Cohen, who had been set to testify before the House oversight committee on Feb. 7 to discuss his work for Trump, will delay the appearance indefinitely, his attorney, Lanny Davis, said in a statement Wednesday.
“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 said in the statement, emailed to HuffPost and other media outlets.
“This is a time where Mr. Cohen had to put his family and their safety first,” he added.
Trump, responding to his former attorney’s accusations, told reporters that Cohen “has only been threatened by the truth.”
House oversight chairman Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) and intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) acknowledged the Cohen family’s concerns and said in a joint statement that they would like to negotiate tighter security measures for them. But the congressional chairmen rejected the idea Cohen would not testify at all.
“We will not let the President’s tactics prevent Congress from fulfilling our constitutionally mandated oversight responsibilities. This will not stop us from getting to the truth,” the lawmakers said.
Reports that Cohen feared for his family’s safety surfaced last week, but at the time he still intended to go through with his congressional testimony.
Trump suggested in a phone interview with Fox News host Jeanine Pirro this month, without citing evidence, that he knows of damaging information about Cohen’s father-in-law.
The president’s comments prompted House Democrats to issue a warning against interference in the congressional hearings.
“Our nation’s laws prohibit efforts to discourage, intimidate, or otherwise pressure a witness not to provide testimony to Congress,” Cummings, Schiff and judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) said in a Jan. 13 statement.
Cohen’s public testimony likely would prove damaging to Trump, even though he was not expected to discuss sensitive matters related directly to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. The attorney served for more than a decade as a “fixer” for Trump and the Trump Organization, including throughout the 2016 presidential election.
He intended to answer questions about working for Trump, focusing on “his life story,” including a public break with the president last year, according to The Wall Street Journal.
In December, Cohen was sentenced to three years in federal prison after pleading guilty to charges stemming from two separate cases ― one from Mueller’s office and another from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York.
Cohen admitted that he lied during private congressional testimony in August and October 2017 about the timing and breadth of discussions about a potential Trump real estate deal in Moscow. He also acknowledged that he violated campaign finance law by paying hush money to women ― Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal ― who say they had affairs with Trump.
“I take full responsibility for each act that I pled guilty to: the personal ones to me and those involving the president of the United States of America,” Cohen said at his sentencing.
Davis characterized his client as “the greatest threat” to the Trump presidency in an appearance earlier this month on MSNBC, saying Cohen could offer details on “what could be criminal and impeachable actions as president.”
An explosive report published last week by BuzzFeed alleged that Cohen lied to Congress about the Moscow deal on the order of the president himself, which several lawmakers have said they might consider an impeachable offense.
Mueller’s office took the unusual step of disputing that story, which cited two unnamed federal law enforcement officials. A spokesman for Mueller used vague language to say certain aspects of the BuzzFeed story were “not accurate” without identifying them specifically.
BuzzFeed said it stands by its reporting.