenced in December — lying to Congress — stems from statements he made to lawmakers about how much Trump knew about plans to build a Trump Tower in Moscow during his campaign.
In a rare public statement from Mueller’s office last Friday, the special counsel disputed a BuzzFeed report claiming President Trump ordered Cohen to lie to Congress.
The article alleged Cohen was directed to lie about a potential real estate project in Russia.
“BuzzFeed’s description of specific statements to the Special Counsel’s Office, and characterization of documents and testimony obtained by this office, regarding Michael Cohen’s Congressional testimony are not accurate,” special counsel spokesperson Peter Carr said in a statement.
Appearing on CNN’s Reliable Sources Sunday, BuzzFeed journalist Anthony Cormier told host Brian Stelter that he stands behind his reporting despite Mueller’s statement. “The same fundamentals I learned covering city hall, covering the police, covering courthouses, that stands today, those same skills, the same rigor to cover the White House. This is going to be borne out, Brian. This story is accurate,” said Cormier.
“What we reported, that the president of the United States directed Michael Cohen to lie to Congress is accurate. That is fundamentally accurate. We’re going to get inside the room where it happened and bare it out. We’ve taken this to ground. We’ll go further to get inside that room,” he added.
The United Press International contributed to this report.