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Senate panel subpoenas Cohen

Former Trump lawyer told to correct false 2018 testimony by Maggie Haberman, Nicholas Fandos and Eileen Sullivan The New York Times | January 25, 2019 at 3:01 a.m. | Updated January 25, 2019 at 3:01 a.m.

WASHINGTON -- The Senate Intelligence Committee has issued a subpoena to compel Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump's former lawyer, to appear before the panel next month to formally correct false testimony that he delivered last year about a proposed Trump Organization project in Moscow, one of his lawyers confirmed Thursday.

The subpoena was disclosed a day after Cohen pulled out of a public hearing scheduled for Feb. 7 before the House Oversight and Reform Committee, citing in a letter from his lawyer, Lanny Davis, verbal attacks by Trump.

Cohen's initial agreement to appear before the Oversight Committee had been voluntary, but he will have little choice in complying with the Senate request. Democrats in charge of the House Oversight and Intelligence committees have signaled in recent days that they may follow suit and issue subpoenas of their own, despite acknowledging Cohen's safety concerns.

Unlike the Oversight session, Cohen's return to the Senate Intelligence Committee will almost certainly be private. The panel has conducted a wide-ranging investigation of Russia's election interference campaign, and possible ties to the Trump campaign, for roughly two years now largely out of the public eye.

Cohen has appeared before the Senate Intelligence Committee twice before in private. In one case, the panel's leaders abruptly cut short the session after learning that he had shared with reporters a written opening statement he would deliver in private -- testimony that would later prove to have contained falsehoods about a Trump Organization proposal to build a skyscraper in Moscow. He was later brought back for a private session with Senate investigators, the details of which have remained secret. Cohen also has made false statements to the House Intelligence Committee, according to the special counsel.

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 panel's investigation. But those talks were unproductive, even as Cohen agreed to appear publicly before another congressional panel.

Spokesmen for the intelligence committee's top Republican and Democrat both declined to comment, and Davis did not elaborate beyond confirming receipt of the subpoena.

The back and forth over Cohen's testimony was the cause of continued sniping Thursday between Trump and Davis. The president linked Cohen to his one-time Democratic political rival, Hillary Clinton.

In an early morning Twitter post, Trump described Cohen as a "bad lawyer" and reminded the public about a second attorney with ties to Clinton when she was interviewed in 2016 by the FBI, the circumstances of which have been used to cast the investigation into her use of a private server as flawed.

The second lawyer to whom Trump alludes without naming is most likely Davis, a Washington attorney and close ally of the Clintons, who is currently representing Cohen.

In an interview Thursday, Davis accused Trump's current personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, of witness tampering for recent comments suggesting that Cohen's father-in-law might have ties to organized crime.

Trump has previously raised the notion that Cohen's father-in-law, Fima Shusterman, a Ukrainian immigrant, has ties to organized crime, but there has been no evidence to back up those claims. Shusterman pleaded guilty in 1993 to trying to evade federal income reporting requirements and was sentenced to probation.

"Mr. Trump has immunity from indictments, so it's alleged or argued in the Justice Department," Davis said Thursday in an interview with ABC's Good Morning America. "But Mr. Giuliani has committed a crime or at least should be indicted for that crime on the face of what he said on national television."

Giuliani responded Thursday, saying that the president's remarks were "more than sufficient" to answer those claims.

Trump and his advisers had been focused on what Cohen might have said to Congress that could further damage the president's image and possibly present new legal problems. Republicans, however, were eager for Cohen to testify in public, saying privately that they planned to question him aggressively and paint him as a liar.

Top House Democrats have already warned Trump about witness tampering after the president made comments earlier this month accusing Cohen of lying in an effort to get a better deal with federal prosecutors.

On Wednesday, Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, who leads the Oversight and Reform Committee, and Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, said they understood Cohen's concerns for his family's safety and repeated their earlier warning against efforts to intimidate witnesses, which is against the law.

A Section on 01/25/2019

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