RUSSIA PROBE: Trump’s lawyer rescheduled to testify in public after angering officials

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President Trump’s longtime personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, has been rescheduled to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee in an open hearing on Oct. 25.   Originally, he was scheduled to testify Tuesday afternoon, but it was cancelled at the last minute by the committee.

The committee hastily called off that interview after Cohen released a prepared opening statement to the media, stating his innocence:

“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,” he said.  He continued,  “I never engaged with, been paid by, paid for, or conversed with any member of the Russian Federation or anyone else to hack anyone or any organization.”

Cohen also noted, “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.”

The longtime Trump lawyer went on to explain how his reputation took a hit in December 2016 “when BuzzFeed published an unverified dossier prepared by a retired British spy – Christopher Steele – that was riddled with total falsehoods and intentionally salacious accusations.”

He also spoke to the false accusation that he had traveled to Prague to meet with Russians regarding interfering with the election. “I have never in my life been to Prague or to anywhere in the Czech Republic. I might also add that I only have one passport (a United States Passport). I have to say that to you today – that I only have one passport – because another media outlet suggested that – as a Jew – I must also have an Israeli passport!”

He additionally noted that the dossier claimed he was in Prague on the same day when he was actually in Los Angeles, visiting prospective colleges with his son, and offered to provide the proof.

His statement finished up with the following suggestion:

“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. 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.”

After abruptly canceling his testimony, Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Vice Chairman Mark Warner (D-Va.) responded with their own statement, saying, “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. The committee expects witnesses in this investigation to work in good faith with the Senate.”

The prepared statement by Cohen also pointed out that the Russia investigations were based on politics more than fact.

“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 wrote.

In late August, emails were released that showed Cohen had discussed the possibility of the Trump business organization working on a Trump Tower-like project in Moscow. The emails dated back to November of 2015.

Critics and political opponents of the president said the emails were proof against President Trump’s numerous statements that he never had any business dealings in Russia. For example, a tweet when Trump was president-elect on January 11 said, “Russia has never tried to use leverage over me. I HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH RUSSIA – NO DEALS, NO LOANS, NO NOTHING!”

Cohen and the Trump organization have said that they signed a nonbinding letter of intent to pursue the project, but later dropped it.

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