Trump Lawyer to Testify Publicly After Irking Senate Committee

Updated on
  • Michael Cohen had been set to answer questions in private
  • Lawmakers ‘disappointed’ by Cohen making his statement public

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Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, agreed to testify at a public hearing of the Senate Intelligence Committee on Oct. 25 after the panel canceled his closed-door meeting with staff on Tuesday.

The panel, probing Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election, was “disappointed” that Cohen released his written statement to reporters before meeting with committee staff, “in spite of the committee’s requests that he refrain from public comment,” according to a statement from Chairman Richard Burr, a North Carolina Republican, and Vice Chairman Mark Warner, a Virginia Democrat.

“As a result, we declined to move forward with today’s interview,” the lawmakers said.

Multiple congressional committees and special counsel Robert Mueller are tightening their focus on some of Trump’s family members and campaign associates as probes into Russia’s election-meddling enter a new and more aggressive phase. Among those under scrutiny are former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and Donald Trump Jr., who arranged a meeting in June 2016 with Russians who were promising damaging material on Trump’s rival, Hillary Clinton.

‘I’ll Be Back’

Cohen, who has a long relationship with the president, told reporters on Capitol Hill Tuesday he will return to answer questions. "I’ll be back and look forward to giving all the information" that the committee is looking for, he said.

Cohen’s attorney, Stephen Ryan, said in a statement later in the day that Cohen accepted the panel’s invitation to appear on Oct. 25.

Cohen previously was executive vice president of the Trump Organization and served as a special counsel.

The president’s oldest son, Trump Jr., and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, had earlier met with the committee behind closed doors.

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Kushner made public statements following his testimony, prompting the Intelligence Committee to change its policy and ask witnesses to refrain from public comment, Burr told reporters.

"We’ve changed the agreement we have with people since Jared Kushner was in and this is the model we’ll follow,” Burr said. “We don’t expect people to come in behind closed doors and then publicly go out and tell -- say anything.”

In August, Cohen told the House Intelligence Committee that the Trump Organization weighed a proposal to build a hotel and condominium tower in Moscow. Trump discussed the "Trump Tower Moscow" project on three occasions with Cohen, the lawyer told that panel.

On Tuesday, Cohen said in a prepared statement to the Senate Intelligence Committee staff that a plan to build the Moscow complex discussed during the presidential campaign in 2016 was a “real estate deal and nothing more.” The deal didn’t materialize.

The statement also said he never colluded with anyone in Russia or elsewhere “to hack or interfere with the election.” He said he never saw any evidence of collusion with Russians relating to the election.

Cohen was at the Senate Intelligence offices for over an hour but didn’t answer a reporter’s question on what happened for that length of time given that the interview was postponed.

— With assistance by David Voreacos

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