Michael Cohen is going to testify before Congress whether he wants to or not.
A day after President Trump’s former attorney and “fixer” postponed plans to testify before Congress voluntarily on February 7th, the Senate Intelligence Committee issued a subpoena that will effectively force Cohen to testify next month. Though Cohen has cooperated with federal investigators, Congress is eager to learn what he knows about Trump’s relationship with Russia during the 2016 campaign, which has become a focus of the media’s attention in recent weeks as new information has come to light regarding the Trump Organization’s negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, a project Cohen was overseeing.
The subpoena from the Senate comes less than 24 hours after Cohen announced through his lawyer Lanny Davis that he would not be appearing before the House Oversight Committee on February 7th, citing threats from the president. “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,” wrote Davis in a statement.
Davis elaborated during a Wednesday appearance on ABC, arguing that the House has an “obligation [to pass] a resolution of censure when the president of the United States indisputably intimidates and obstructs justice to prevent a witness from testifying.” He added that Trump’s legal counsel, Rudy Giuliani, should be investigated for his role in intimidating Cohen.
Lanny Davis, Michael Cohen's lawyer, accuses Rudy Giuliani of "witness tampering."
Davis wants a resolution of censure by the House against Trump for obstruction of justice, calls for a criminal investigation of Rudy Giuliani. Via ABC pic.twitter.com/CxjzI4qSTv
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) January 24, 2019
Davis did not answer a call or text from Rolling Stone requesting comment regarding the Senate Intelligence Committee’s subpoena on Thursday.
Since Cohen began cooperating with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office, Trump and Giuliani have on multiple occasions called for investigators to look into Cohen’s father-in-law, leading to accusations of witness tampering. “The most upsetting thing about all of this is the fact that Mr. Cohen was intimidated,” House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-MD) told the New York Times after Cohen postponed his testimony. “And not only was he intimidated, but he believes his family also has been intimidated and threatened.”
As Harvard Law professor Laurence Tribe points out on Twitter, it’s hard to argue that Trump’s threats toward Cohen are not in violation of federal law.
Trump seems to have violated U.S.C. §1512 (b): “Whoever knowingly uses intimidation . . . with intent to (1) influence, delay, or prevent the testimony of any person in an official proceeding . . . shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both.”
— Laurence Tribe (@tribelaw) January 24, 2019
The president doesn’t quite see it that way. “I would say he’s been threatened by the truth,” Trump told reporters when asked about Cohen’s decision to postpone his testimony. “He’s only been threatened by the truth. He doesn’t want to do that probably for me or other of his clients. He has other clients also, I assume. He doesn’t want to tell the truth for me or other of his clients.”
Though Trump’s public threats alone may constitute witness tampering, it’s unclear if they are the sole reason Cohen is hesitant to testify. In a joint statement, Cummings and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) expressed concern over Cohen’s decision, regardless of whatever threats he may have received from the president. “We understand that Mr. Cohen’s wife and other family members fear for their safety after these attacks, and we have repeatedly offered our assistance to work with law enforcement to enhance security measures for Mr. Cohen and his family,” they wrote, adding that “when our Committees began discussions with Mr. Cohen’s attorney, not appearing before Congress was never an option.”
On Sunday, Schiff said on CBS’s Face the Nation that he was prepared subpoena Cohen, “if necessary.” The Senate Intelligence Committee beat him to it, but that doesn’t mean Cohen won’t also appear publicly before the House. In the meantime, Trump has continued to throw stones at the man he entrusted with his secrets for a decade. “So interesting that bad lawyer Michael Cohen, who sadly will not be testifying before Congress, is using the lawyer of Crooked Hillary Clinton to represent him,” the president tweeted on Thursday. “Gee, how did that happen?”