Michael Cohen announced on Wednesday that his appearance before a House Committee that was set for Feb. 7 will not take place as planned. A statement from attorney Lanny Davis, who is now functioning in a spokesman role for Cohen, said that Cohen is postponing his testimony for a number of reasons, notably “threats against his family from President Trump and Mr. Giuliani.” Of course, anyone who’s been paying attention for the last week likely understands that these “threats” having nothing to do with it.
We were all looking forward to seeing Cohen testify at a public Congressional hearing when it was first announced. That anticipation skyrocketed after BuzzFeed claimed that President Donald Trump himself instructed Cohen to lie to Congress in his statements about a Russian real estate deal known as the “Moscow Project.”
When that story broke, I immediately figured we wouldn’t be seeing Cohen on February 7. Then came special counsel Robert Mueller‘s statement that said BuzzFeed’s report was inaccurate, adding more fuel to what would surely be a blazing dumpster inferno if Cohen testified now. That’s why I wasn’t surprised when I read the rest of Lanny Davis’ statement, which referred to “Mr. Cohen’s continuing cooperation with ongoing investigations, by advice of counsel,” as reasons for the postponement.
If Cohen appeared before the House, he’d be grilled over whether Trump directed him to lie: Did this really happen? Did Trump overtly instruct you, or was it implied with a wink and a nod? Who else was there? Tell us everything.
For the sake of his investigation, Mueller probably doesn’t want the public knowing all of this just yet, because it would reveal the evidence he has—or may not have—against Trump or his associates. Based on just how little Mueller’s office comments on developments in the Russia investigation, it stands to reason that the special counsel wants new information to be revealed in court filings, not Congressional hearings.
With this in mind, you also have to think about Cohen himself. The worst thing that could happen for him or Mueller would be to get trapped and make the mistake of lying. Not only would it expose Cohen to additional charges, it would compromise Mueller’s investigation by casting significant doubt on the credibility of a key witness.
So, why this talk about threats from Trump and Giuliani? One need only look at some of the reactions to the news to understand that.
Could this be considered witness tampering by the president? https://t.co/xkjsxwJr6W
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) January 23, 2019
Pretty concrete evidence of witness tampering by the President here, if there wasn’t enough already. https://t.co/8Z87gL2K5r
— southpaw (@nycsouthpaw) January 23, 2019
The president officially scared a witness away from testifying. https://t.co/8jBRN5ydGt
— Bradley P. Moss (@BradMossEsq) January 23, 2019
By referencing threats, Cohen can let people run wild with speculation of witness tampering without ever having to actually accuse anyone of tampering. It’s no secret that Cohen has a bone to pick with the president, since he’s about to go to prison for helping him. I’m sure he’d love to bring Trump down with him, and this statement will surely delight those who would be happy to help.
Ronn Blitzer is the Senior Legal Editor of Law&Crime and a former New York City prosecutor. Follow him on Twitter @RonnBlitzer.
[Image via Yana Paskova/Getty Images]
This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.