Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen refuses to cooperate with Congressional inquiries

 US President Donald Trump speaking at a press conference on May 23, 2017.
US President Donald Trump speaking at a press conference on May 23, 2017.PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (NYTIMES, REUTERS) – United States President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen said on Tuesday (May 30) that he was refusing to cooperate with the House and Senate intelligence committee investigations into the possible Russian election meddling. 

The move may prompt lawmakers to issue subpoenas, compelling him to provide documents, testimony or other records.

Cohen, a confidant of Trump who was also a spokesman during the campaign, called the requests “poorly phrased, overly broad and not capable of being answered.” 

“To date, there has not been a single witness, document or piece of evidence linking me to this fake Russian conspiracy,” he said in a text message. “This is not surprising to me because there is none!” 

Cohen’s response was first reported by ABC News.

Separately, Boris Epshteyn, a Trump campaign surrogate who briefly served in the White House press office, said in a statement that he also received a request from the House committee seeking information, a development first reported by CBS News.

The disclosures add Cohen and Epshteyn to a growing list of Trump associates under scrutiny as investigators examine whether members of Trump’s campaign colluded with Russian officials.

Representatives for the senior Republicans and Democrats on the Senate and House panels declined to comment on the requests.

Already a focus of the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation into Russian interference, Cohen helped propose a peace plan between Ukraine and Russia to Trump that would allow the president to lift sanctions on Russia – efforts that, while not illegal, appeared troubling given growing questions about the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia.

Cohen’s wife is Ukrainian, and he once worked to build an ethanol business there, in addition to working on deals for the Trump Organisation connected to the republic of Georgia and a mixed martial arts fighter from Russia.

Cohen was named in connection with Russian efforts to interfere in the election in an unverified dossier, paid for by Trump’s political opponents and compiled by a former British intelligence agent.

Epshteyn, a lawyer and executive at an investment firm who grew up in Moscow and befriended Trump’s son Eric at Georgetown University, became known for his combative style during television interviews as he promoted Trump’s campaign.

The congressional investigations have picked up some momentum in recent weeks, with several committees requesting materials and testimony from James Comey, the former FBI director whom Trump fired May 9, and several of Trump’s associates.

Meanwhile, Reuters reported that former White House National Security Adviser Michael  Flynn has told the Senate Intelligence Committee he will begin turning over some documents subpoenaed by the panel, according to a government source familiar with the matter.

Flynn’s representatives told the committee in an email on Tuesday that they would start turning over some subpoenaed documents in time to meet a deadline set by the panel, and that more documents will be turned over later. 

The committee issued subpoenas to two of Flynn’s businesses after Flynn had declined to comply with a subpoena issued to him personally.