Cohen visits Senate offices ahead of congressional testimony

Cohen AP.jpeg

Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump's former personal attorney, leaves Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Feb. 21, 2019. (Photo: AP)

US President Donald Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, visited the Senate intelligence committee’s offices on Thursday, meeting with his lawyers in preparation for three days of congressional testimony next week.

Cohen and one of his lawyers, Lanny Davis, each declined to say why they were there as they left separately. Davis wouldn’t say whether they were reviewing documents, but it is not unusual for witnesses or their lawyers to want to review confidential committee materials before a hearing or interview.

Davis, who left before Cohen did, told reporters that Cohen and his lawyers had not spoken with Senate staff.

“I just can tell you we had discussion among ourselves, that’s all I can say,” Davis said.

Davis said Cohen was prepared to talk about “everything” over the course of three days of testimony, though not all of that will be public. Cohen is scheduled to talk to the Senate intelligence panel behind closed doors on Tuesday, a day before he testifies publicly before the House Oversight and Reform Committee. On Thursday, he will go back behind closed doors to talk to the House intelligence committee.

The Oversight hearing will be Cohen’s first major public appearance since he turned on his former boss and since he was sentenced to three years in prison. Trump’s fixer-turned-foe pleaded guilty last year to lying to both intelligence committees in 2017 and to campaign finance violations. He has also cooperated with special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.

While Cohen is expected to address that investigation in his closed-door interviews with the intelligence panels, the chairman of the Oversight panel, Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings, has set a scope for questioning in an effort not to interfere with Mueller’s probe. That scope includes the campaign finance violations, Trump’s business practices and compliance with tax laws and “the accuracy of the president’s public statements,” according to a committee memo. The scope does not include matters related to Russia.

Cohen pleaded guilty to the campaign finance violations for his involvement in payments to two women who allege they had affairs with Trump. Federal prosecutors in New York have said Trump directed Cohen to arrange the payments to buy the silence of porn actress Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal in the run-up to the 2016 campaign. Trump denies the allegations.

Cohen also pleaded guilty to lying to both of the intelligence committees after telling them in a written statement in 2017 that he had abandoned a Trump business proposal in Moscow in January 2016. Cohen later acknowledged he continued pursuing it for months after that.

Cohen was scheduled to speak to the three committees earlier this month, but rescheduled all of those appearances for different reasons. He said he needed to recover from surgery and also was concerned about threats to his family from Trump and the president’s attorney spokesman, Rudy Giuliani.

House intelligence committee Chairman Adam Schiff postponed Cohen’s appearance before that committee saying it was “in the interests of the investigation,” with no additional detail.