Michael Cohen, President Trump’s former personal lawyer, was subpoenaed Thursday by the Senate Intelligence Committee, CNN reports. The subpoena comes on the heels of postponing a similar hearing before the House Oversight Committee, which was delayed on the basis of Cohen’s concern for the safety of his family.
Typically, Intelligence Committee testimony takes place behind closed doors and the proceedings are not shared with the public. Virginia Senator Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the committee, expressed the importance of Cohen’s testimony before the group.
“Mr. Cohen was someone who lied to the committee, that got him into real jeopardy,” Warner said. “He has an enormous number of unanswered questions about Trump Tower and a variety of other items that we need answers to.”
Cohen’s lawyer, Lanny Davis, responded publicly to the subpoena, confirming their intent to comply as long as they can do so safely. Davis also reiterated concerns for the safety of Cohen and his family, citing in unprecedented fashion threats attributed to both the president and the president’s current attorney, Rudy Giuliani.
“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 said.
Cohen and Davis continue to indicate that they plan to cooperate fully with both committees.
My statement regarding testifying publicly before Congress: pic.twitter.com/apNhAdfVds— Michael Cohen (@MichaelCohen212) January 10, 2019
The two committees would question Cohen on different topics. Because the Oversight Committee is public, discussion of the ongoing special counsel investigation, including Russia’s potential involvement with the Trump campaign both before and after the election, would be off limits. Those topics could remain on the table for the closed-door Senate committee.
The question remains whether Cohen would or could choose not to answer certain questions under his Fifth Amendment rights.
“I would expect that he waived his rights with respect to [Russia],” CNN legal analyst Michael Zeldin said. “But, if there are areas that go beyond his previous testimony and as to which he may still be under investigation by Mueller, he may have a colorable claim of privilege. It’s complicated.”
Cohen has already pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about the timeline for discussions regarding the proposed Trump Tower in Moscow during the campaign, plus campaign finance violations and multiple counts of tax evasion. He is scheduled to report to prison on March 6. Although it is possible to enforce additional subpoenas after that date, House and Senate committees are aiming to complete their conversations with Cohen before he begins his sentence.