Predictably, Donald Trump has seemingly made things worse for himself as it relates to former fixer (and man whose bluff was called on the whole “I’d take a bullet for Mr. Trump” shtick) Michael Cohen.
On Wednesday, Lanny Davis broke the bad news that ol’ Mikey would not in fact be testifying before the House Oversight Committee on February 7 as planned. That appearance was canceled due to, quote, “ongoing threats against [Cohen’s] family from President Trump and Mr. Giuliani.”
You know, just the usual “witness intimidation by the executive branch” you’d expect when you’re living under the (small-ish) thumb of an autocrat.
Although the reference to “threats” was clearly an allusion to comments Trump delivered in the course of a tag-team shriek-a-thon with Fox’s Jeanine Pirro, Cohen has variously suggested that he fears for his family’s safety in light of his ongoing cooperation with Robert Mueller.
Under any other president, that could easily be written off as absurd, but considering the fact that the current commander in chief is suspected of colluding with a foreign government known for extra-judicial poisonings and organized crime connections, it comes across as entirely believable. When you throw in Trump’s references to Cohen as a “rat”, it’s even easier to understand why Cohen might feel like his family is in jeopardy.
Of course accusing the president of witness tampering is serious business and it’s the kind of thing that Congress is really interested to get to the bottom of. On Wednesday, Elijah Cummings promised that Congress is going to get Cohen’s testimony one way or another. To wit, from comments to reporters:
I promise you that we will hear from Mr. Cohen. Whatever we have to do to get him here, weâ€™re going to do it.
Well, on Thursday, The Senate Intelligence Committee subpoenaed Cohen, who is now compelled to appear before the panel midway through next month, or, more to the point, a couple of weeks before he goes to prison.
Presumably, this will involve Cohen “correcting” the record with regard to the timeline on the Trump Tower Moscow negotiations, the subject of the bombshell BuzzFeed article which sparked a firestorm and prompted a rare denial from the special counsel’s office. This testimony will likely not be public.
As The New York Times notes, “since his guilty plea in late November for lying to Congress, Senate Intelligence Committee officials have worked with Cohen and his lawyers to try to secure a return visit voluntarily so he can correct his false testimony and answer other questions pertinent to the panelâ€™s investigation.” Those efforts never panned out, so now, the panel is going to simply force him to show back up.
Coming full circle, you have to think Cohen will be asked about his contention that he’s receiving threats from the President. If he is, and is willing and/or able to provide evidence of that beyond the threats Trump has made publicly, it will amount to yet another instance of the president shooting himself in the foot and undermining his own legal defense. Asked about Cohen on Wednesday, Trump said this:
I would say heâ€™s been threatened by the truth. Heâ€™s only been threatened by the truth.
Giuliani told Reuters that Trump’s quip “covers it.”
No, it actually doesn’t, Rudy. But that’s fine, because you can bet Congress is going to be sure it gets “covered” one way or another – even if they have to drag Cohen out of a prison cell and parade him up the Hill.
Unable to let it go, Trump tweeted this on Thursday morning:
So interesting that bad lawyer Michael Cohen, who sadly will not be testifying before Congress, is using the lawyer of Crooked Hillary Clinton to represent him – Gee, how did that happen? Remember July 4th weekend when Crooked went before FBI & wasnâ€™t sworn in, no tape, nothing?
Trump needn’t be “sad” anymore about the “not testifying” thing.