You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

News: Homepage News Stripe

Michael Cohen says Trump and Giuliani threatened him. Does that amount to witness tampering?

The Washington Post logo The Washington Post 1/23/2019 Deanna Paul
FILE: Michael Cohen, right, President Donald Trump's former lawyer, arrives at federal court with his daughter, Samantha Cohen, for his sentencing for dodging taxes, lying to Congress and violating campaign finance laws in New York on Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2018. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez) © Associated Press FILE: Michael Cohen, right, President Donald Trump's former lawyer, arrives at federal court with his daughter, Samantha Cohen, for his sentencing for dodging taxes, lying to Congress and violating campaign finance laws in New York on Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2018. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

President Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen indefinitely postponed his upcoming congressional testimony Wednesday, citing “ongoing threats against his family from President Trump” and his attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani. Threats from the duo reached Cohen and his family as recently as this weekend, according to a statement from Cohen’s attorney, Lanny Davis.

On Wednesday afternoon, Trump responded to the announcement, denying the allegations.

“He’s only been threatened by the truth,” the president said.

Subscribe to the Post Most newsletter: Today’s most popular stories on The Washington Post

In December, Trump harangued special counsel Robert S. Mueller III and witnesses to his ongoing Russia investigation.

One tweet went after Cohen, a week after he pleaded guilty of lying to Congress about the president’s real estate project in Russia, alleging that Cohen lied to Mueller and demanding his former fixer “serve a full and complete sentence.” (After the overt attack on Cohen came a tweet encouraging Roger Stone, a longtime adviser to Trump, not to become a witness against him.)

Legal experts called the missives a newsworthy development that could amount to evidence of obstructing justice.

Norman Eisen, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, said in December that the most striking thing was that there were two statements in proximity.

“It comes very close to the statutory definition of witness tampering,” he said. “He may have crossed the legal line.”

Respected figures across party lines also responded to Trump’s tweets on the social media platform.

Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) called it “serious” then, adding that “the President of the United States should not be using his platform to influence potential witnesses in a federal investigation involving his campaign.”

Attorney George Conway, husband of White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, then referenced the federal statute most likely to create legal liability for Trump: 18 U.S.C. §§ 1512, which outlines the crime of witness tampering.

A recent spate of Trump attacks arrived after BuzzFeed broke a story late Thursday alleging that Mueller’s team had collected evidence that Trump directed Cohen to lie to Congress.

Trump took to Twitter on Friday, suggesting that Cohen’s father-in-law should be investigated.

“Lying to reduce his jail time! Watch father-in-law!” he wrote, after reminding 57.6 million followers that Cohen “has already been convicted of perjury and fraud, and as recently as this week, the Wall Street Journal has suggested that he may have stolen tens of thousands of dollars."

On Saturday, he told Fox News host Judge Jeanine Pirro the same.

“Donald Trump is not acting like an innocent man, he is acting like he is afraid of the truth,” former acting solicitor general Neal Katyal said Wednesday.

Tampering with a witness is an obstruction of justice.

It’s a federal crime for an individual to intimidate, threaten or “corruptly persuade” another person with the goal of influencing or preventing his or her testimony.

Cohen was scheduled to testify publicly before the House Oversight Committee on Feb. 7, at the invitation of the committee’s chairman, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.).

In a joint statement, Cummings and Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Mass., chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, acknowledged Cohen’s “legitimate concerns,” adding that “efforts to intimidate witnesses, scare their family members, or prevent them from testifying before Congress are textbook mob tactics that we condemn in the strongest terms.”

There is a certain amount of ambiguity in Trump’s statements, leaving wiggle room for his defenders to say he was not making threats but blowing off steam.

As the chief executive, the president oversees criminal prosecution of federal cases. Unlike firing federal officials, directly encouraging a potential witness not to cooperate in an investigation involving his own conduct is significant.

Cohen’s decision not to testify out of fear for his family could be yet another basis for the now-Democrat-controlled House to determine that Trump engaged in an abuse of power.

Read more:

Lara Trump tells federal workers that their missed paychecks are sacrifices for the ‘future of our country’

Trump bluffed hard on his State of the Union, and Pelosi called it

Transgender troops: Under siege by lower courts, Trump turns to higher power to stop nationwide injunctions

Trump planned to still give SOTU in the House. But it was never up to him.

AdChoices
AdChoices

More From The Washington Post

The Washington Post
The Washington Post
image beaconimage beaconimage beacon