Donald Trump’s bagman, Michael Cohen, was set to testify publicly before the House Oversight Committee on February 7th. But on Wednesday, Lanny Davis released the following statement on behalf of his client:
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…This is a time where Mr. Cohen had to put his family and their safety first.
It is worth noting that “a later date” could be in doubt because Cohen is scheduled to begin his three-year prison term on March 6th.
This is all in reference to comments made by the president and Giuliani about Cohen’s father-in-law, Fima Shusterman. For example, here is what Trump said during an interview with Jeanine Pirro:
But he [Cohen] should give information maybe on his father-in-law, because that’s the one that people want to look at. Because where does that money — that’s the money in the family. And I guess he didn’t want to talk about his father — he’s trying to get his sentence reduced.
It’s difficult to know exactly what Trump is threatening with statements like that, but we know that all three players involved—Cohen, Trump, and Shusterman—have ties to some very unsavory characters in the Russian mafia. In any case, it was enough to get Cohen to back out of his public testimony before congress.
At this point, House Oversight Committee Chairman Cummings hasn’t decided whether to subpoena Cohen to testify. But to the extent that the implied threats from Trump and Giuliani are responsible for his decision to back out, that would qualify as witness tampering. The longer this goes on, the deeper Trump digs his own hole.