- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 19, 2017

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence canceled plans for President Trump’s longtime personal attorney to testify behind closed doors Tuesday on Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election, because the lawyer leaked his opening statement.

Michael Cohen had planned to blast White House opponents in his private Capitol Hill meeting for “choosing to presume guilt — rather than presuming innocence” in the entire Russia saga.

That caused the panel’s Republican chairman and ranking Democrat to cancel Tuesday morning’s interview, accusing Mr. Cohen of acting in bad faith.

“We were disappointed that Mr. Cohen decided to pre-empt today’s interview by releasing a public statement prior to his engagement with Committee staff, in spite of the Committee’s requests that he refrain from public comment,” wrote Sens. Richard Burr, North Carolina Republican, and Mark Warner, Virginia Democrat.

“As a result, we declined to move forward with today’s interview and will reschedule Mr. Cohen’s appearance before the Committee in open session at a date in the near future,” the statement added. “The Committee expects witnesses in this investigation to work in good faith with the Senate.”

It appeared that Mr. Cohen broke an agreement with the committee to maintain public silence. Later in the day, a source with knowledge of the committee’s inner workings told The Washington Times on condition of anonymity that the panel and Mr. Cohen’s lawyers had agreed neither group would speak with the press about the testimony.

Reports later suggested that the committee intended to subpoena Mr. Cohen. Earlier this spring. Mr. Cohen said he would provide Capitol Hill testimony — only if subpoenaed.

Mr. Cohen and his lawyer left the committee room after roughly an hour and pledged cooperation with investigators.

“We will come back for a voluntary interview whenever we can to meet with them, and we look forward to voluntarily cooperating with the House committee and with anyone else who has an inquiry in this area,” Mr. Cohen’s lawyer, Steve Ryan, told reporters.

Tuesday morning began with multiple news reports providing details of Mr. Cohen’s testimony — which lashed out at Mr. Trump’s opponents.

“There are some in this country who do not care about the facts, but simply want to politicize this issue, choosing to presume guilt — rather than presuming innocence — so as to discredit our lawfully elected president in the public eye and to shame his supporters in the public square,” Mr. Cohen’s statement said.

In recent weeks the congressional Russia probes have focused on the attorney after emails from before the 2016 election surfaced exposing his discussion with Russian investors about a possible, massive Trump Tower-style development in Moscow.

The discussion, with businessman Felix Sater — a member of the Ukrainian Parliament and former informant for the FBI and CIA who served in prison for stabbing a man in the face — evolved to the point that Mr. Trump signed a letter of intent to pursue the project. Mr. Sater and Mr. Cohen have also known each other since they were teenagers.

Mr. Cohen — who served as executive vice president and special counsel at the Trump Organization — characterized the situation in his testimony as “solely a real estate deal and nothing more. I was doing my job.”

His statement also denied accusations that he had colluded with the Kremlin.

“Let me be totally clear that I am innocent of the allegations raised against me in the public square, which are based upon misinformation and unnamed or unverifiable sources,” his prepared remarks said.

Late last month Mr. Cohen provided congressional investigators documents related to their probes, including a lengthy rebuttal to the infamous 35-page anti-Trump dossier compiled by a retired British spy. The dossier, which was published by the online news service Buzzfeed, alleges Mr. Cohen has deep Kremlin connections.

“My name is mentioned more than a dozen times in the lie-filled-dossier and so within moments of Buzzfeed’s publication, false allegations about me were plastered all over the national and international press,” his Tuesday statement said. “The accusations are entirely false.”

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