WASHINGTON (CN) – Citing “ongoing threats against his family” from President Donald Trump, the prison-bound former fixer Michael Cohen backed out Wednesday of a planned appearance before Congress.
Cohen, who is slated to report to Otisville prison on March 6 for a three-year term, announced the indefinite postponement of his testimony this afternoon in a statement through his onetime lawyer Lanny Davis.
“Due to ongoing threats against his family from President Trump and Mr. Giuliani, as recently as this weekend, as well as Mr. Cohen's continued cooperation with ongoing investigations, by advice of counsel, Mr. Cohen’s appearance will be postponed to a later date,” Davis said Wednesday.
“This is a time where Mr. Cohen had to put his family and their safety first,” Davis added.
This summer, ahead of a criminal plea that implicated Trump in campaign-finance violations, Cohen told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos: “I put family and country first.”
Davis added obliquely Wednesday that Cohen “looks forward to testifying at the appropriate time.”
Cohen accepted the invitation to testify on Feb. 7 before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform just two weeks earlier.
Though House leaders quickly warned Trump not to attempt any witness intimidation, the message went unheeded.
After encouraging the media and prosecutors to investigate Cohen’s family, Trump tweeted Friday in reference to Cohen’s character “Lying to reduce his jail time! Watch father-in-law!”
Cohen admitted this past November as part of a second plea deal that he lied to the Senate and House intelligence committees on Aug. 28, 2017, about Trump real estate deals in Russia.
Though Cohen originally swore that a plan for Trump skyscrapers in Moscow was abandoned in January 2016, he now maintains that talks extended through June 2016. Trump formally accepted the Republican presidential nomination one month later, and Cohen has attributed his deception to misplaced loyalty to the mogul.
As the date of Cohen’s next House appearance drew closer, however, reports emerged that the lawyer had been lying at Trump’s behest.
The Office of the Special Counsel issued a public statement disputing that account on Friday. Attorney Davis called out Trump’s pugilistic tactics that same day in an interview with MSNBC’s Chuck Todd.
“That sounds like a mafioso don ... it creates fear in the family of Michael Cohen,” Davis said, of Trump calling his client a rat.
Davis added: “There is fear that Mr. Trump has supporters either in this country or maybe abroad that have a motivation to harm,” Davis added.
News that Cohen will not be testifying any time soon before Congress earned derision Wednesday from lawyer Michael Avenatti.
“As I predicted,” Avenatti tweeted. This has nothing to do with threats or his family and everything to do with Cohen avoiding further charges, having to be accountable for his actions, and avoiding answering tough questions about his conspiracy and Trump’s role. Cohen is no hero and no John Dean.”
“It is ludicrous that Michael Cohen and Lanny Davis are attempting to sell Cohen’s refusal to testify as him looking out for his family. We have all received numerous threats, especially @StormyDaniels (largely due to Cohen btw). It doesn’t stop us from doing what is right,” Avenatti added in a followup tweet.
Despite pleading guilty to several charges of tax-evasion, campaign-finance violations, and false statements to financial institutions and to Congress, Cohen never entered a formal cooperation agreement with the government.
Ahead of Cohen’s about-face, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff told CBS's "Face the Nation" on Sunday that he will subpoena Cohen to testify before his committee "if necessary.”
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