Donald Trump’s personal lawyer and longtime confidant Michael Cohen strode into a secure room in the Capitol on Tuesday to answer questions in the ongoing probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election.
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The normally outspoken Manhattan attorney stayed quiet on his way into a closed hearing with the House Intelligence Committee, two weeks after he angered senators when he released a lengthy and defiant public statement about the congressional probes.
Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr, R-N.C., and Vice Chairman Mark Warner, D-Va., released a statement after that earlier meeting came to an abrupt end, chastising Cohen for releasing his own statement ahead of the interview.
“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 statement reads. “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.”
To date, the House investigation has proven to be a friendlier venue to Trump insiders. Democrats on the committee have privately decried the effort, telling ABC News that their Republican colleagues have at times counseled witnesses that they don't have to answer questions and don't have to remain long during the voluntary interviews.
Cohen, who has served as Trump’s personal attorney for years, is of interest to investigators for his role in confidential negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Moscow in 2015 and 2016, at the height of the presidential campaign.
The Trump Organization seriously considered the Moscow building proposal but eventually abandoned the plan and did not pursue it, Cohen told ABC News in August.
Cohen has forcefully denied engaging with any Russian government officials “to hack anyone or any organization” or “hack or interfere with the election” and asked the panel to verify or deny the charges made against Cohen in the infamous dossier of unverified allegations between Russians and the Trump campaign produced by Fusion GPS.
In his statement released ahead of that September meeting, Cohen forcefully denied knowledge of any Russian efforts to influence 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,” he said of Trump.
Editor's note: This report has been updated to clarify that Cohen's law practice is in Manhattan.