The Senate Intelligence Committee postponed a closed-door interview Tuesday with President Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen and now wants to have him speak in open session, apparently because Cohen’s team shared a statement with the press in advance against committee wishes.
Cohen was set to have a transcribed interview with committee staff on Capitol Hill Tuesday. After an hour-and-a-half, he emerged to tell reporters the committee was postponing questioning to a later date.
“The committee has chosen to postpone today’s meeting and 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 anyone else who has an inquiry in this area,” Cohen’s attorney Stephen Ryan said Tuesday. “Mr. Cohen will continue to cooperate.”
Senate committee leaders later issued a brief statement making clear they suspended the hearing because of the statement to the press – and now expect to call Cohen before an open session at a later date. Fox News is told the committee would consider issuing a subpoena if necessary.
“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,” Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr, R-N.C., and Vice Chairman Mark Warner, D-Va., said. “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 Committee expects witnesses in this investigation to work in good faith with the Senate.”
The statement given to the press in advance of the scheduled meeting Tuesday declared Cohen’s innocence and denied the allegations against him.
Ryan told reporters that the statement was “factual, it was accurate, it was respectful and we stand behind that statement.”
In his prepared statement, Cohen blasted the “intentionally salacious” and “totally fabricated” anti-Trump dossier compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele and published by BuzzFeed News in January.
“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,” Cohen said in his opening statement, obtained by Fox News. “I have never engaged with, been paid by, paid for, or conversed with any member of the Russian Federation or anyone else to hack or interfere in the election.”
Cohen added that in his “proximity” to Trump as a candidate, he “never saw anything – not a hint of anything — that demonstrated his involvement in Russian interference in our election or any form of Russian collusion.”
“I’m certain that the evidence at the conclusion of this investigation will reinforce the fact that there was no collusion between Russia, President Trump or me,” Cohen wrote in his prepared statement.
Last month, Cohen offered the House Intelligence Committee a point-by-point rebuttal, shooting down more than a dozen allegations contained in the pages of the now infamous anti-Trump dossier. The dossier claimed Cohen allegedly had “secret meetings with Kremlin officials in August 2016,” played a “key role in secret Trump campaign/Kremlin relationship,” and more – Cohen’s letter to the House Intelligence Committee said that he “vehemently denies” all allegations.”
In Tuesday’s statement, Cohen reaffirmed that the accusations were “entirely and totally false,” reiterating that he has never traveled to Prague, where he allegedly had the secret meetings with Kremlin officials.
Cohen slammed Steele and the dossier, calling it “shoddily written” and “filled with lies and rumors.”
The dossier has gotten renewed attention ever since a Senate witness testified in July that the company involved in commissioning the document, Fusion GPS, was at the same time working with a Russian attorney on what he called a “smear campaign” against him.
Bill Browder, CEO of Hermitage Capital, testified that Natalia Veselnitskaya hired Fusion GPS in that effort. Veselnitskaya is the same attorney who brokered a meeting at Trump Tower with Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort in June 2016.
In an email to Fox News last month, Veselnitskaya acknowledged that Fusion GPS was hired by “our lawyers” from law firm Baker Hostetler to look into Browder’s background and connections with allegations against her client, but distanced herself from the dossier. Veselnitskaya slammed the dossier as “cheap gossip” and “tall tales.”
Fusion GPS acknowledged the timeline matched, but said the two were “separate” projects.
Cohen’s transcribed interview comes days after Donald Trump Jr. testified behind closed doors with members of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Co-founder of Fusion GPS Glenn Simpson met with Senate Judiciary Committee staff behind closed doors on Capitol Hill last month for a transcribed interview. Fusion GPS told Fox News they turned over “more than 40,000 documents” to the committee for their investigation, but a committee spokesperson told Fox News that nearly 7,500 pages were blank.
Next week, Trump associate Roger Stone is expected to testify privately before the House Intelligence Committee as part of their Russia probe.
Fox News’ Brooke Singman, Chad Pergram, John Roberts and Jason Donner contributed to this report.