Michael Cohen delays House testimony, citing threats from Trump, lawyer Rudy Giuliani

VIDEO: REUTERS
Cohen arrives for his sentencing at a court in New York City, Dec 12, 2018.
Cohen arrives for his sentencing at a court in New York City, Dec 12, 2018.PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (BLOOMBERG) - Michael Cohen, United States President Donald Trump's former lawyer and fixer, has postponed his testimony to Congress, citing concerns for his family's safety.

Cohen's family, including his wife, children and in-laws, encouraged him to postpone the appearance after calls by Mr Trump and his lawyer Rudy Giuliani to investigate Cohen's father-in-law, according to Cohen's lawyer and spokesman Lanny Davis.

"The President has terrorised someone who wanted to tell the truth before Congress," Mr Davis said on Wednesday (Jan 23).

Cohen was scheduled to testify before the House Oversight Committee in a public hearing on Feb 7.

Mr Trump, asked on Wednesday whether he had threatened Cohen, told reporters at the White House: "I would say he's been threatened by the truth."

House Oversight chairman Elijah Cummings and Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff said they still expect Cohen to appear before both panels.

"We will not let the President's tactics prevent Congress from fulfilling our constitutionally mandated oversight responsibilities," the Democrats said in a statement.

"This will not stop us from getting to the truth."

Issuing a subpoena to force Cohen's testimony "now is the necessary alternative", Representative Gerry Connolly, a senior Democrat on the Oversight panel, said.

"Remember, he is scheduled to go to prison in March, and this window is critical."

'WATCH FATHER-IN-LAW'

Mr Trump, who has called Cohen a liar and "rat", said in a tweet last Friday that Cohen is "Lying to reduce his jail time! Watch father-in-law!"

In a Fox News interview last month, Mr Trump said Cohen's father-in-law "is a very rich guy, I hear".

 
 
 

Referring to Cohen, the President asked: "Did he make a deal to keep his father-in-law out? Did he make a deal to keep his wife, who supposedly, maybe I'm wrong, but you can check it, did he make keep - make a deal to keep his wife out of trouble?"

Cohen has pleaded guilty to nine felonies and is due to turn himself in on March 6 to begin serving a three-year prison sentence.

He has said Mr Trump directed him to break campaign finance laws by making hush-money pay-offs to two women and and that he lied to Congress to hide that negotiations to build a Trump tower in Moscow continued well into the 2016 presidential campaign.

While the House committee would have to steer clear in an open hearing from issues potentially still under investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, leaders of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees have said they want to hear from Cohen separately in closed sessions.

Cohen friend Donny Deutsch, an advertising executive, said that Cohen has been increasingly worried that Mr Trump would retaliate against him by further attacking his family if he testified.

"He was panicked. He was like 'he's going after my father-in-law. Are my children next?'" Mr Deutsch said on MSNBC last Friday.

Mr Deutsch said Cohen told him "you have no idea what this man is capable of".