In testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee originally scheduled for Tuesday, President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer plans to insist he never colluded with Russia during the 2016 election and to outline the public scrutiny he and his family have faced.
“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,” reads the statement by Michael Cohen, which he was set to read before the committee and which was provided to HuffPost. (Read his full opening statement here.)
As the former executive vice president of the Trump Organization, Cohen has long been one of the president’s closest advisers.
He was scheduled to testify before a closed-door meeting of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Lawmakers subpoenaed him in their investigation into Russia’s attempt to influence the presidential campaign and whether members of Trump’s campaign or inner circle were involved in those efforts.
In his statement to the committee, Cohen sticks up not only for himself but for the president as well, saying he saw “not a hint of anything” that showed any involvement in Russian interference.
“I’m also certain that 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 ... this is un-American,” Cohen’s statement says.
Cohn has faced increased attention since he was named in a dossier prepared by a former British spy who claimed the lawyer had an important role in an “ongoing secret liaison relationship” between Trump officials and Russia. The document, first published by BuzzFeed, said Cohen had traveled to Prague to meet with Kremlin officials about getting involved in the election.
Cohen was set to deny that allegation in his testimony Tuesday, saying he was “in Los Angeles with my son who dreams of playing division 1 baseball next year at a prestigious university like USC. We were visiting the campus, meeting with various coaches, and discussing his future.”
The statement says the dossier damaged his reputation and the continuing scrutiny has taken a toll on his family ― as well as on other people around the country who dare to show their support for Trump publicly.
“My wife and I have been married for 23 years, and are now entering the season of our lives when we get to watch our children become adults themselves,” Cohen’s statement says. “My daughter, who is at an Ivy League school, and my wife, who is of Ukrainian descent, have especially been subjected to harassment, insults and threats ... some so severe I cannot share them in mixed company.”
“You might say that the experiences I am living through are the cost of being in the public eye, but they shouldn’t be as I am not a government official,” he continues. “Many Trump supporting Americans are also paying this cost, like the twelve year old child in Missouri who was beaten up for wearing a Make America Great Again hat.”
Cohen also reached out to the Kremlin during the campaign for help on plans to build a Trump Tower in Moscow.
In his prepared statement to the Senate, Cohen says the Trump Tower proposal was rejected in January 2016, “before the Iowa caucus and months before the very first primary.”
“This was solely a real estate deal and nothing more,” the statement says. “I was doing my job.”
CNN reported that Cohen was not expected to be under oath during his appearance Tuesday. Donald Trump Jr. also recently spoke behind closed doors to Senate Judiciary Committee staffers. He is expected to testify publicly before the committee this fall.
“If we really are concerned about a Russian attempt to divide our country and discredit our political system then the best thing we can do is put aside our infighting, stop presuming guilt rather than innocence of American citizens, and address this national security threat as a united people at its source,” Cohen was set to testify. “Otherwise, the priorities of the American people will continue to be neglected, and the Russians will use our distraction to continue to harm us from the shadows while we harm each other in front of the camera lights.”
UPDATE: 5:34 p.m. ― The Senate Intelligence Committee canceled its meeting with Cohen on Tuesday, reportedly because he violated an agreement not to speak to the media by circulating his statement beforehand. Cohen’s lawyer told reporters that they provided his opening statement to the media because the fact of his appearance before the committee was leaked to the press, and it was public knowledge that he would be there.
“That statement was factual,” said Stephen Ryan, Cohen’s attorney. “It was accurate. It was respectful, and we stand behind that statement.”
Committee Chair Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and ranking member Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) released a statement confirming that they had canceled Cohen’s interview because he released his testimony to the media.
“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,” they 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.”
On Tuesday afternoon, the committee put out a statement saying it was inviting Cohen to testify publicly at 10:00 a.m. on Oct. 25.