WASHINGTON (CN) – Set to hear from convicted ex-Trump attorney Michael Cohen next month, Democratic lawmakers chairing several investigative committees issued the White House a stark warning: witness obstruction will not be tolerated.
“The integrity of our process to serve as an independent check on the Executive Branch must be respected by everyone, including the president,” House Chairmen Elijah Cummings, Adam Schiff and Jerrold Nadler said Sunday in a statement.
Release of the statement followed the airing by Fox News on Saturday night of a phone interview between host Jeanine Pirro and President Donald Trump.
Slamming his former attorney during the call, Trump said Cohen will testify February before the House Oversight Committee in a bid to “get his sentence reduced.”
The president claimed that legal troubles plaguing Cohen’s father-in-law, Fima Shusterman, are motivating the lawyer to speak with Congress.
“[Cohen] should give information maybe on his father-in-law because that’s the one that people want to look at because where does that money – that’s the money in the family,” the president said Saturday. “And I guess he didn’t want to talk about his father-in-law.”
Shusterman’s business dealings came under the microscope last year when The Chicago-Sun Times reported on substantial loans – totaling $20 million - given to Yasya Shtayner, owner of the largest taxi fleet in Chicago, Chicago Medallion Management.
The details emerged after Shusterman and Shtayner’s names surfaced as part of an FBI warrant used to raid Cohen’s office and residence in New York last year.
Investigators were searching for documents related to Cohen’s legal practice plus information tied to the $130,000 in hush-money payments Cohen made to adult film star Stormy Daniels.
When Pirro pressed Trump for clarity Saturday around his statements involving Shusterman, the president responded: “I don’t know, but you’ll find out and you’ll look into it because nobody knows what’s going on over there.”
Cohen testifies publicly before the House Oversight and Reform Committee on February 7. The committee is chaired by Cummings, a Maryland Democrat. Schiff and Nadler chair the House Intelligence and Judiciary committees, respectively.
When Cohen was sentenced last month to three years in federal prison for financial crimes, the president lashed out at his onetime confidante.
Trump called Cohen a “rat” on Twitter on Dec. 16 after Cohen entered his guilty plea in New York. He weighed in again as sentencing approached.
“Michael Cohen asks judge for no Prison Time,” the president tweeted. “You mean he can do all of the TERRIBLE, unrelated to Trump, things have to do with fraud, big loans, Taxis, etc. and not serve a long prison term He makes up stories to get a GREAT & ALREADY reduced deal for himself and get….” [Punctuation and emphasis original.]
The chairmen’s statement on Sunday appeared to anticipate similar involvement during testimony next month.
“The president should make no statement or take any action to obstruct Congress’ independent oversight and investigative efforts, including by seeking to discourage any witness from testifying in response to a duly authorized request from Congress,” Cummings, Schiff and Nadler wrote.
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