Michael Cohen announced he’ll postpone a planned Feb. 7 appearance before Congress following “threats” from his former boss, President Trump.
But moments after his announcement, powerful Democrats in Congress released a statement calling his eventual appearance before their committees non-negotiable, and warning Trump not to interfere.
The drama follows public comments about Cohen’s family by Trump and the president’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, who have suggested that Cohen may be attempting to shield his father-in-law from scrutiny.
“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 wrote in a statement sent to VICE News.
Cohen, the president's longtime lawyer and fixer, pleaded guilty to multiple counts of fraud and to lying to Congress last year, and is due to begin serving a three-year sentence in early March. He is cooperating with both special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation and with the Southern District of New York, although New York prosecutors have said he hasn’t been willing to assist their efforts in matters beyond those he’s already been charged in.
President Trump has accused Cohen of telling investigators false stories in an attempt to reduce his own jail time and to get his wife and father-in-law off “Scott Free.”
“Watch father-in-law!,” Trump tweeted on Jan. 18.
Giuliani doubled down on those accusations in an appearance on CNN last weekend, alleging without sharing evidence that Cohen’s father-in-law “may have ties to something called organized crime.”
Democrats in Congress, who gained subpoena power after winning a majority of House seats last November, said Cohen will still be making at least two appearances before their committees — whether he likes it or not.
“We understand that Mr. Cohen’s wife and other family members fear for their safety after these attacks, and we have repeatedly offered our assistance to work with law enforcement to enhance security measures for Mr. Cohen and his family,” Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) and Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the chairmen of the House oversight and intelligence committees, wrote in a statement Wednesday.
“Nevertheless, when our Committees began discussions with Mr. Cohen’s attorney, not appearing before Congress was never an option,” they wrote. “We expect Mr. Cohen to appear before both Committees, and we remain engaged with his counsel about his upcoming appearances.”
Cohen led the Trump Organization’s efforts to negotiate a Trump Tower in Moscow, including talks that he has said continued well into the 2016 campaign. At that time, Trump was publicly advocating for improved relations with Moscow. Meanwhile, the Russian government was running a clandestine attempt to swing the election in Trump’s favor.
Cohen’s attempted about-face may further poison the White House’s already-toxic relationship with the House of Representatives, where Democrats had already warned Trump not to interfere with Cohen’s planned appearance.
The three powerful chairmen of the House intelligence, judiciary and oversight committees, all of which are gearing up to investigate the Trump campaign and administration, issued a statement in mid-January after Trump's comments about Cohen. Intimidating a witness in a Congressional hearing, they noted, is against the law.
“Our nation’s laws prohibit efforts to discourage, intimidate, or otherwise pressure a witness not to provide testimony to Congress,” Reps. Schiff, Cummings, and Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) wrote in a joint statement. “The President should make no statement or take any action to obstruct Congress’ independent oversight and investigative efforts, including by seeking to discourage any witness from testifying in response to a duly authorized request from Congress.”
Their statement came hours after Trump called in to Judge Jeanine Pirro’s show on Fox News, to blast Cohen and suggest his father-in-law should be under investigation.
“He should give information, maybe, on his father-in-law, because that’s the one people want to look at,” Trump said. “That’s the money in the family.”
Here's the statement in full:
Statement by Lanny J. Davis, attorney for Michael Cohen, January 23, 2018
“Mr. Cohen volunteered to testify before the House Oversight Committee on February 7th. 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. Mr. Cohen wishes to thank Chairman Cummings for allowing him to appear before the House Oversight Committee and looks forward to testifying at the appropriate time.
This is a time where Mr. Cohen had to put his family and their safety first.”
Cover: Michael Cohen arrives at his home in New York with his left arm in a sling supported by a pillow Friday, Jan. 18, 2019. Democrats are vowing to investigate whether President Donald Trump directed Cohen, his personal attorney, to lie to Congress about a Moscow real estate project, calling that possibility a "concern of the greatest magnitude." (AP Photo/Kevin Hagen)
This article originally appeared on VICE News US.