Michael Cohen postpones planned testimony to Congress

Michael Cohen, the attorney who represented Donald Trump for several years, won't appear as scheduled before the House Oversight and Reform Committee on Feb. 7, it was announced on Wednesday.

Cohen had been scheduled to appear at a Feb. 7 committee hearing, weeks before he is imprisoned

Michael Cohen, U.S. President Donald Trump's former lawyer, is due to report for prison in early March. It is unclear if the House session would be rescheduled before his incarceration. (Craig Ruttle/Associated Press)

Michael Cohen, the attorney who represented Donald Trump for several years, won't appear as scheduled before a House committee on Feb. 7, it was announced on Wednesday.

Cohen's adviser Lanny Davis said the delay is on the advice of Cohen's lawyers. Cohen is still co-operating in special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation.

Davis also cited alleged intimidation from Trump and Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani as factors.

"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 co-operation with ongoing investigations, by advice of counsel, Mr. Cohen's appearance will be postponed to a later date," said Davis.

"This is a time where Mr. Cohen had to put his family and their safety first," Davis added.

Trump denied allegations of threatening Cohen. When asked about the statement at the White House, Trump said: "I would say he's been threatened by the truth."

The session before the oversight and reform committee was to be held on Feb. 7, just under a month before Cohen is due to turn himself in for a three-year prison sentence.

Reports earlier this week indicated Cohen might have been limited in what he could discuss with House members. given the ongoing nature of the Mueller probe.

Cohen, 52, has pleaded guilty to nine separate counts in various investigations, including campaign finance violations.

Cohen has said he secretly used shell companies to make payments of $150,000 US and $130,000 US, respectively, to silence former Playboy model Karen McDougal and adult film actress Stormy Daniels for the purpose of influencing the 2016 U.S. election.

Michael Cohen's attorney has said his client is being threatened by the president and Rudy Giuliani. (Carolyn Kaster/Associated Press)

The women claimed they had affairs with Trump after the real estate mogul married his third wife, Melania.

He also pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about a proposed Trump Tower project in Russia.

Cohen, in an interview with ABC News in December, scoffed at the assertion made by Trump and others that his actions were undertaken without his boss's knowledge.

Cohen said Trump directed him to make the payments because of concern about how they might affect the election campaign. "Nothing at the Trump Organization was ever done unless it was run through Mr. Trump," Cohen said. 

Cohen has said a misplaced sense of loyalty led him to break the law for Trump.

Trump seizes on Cohen's personal business

He also pleaded guilty to tax evasion, with reports indicating a taxi business he owns with family members has been investigated for loans it had obtained.

Trump has seized on the taxi business on social media and in interviews with conservative media.

In a Fox interview on Jan. 19, Trump said Cohen had "trouble on some loans and fraud and taxi cabs and stuff that I know nothing about," suggesting Cohen should "give information maybe on his father-in-law."

The following day on CNN, Trump adviser Rudy Giuliani said it was fair game to publicly comment on Cohen's father-in-law, Fima Shusterman.

"Of course it is if the father-in-law is a criminal in the Southern District of New York," said Giuliani. "He may have ties to something called organized crime."

Shusterman pleaded guilty to money laundering charges in an early 1990s case in New York.

The U.S. president has assailed the various investigations into his campaign, transition and administration teams. Russia has denied trying to interfere in the 2016 election for the purposes of sowing discord and improving Trump's prospects.

Trump said the potential Moscow project was well documented, and he emphasized that the plan was abandoned. But voters weren't fully aware of its existence.  

On the subject of payments to women, Trump insisted he only found out about them after they were made, despite the release of a 2016 recorded conversation in which Trump and Cohen can be heard discussing a deal to pay McDougal for her story of a 2006 affair.

Trump and his backers have since tried to downplay the payments overall, calling them a "simple private transaction," even though they could violate campaign finance laws.

Mueller is also investigating "any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated" with the Trump campaign.

At Cohen's sentencing hearing in December, a prosecutor in Mueller's office said Cohen "has provided consistent and credible information about core Russia-related issues under investigation" without elaborating.

Cohen is among a number of people in Trump's orbit who have pleaded guilty to criminal charges. The list also includes his former presidential campaign chair, Paul Manafort, and Manafort's colleague, Rick Gates, former national security adviser Michael Flynn and campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos,

With files from CBC News