President Trump’s former fixer Michael Cohen said he is postponing his much-anticipated testimony to a House panel next month, citing “ongoing threats” from the president and his personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani.
The move drew mockery from the White House and the threat of a subpoena from Democratic committee chairmen who said they will get Cohen before their panels somehow.
Cohen worked for years as Mr. Trump’s lawyer, but has since broken with the president and now says — as part of a plea bargain — that he lied about his actions on behalf of then-candidate Trump and that he broke campaign finance laws on Mr. Trump’s behalf.
He had said he would tell his story to Congress — but his lawyer, Lanny Davis, said Wednesday that his appearance is off.
“Due to ongoing threats against his family from President Trump and Mr. Giuliani, as recently as this weekend, as well as Cohen’s continued cooperation with ongoing investigations, by advice of counsel, Cohen’s appearance will be postponed to a later date,” Mr. Davis said in a statement.
Mr. Trump, speaking to reporters at the White House, responded that Cohen is “only threatened by the truth.”
Cohen was scheduled to testify Feb. 7 before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and Democratic lawmakers were eager to prod him about his longtime knowledge of Mr. Trump and his businesses.
He said he wanted to testify to “give a full and credible account of the events which have transpired.”
His cancellation raises questions over whether will he will publicly testify before he heads to prison March 6.
Two top Democrats said Wednesday they may subpoena Cohen and vowed to take steps to ensure his security.
“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,” House Oversight Chairman Elijah Cummings of Maryland and House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff of California said in a joint statement.
Mr. Trump on Friday tweeted that Cohen was “lying to reduce his jail time,” when he implicated the president in hush-money payments to silence two women who said they had affairs with him.
“Watch father-in-law,” Mr. Trump added at the end of the tweet, one of several references he has made to Cohen’s father-in-law since his former personal attorney began cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller.
Mr. Trump told Fox News this month that Cohen should give Congress information on his father-in-law, “because that’s the one that people want to look at.”
Mr. Giuliani defended the president’s comments and suggested Cohen’s father-in-law, Fima Shusterman, has ties to organized crime. In 1993, Shusterman pleaded guilty to federal income-tax fraud relating to his New York taxicab business.
Those comments stoked “genuine fear” in Mr. Cohen, causing him to rethink his testimony, Mr. Davis said Sunday in a television interview.
Democrats roundly criticized the president and Mr. Giuliani for the statements, saying they amounted to witness intimidation and an effort to obstruct justice by discouraging Cohen from testifying.
“Our nation’s laws prohibit efforts to discourage, intimidate or otherwise pressure a witness not to provide testimony to Congress,” Mr. Cummings, Mr. Schiff and Rep. Jerry Nadler, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said in a joint statement.
Republicans had criticized the Cohen hearing as “political theater,” saying the president’s former lawyer was being pushed to testify by Mr. Davis.
“Davis made clear that Cohen’s upcoming appearance before the committee is entirely the result of Davis’s orchestration,” Reps. Jim Jordan of Ohio and Mark Meadows of North Carolina wrote in a letter to Cohen defense attorney Guy Petrillo.
The GOP lawmakers said several topics related to current investigations, including those being probed by special counsel Robert Mueller, would be off-limits, citing a conversation with Mr. Davis.
House Democrats were in discussions with Mr. Mueller’s team about matters currently under investigation and if Cohen could shine any light on them, Mr. Cummings confirmed.
• Jeff Mordock can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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