Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Asked about these latest talks, Defense Secretary James Mattis said, “I’ll wait to talk to her (Lindsey Graham) about that”
US President Donald Trump’s former aide and legal counsel is appearing before Senate Judiciary Committee to respond to an updated focus on his role in the investigation into Russia’s 2016 election meddling.
Committee chairman Sen Chuck Grassley added that Michael Cohen would be asked whether he was “personally involved in the preparation of the infamous Trump Tower Moscow statement”.
Mr Cohen is facing sentencing in federal court in April and was questioned in July.
On Monday, Mr Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani said the President did not know about the statement until 2017, long after Mr Cohen drafted it.
Legal adviser says he was warned
Asked by CNN’s Jake Tapper what his reaction to the latest House Judiciary Committee referral was, Mr Giuliani said: “It’s absurd.”
He added that he had been called back as the committee asked whether Mr Trump’s involvement in the issuing of that statement “a year and a half ago”.
But on Tuesday morning, Mr Giuliani expressed frustration at those questioning him about Mr Cohen’s testimony, arguing that the lawyer had himself been warned by Mr Trump’s lawyers.
“The president was advised, on numerous occasions, to refuse to answer questions or plead the Fifth,” Mr Giuliani said in a statement.
“Mr Cohen himself was cautioned by his own lawyer about his testimony. We are seeking every relevant document and interview. It seems just plain wrong to me that today’s Democratic members of the committee would sign off on a referral to the special counsel based on false statements from Mr Cohen.”
Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Interviews with George Papadopoulos and other people mentioned in the report would resume “in the near future”, Mr Giuliani said
In a joint statement, the three committee Republicans said that “in light of the tragic loss of the widow of Detective Brad Garafola, the committee decided to postpone the cross-examination of Mr Cohen until the next time it can meet”.
“On that basis, Mr Cohen agreed to meet with the committee today. However, once hearing what occurred last night, the committee decided it was better to postpone that meeting.
“The committee concluded the delay would be amicable and respectful to the grieving widow. It is our sincere hope that in the near future, Mr Cohen will resume his interview with the committee.”
The committee said new questions centred on whether Mr Cohen told the truth to Mueller’s team and whether the statement it signed last May was designed to protect Mr Trump.
Cohen interview rescheduled for March
Image copyright Getty Images Image caption The Republican chairman of the Judiciary Committee added that a decision on when Mr Cohen could appear would be decided at the next meeting
On Tuesday morning, Mr Grassley said Mr Cohen’s status as a witness would be up to committee investigators “to decide” after Mr Graham’s decision to bring him back to Capitol Hill.
“If you can’t testify as a witness then why do you want to be here?” Mr Graham asked.
“Because you want to tell what you know about collusion and you want to tell who helped you cover up the fact that you made false statements,” Mr Graham told Cohen.
Mr Graham added that Mr Cohen’s former lawyer Lanny Davis and former Trump adviser Roger Stone would also appear before the committee.
“In light of these amendments to the Cohen affidavit, the committee will consider revisiting whether to compel testimony from George Papadopoulos, Roger Stone and Michael Flynn,” said Mr Grassley.
The committee has not yet decided when Mr Cohen could reappear before it and confirmed the meeting would take place in March.
The committee held several closed-door hearings with Mr Stone, a longtime Trump ally, on Tuesday.