Unfortunately for special counsel Robert Mueller, Donald Trump will not be publicly smeared before Congress and the nation next month by his former lawyer Michael Cohen. Cohen has indefinitely postponed his testimony due to “ongoing threats” from Trump and his attorney Rudy Giuliani, according to Cohen’s attorney.
Once reviled by Democrats, Cohen has been embraced by the left as a willing pawn in their struggle to take down the president. But this is the second blow to the Democrats’ Cohen case this month after Mueller debunked a Buzzfeed report accusing Trump of suborning perjury from Cohen.
Cohen postpones testimony
The lawyer who once said he would “take a bullet” for Trump was sentenced to three years in prison last year after pleading guilty to campaign finance violations in which he implicated Trump as well as a host of other charges, including lying to Congress about an abandoned Trump real estate project in Russia. Now the lawyer who is said to know more about Trump’s business than most has become the prime witness in the Democrats’ effort to impeach the president.
Cohen was expected to condemn his former boss at a scheduled hearing on February 7 before the House Oversight Committee next month. But now he has cold feet after receiving threats from Trump and his lawyers, Cohen attorney Lanny Davis said. “This is a time where Mr. Cohen had to put his family and their safety first,” Davis said.
“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,” Davis added. Davis did not specify the threats and said that Cohen would appear to testify at an “appropriate time.”
Democrats have eagerly anticipated Cohen’s testimony, in which he had promised to “give a full and credible account of the events which have transpired” throughout his professional career with Trump. Democrats were in full impeachment mode after a bombshell-turned-nothingburger from Buzzfeed claimed earlier this month that Trump directed Cohen to lie about the real estate project to Russia. But in a rare public response, Mueller’s team denied the report.
“Smear” job called off
Republicans on the committee have called the planned testimony a “media stunt” to smear Trump and damage his credibility. Reps. Jim Jordan (R-OH) and Mark Meadows (R-NC) wrote in a Tuesday letter to Cohen defense lawyer Guy Petrillo that Davis told them the whole thing was his idea and that he pushed it on Cohen. Davis had also reportedly told the Republicans that Cohen’s testimony would not touch on matters under investigation and would consist instead of “anecdotes” about his professional life with Trump, so it’s not clear what fact-finding purpose it would even serve.
Cohen has to report to prison on March 6, so he may not get another chance to testify any time soon, but Democrats Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), the Democratic chairman of the Oversight Committee, and Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), House Intelligence Committee chairman, said they expect Cohen to eventually appear before their committees. The Senate Intelligence Committee served him a subpoena Wednesday to testify before he reports to prison.
The falling-out between Trump and Cohen has turned into a dramatic feud in which the two have traded barbs and accusations of dishonesty. Trump has said that Cohen is a “rat” who turned against him to lighten his punishment, while Cohen, much to the delight of hopeful Democrats, has said that he wants to come clean with everything he knows about Trump. He has also been cooperating with Mueller.
Given Cohen’s central role in the Russia tower case and other matters involving Trump, the credibility of the impeachment case hinges in large part on the credibility of Cohen’s word against Trump’s. Democrats have oddly white-washed Cohen’s credibility while Trump has repeatedly attacked his former lawyer as a crook and a liar. The testimony would presumably have been another opportunity for the Democrats to damage Trump’s credibility in a dramatic public fashion through Cohen’s testimony, which Trump says he is offering to save himself.
Kevin Corke, @FoxNews “Don’t forget, Michael Cohen has already been convicted of perjury and fraud, and as recently as this week, the Wall Street Journal has suggested that he may have stolen tens of thousands of dollars….” Lying to reduce his jail time! Watch father-in-law!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 18, 2019
Reacting to the reports that Cohen will postpone his testimony, Trump told reporters that Cohen has “only been threatened by the truth.”