Michael Cohen, the personal attorney for Donald Trump who was named in the dossier assembled by former MI6 agent Christopher Steele, tells ABC News that he has become a person of interest in House and Senate investigations of the president’s Russian influence scandals.
Asked by both committees to provide documents and testimony regarding his contacts with Russian government agents, Cohen says “I declined the invitation to participate, as the request was poorly phrased, overly broad and not capable of being answered.”
The Washington Post reports this afternoon that the House Intelligence Committee has issued a subpoena to Cohen. The Senate Select Intelligence Committee voted unanimously to give its chairman and ranking Democrat subpoena powers last Thursday and will likely follow suit.
“They have yet to produce one single piece of credible evidence that would corroborate the Russia narrative,” Cohen told CNN, calling the investigation a “rush to judgment.”
A former employee of the Trump Organization, Cohen has been an aggressive Trump defender for years. When The Daily Beast re-reported the story of Trump’s alleged rape and battery of his ex-wife Ivana in 1989, Cohen threatened legal action and declared that “by the very definition, you can’t rape your spouse” — an assertion belied by New York state’s spousal rape law.
Cohen was a frequent surrogate during the campaign. But his image took a bizarre turn when his name appeared in the Steele dossier, which recounted a high-level Kremlin source saying that the attorney had met with Russian agents in Prague last August to arrange payments for the DNC and John Podesta hackers.
While much of the Steele dossier has been validated since then, Cohen adamantly denies the story, and it may in fact be a late Kremlin disinformation effort intended to throw Steele off the real scent. (Of course, the account could also be true in outline, if not in detail.)
Then in February, Cohen told The New York Times that he had accepted a “peace proposal” in a sealed envelope from Trump associate Felix Sater and pro-Russia Ukrainian politician Andrii Artemenko, then delivered it to the White House office of Michael Flynn, who was Trump’s national security adviser at the time.
After the story blew up, however, Cohen told the Washington Post that the story he had given the Times wasn’t true, after all. “I acknowledge that the brief meeting took place, but emphatically deny discussing this topic or delivering any documents to the White House and/or General Flynn,” he said.
The Flynn story has expanded exponentially since that happened. Indeed, Flynn’s name seems to pop up in almost every story related to Trump’s Russian influence scandals. Not only are multiple US agencies investigating Flynn, but the president fired FBI Director James Comey in hopes of shutting down the counterintelligence investigation of his former national security advisor.
Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, was reportedly the strongest advocate in the Oval Office for firing Comey. As a result, Kushner has also emerged as a key figure in the scandals during the last week. He appears to have worked with Flynn to set up a “backchannel” for direct negotiations with the Kremlin.
This all explains why Cohen would decide to recant his story about giving Flynn a sketchy “peace plan” in a sealed envelope. But what explains his refusal to cooperate with the Senate committee?
ABC notes that “in April, Cohen announced he had formed a ‘strategic alliance’ with the powerful D.C. lobbying firm Patton Boggs, a firm whose clients include Russia’s third-largest bank, Gazprombank.”
In addition, Cohen’s past business ventures include an ethanol plant in Ukraine, while his work for the Trump Organization likely exposed him to Russian oligarchs, Russian mobsters, and lots of Russian money.
So when Mr. Cohen says that the Senate request is “poorly phrased, overly broad and not capable of being answered,” what he probably means is that there are a lot of skeletons waiting to fall out of his proverbial closet, so he intends to keep the door shut at all costs.
Again: #KremlinGate is a dirty money scandal to which espionage is merely an outgrowth. It's really about decades of financial illegalities.
— John Schindler (@20committee) May 30, 2017
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