Michael Cohen Indefinitely Postpones Testimony to Congress, Citing Fears of Family’s Safety

Michael Cohen Indefinitely Postpones Testimony to Congress, Citing Fears of Family’s Safety

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Michael D. Cohen, President Trump’s former personal lawyer, backed out of congressional testimony set for next month.CreditCreditStephanie Keith for The New York Times

WASHINGTON — Michael D. Cohen, the former personal lawyer and fixer for President Trump, has indefinitely postponed his congressional testimony, his lawyer said in a statement on Wednesday, citing Mr. Trump’s verbal attacks on Mr. Cohen’s family in the days since he scheduled his appearance on Capitol Hill.

Mr. Cohen was to appear before the House Oversight Committee on Feb. 7 at the invitation of Representative Elijah E. Cummings, Democrat of Maryland and the chairman of the committee, but backed out because of ongoing threats against his family, his lawyer Lanny Davis said in a statement.

“By advice of counsel, Mr. Cohen’s appearance will be postponed to a later date,” Mr. 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.”

Mr. Trump denied that he was outright threatening his former lawyer, telling reporters in the White House that Mr. Cohen has “only been threatened by the truth.”

Mr. Cummings said that Mr. Cohen had “legitimate concerns” for his family’s safety. “Efforts to intimidate witnesses, scare their family members, or prevent them from testifying before Congress are textbook mob tactics that we condemn in the strongest terms,” he said in a joint statement with Representative Adam Schiff, Democrat of California and 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.”

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Michael Cohen, President Trump’s former lawyer, pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about plans to build a tower for Mr. Trump in Russia. The admission is the latest twist in the onetime Trump loyalist’s deteriorating relationship with the president.CreditCreditChang W. Lee/The New York Times

It is not clear when Mr. Cohen might reschedule his appearance; he is to begin a three-year prison sentence on March 6 after pleading guilty last year lying to Congress, financial crimes and campaign finance violations, including one in which he implicated Mr. Trump. Mr. Cummings could also subpoena Mr. Cohen to appear.

Federal prosecutors have also said that Mr. Trump directed Mr. Cohen to make hush payments to women who claimed to have had affairs with him and were poised to speak publicly about them while Mr. Trump was running for president in 2016. The president has denied the affairs.

Mr. Cohen’s willingness to tell prosecutors and the public what he knows about any possible involvement by Mr. Trump in the crimes he has already admitted to has emerged as one of the biggest threats to the Trump presidency. Mr. Cohen has spent more than 70 hours with investigators for the Southern District of New York who prosecuted the campaign finance violations and for the special counsel investigating Russia’s election interference and possible ties to the Trump campaign.

Mr. Trump has repeatedly suggested on Twitter that Mr. Cohen’s family members be investigated. In a recent interview with Jeanine Pirro, the Fox News host and one of Mr. Trump’s preferred interviewers, he called for Mr. Cohen’s father-in-law to be investigated without citing details.

When Ms. Pirro pressed for the name of the father-in-law, Mr. Trump demurred but said, “You’ll look into it because nobody knows what’s going on over there.”

That interview prompted a rare statement from House Democrats cautioning that any effort to discourage or influence witness testimony before Congress could be construed as a crime.

“The integrity of our process to serve as an independent check on the executive branch must be respected by everyone, including the president,” the Democrats said in the statement. “Our nation’s laws prohibit efforts to discourage, intimidate, or otherwise pressure a witness not to provide testimony to Congress.“

Nicholas Fandos contributed reporting.

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