Citing threats to his immediate family members, the US president's former fixer Michael Cohen, who has threatened to unload dirt on his former boss, has decided to put off his public testimony before the US House Oversight Committee. Cohen attorney Lanny Davis put out a statement Wednesday even as angry Democrats are saying this amounts to "witness tampering" by Donald Trump and team.
Witnesses who have spent more than 70 hours speaking with the Robert Mueller team investigating alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 elections say "threats" from Trump seem absolutely spot on. "That's the one word that stands out for me", Carter Page said on MSNBC tonight. On the same show, Michael Caputo, another witness, thinks Cohen is postponing because Mueller may have advised him to, not because of threats. The threats may be a smokescreen, he said.
“By advice of counsel, Mr. Cohen’s appearance will be postponed to a later date,” Cohen's attorney Davis said in the statement. “Mr. Cohen wishes to thank Chairman Cummings for allowing him to appear before the House Oversight Committee and looks forward to testifying at the appropriate time.” He added, “This is a time where Mr. Cohen had to put his family and their safety first.”
Yet, Cohen will testify, say Democrats who now control the House. "As surely as day turns to night and night turns to day, we will hear from Michael Cohen", Democrat in charge of the House Oversight Committee Elijah Cummings told reporters at the Capitol. Democrats are not ruling out a subpoena before Cohen leaves for jail on 6 March.
“We will not let the President’s tactics prevent Congress from fulfilling our constitutionally mandated oversight responsibilities. 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”, Cummings said in a joint statement with fellow Democrat Representative Adam Schiff who is chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. “Our nation’s laws prohibit efforts to discourage, intimidate, or otherwise pressure a witness not to provide testimony to Congress.”
There's no word yet on when Cohen might testify if he doesn't on 7 February. He begins a three year jail term on 6 March. He has pleaded guilty to lying to Congress, financial crimes and campaign finance violations, including one in which he implicated Trump who is referred to as 'Individual 1' in court filings.
Porn star Stormy Daniels and her attorney Michael Avenatti blasted Trump's former longtime attorney for backing out of public testimony before the House Oversight Committee out of fear for his family.
"Are you f---ing serious, Mikey?!" Daniels tweeted. "What about MY family? You gave zero sh--- about my baby. In all serious though, this is WHY you shouldn't back down! This is your chance to be a hero! I'll loan you some of my balls, hold your hand, or whatever else you need to do the right thing."
Avenatti tweeted that it was "ludicrous" that Cohen and his legal adviser sought to "sell Cohen’s refusal to testify as him looking out for his family."
Given the timing of the Cohen backtracking, when Trump is less than a month into having a House not controlled by his own party, Trump has scored Round 1 against Cohen, who said his testimony would send "chills" down Washington and expose what it was like to work for a "madman". We won't know on 7 February.
Updated Date: Jan 24, 2019 06:30:17 IST