Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 16 June 2019

Donald Trump's ex-lawyer to testify before House panels next week

Michael Cohen set to talk about alleged hush money and Russian interference in campaign

Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump's former lawyer, leaves federal court after his sentencing in New York. AP 
Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump's former lawyer, leaves federal court after his sentencing in New York. AP 

Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former lawyer and fixer, is set testify before at least two congressional committees next week on topics from hush money paid to women who alleged that they had affairs with Mr Trump, to what he knows about Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign.

Mr Cohen, who has pleaded guilty to nine felonies, will testify in public next Wednesday before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform – a re-scheduling of an appearance that was supposed to have taken place on February 7. The next day, he is set to keep an already planned interview behind closed doors with the House Intelligence Committee.

“I am pleased to announce that Michael Cohen’s public testimony before the Oversight Committee is back on, despite efforts by some to intimidate his family members and prevent him from appearing,” the committee’s chairman, Democrat Elijah Cummings of Maryland, said in a statement on Wednesday night.

Mr Cummings was referring to claims late last month from Mr Cohen’s lawyer, Lanny Davis, that his client wanted to delay public testimony because he feared for his family’s safety after what he called threats from President Trump.

“The president has terrorised someone who wanted to tell the truth before Congress,” Mr Davis said at the time, citing comments from Mr Trump, including a tweet that Mr Cohen was “lying to reduce his jail time! Watch father-in-law!”

In announcing that Mr Cohen’s public testimony was back on, Mr Cummings released a “scope” of issues that the public hearing would address, including the president’s compliance with tax laws, practices of the Trump Foundation and the hush payments to two women.

Last Friday, Mr Cummings gave lawyers for President Trump and the White House until this Friday to provide more information “regarding the failure of President Donald Trump to report hundreds of thousands of dollars in payments and liabilities to his former attorney, Michael Cohen, to silence women alleging extramarital affairs during the 2016 presidential campaign."

Mr Cummings said the public hearing wouldn’t trespass on the investigative areas that the other committee is pursuing. He described those as touching on “efforts by Russia and other foreign entities to influence the US political process during and since the 2016 US election,” and the counterintelligence threat arising from any links or coordination between Americans and the Russian government.

Mr Davis had said earlier this month that Mr Cohen would appear before a Senate committee by the end of February. But the exact date of that expected closed-door interview before the Senate Intelligence Committee hasn’t been announced.

Also on Wednesday, a federal judge agreed to a two-month delay to the date by which Mr Cohen must report to prison. Mr Cohen had been seeking more time to cope with both recovery from recent surgery and to prepare for expected testimony before the congressional committees.

He is now scheduled to turn himself in on May 6 to begin serving a three-year prison sentence.

Updated: February 21, 2019 10:17 AM