WASHINGTON – A scheduled private meeting between President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer and Senate committee staff was abruptly postponed on Tuesday.
Michael Cohen was in the offices of the Senate Intelligence Committee, one of multiple congressional panels investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, for about an hour and a half before emerging and telling reporters that the committee had delayed his interview. He did not give a reason for the delay, referring questions to the committee.
“I’ll be back,” Cohen said.
The Russia investigation took a major turn this morning https://t.co/i6BXJNQD7g via @CharlesPPierce
— Esquire (@esquire) September 19, 2017
His lawyer, Steve Ryan, said that Cohen still intends to voluntarily cooperate with the committee as well as its counterpart in the House, which is also investigating. Special counsel Robert Mueller and his team of investigators are conducting their own criminal investigation into potential coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia.
Cohen’s interview had been expected to focus at least in part on a discussion to develop a Trump Tower in Moscow right as the presidential campaign was unfolding, a real estate deal he disclosed last month in a statement to congressional investigators. In a prepared statement issued ahead of his appearance, Cohen said the proposal was abandoned before the first Republican primaries and was “solely a real estate deal and nothing more.”
Ryan said that prepared statement was “factual, accurate and respectful and consistent with the information we had previously provided to the committee.”
Cohen disclosed details of the deal last month in a statement to congressional investigators, saying that he had worked on the real estate proposal with Felix Sater, a Russian-born associate who Cohen said had claimed to have deep connections to Moscow. Cohen also has said that he emailed Russian President Vladimir Putin’s press secretary after Sater suggested that the proposal would require approvals within the Russian government.
The discussions about the potential development occurred in the fall of 2015, months after Trump had declared his candidacy, and ended early last year when Cohen determined that the project was not feasible.
In his statement Tuesday, Cohen said the proposal was “solely a real estate deal and nothing more.”
“I was doing my job,” he added.
The Trump Organization has previously said that the licensing deal “was not significantly advanced” and that no site or financing materialized during the negotiations.
Exclusive: US investigators wiretapped Paul Manafort under secret court orders before and after the election https://t.co/7CO2645eOg pic.twitter.com/XR2TttloDA
— CNN (@CNN) September 19, 2017
Cohen also denounced allegations from a dossier produced by an opposition research firm, calling the document “lie-filled” and fabricated. He said he had never discussed with any member of the Russian Federation or anyone else a plan to hack into email accounts or to interfere with the election.
“Given my own proximity to the President of the United States as a candidate, let me also say that I never saw anything — not a hint of anything — that demonstrated his involvement in Russian interference in our election or any form of Russian collusion.”
MARY CLARE JALONICK