Michael Cohen reconsidering plan to testify to Congress: adviser

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen is reconsidering his plan to testify publicly to the U.S. Congress next month because of intimidation by the president, an adviser to Cohen said on Thursday.

Lanny Davis, an attorney who has been advising Cohen on his media strategy, said in an interview with MSNBC that some remarks made by the Republican president about Cohen amounted to witness tampering and deserved to be criminally investigated.

“There is genuine fear and it has caused Michael Cohen to consider whether he should go forward or not, and he has not made a final decision,” Davis said.

Last week Cohen agreed to appear before a congressional panel on Feb. 7, as U.S. House of Representatives Democrats began kicking off numerous investigations of Trump, his business interests and his administration.

Cohen was sentenced in December to three years in prison for his role in making illegal hush-money payments to two women to help Trump in 2016 in violation of campaign laws and for lying to Congress about a proposed Trump Tower project in Russia.

In a Fox News interview on Saturday, Trump suggested he had damaging information on Cohen’s father-in-law. “That’s the one that people want to look at,” Trump said in the interview.

Davis said: “There is no question that his threatening and calling out his father-in-law, who – quote – has all the money, is not only improper and unseemly for a bully using the bully pulpit of the presidency, but the very definition of intimidation and witness tampering.”

He said Trump’s remarks “could be obstruction of justice.”

Trump called Cohen a “rat” in a tweet last month for cooperating with prosecutors. Cohen had been Trump’s self-described longtime “fixer” and had once said he would take a bullet for the New York real estate developer.

At a hearing in federal court in New York in August, Cohen testified that Trump had directed him to commit a crime by arranging payments before the 2016 election to two women who said they had engaged in extramarital affairs with Trump.

Cohen said on Thursday he had paid a firm to manipulate online polling data “at the direction of and for the sole benefit of” Trump.

<bThe worst of @WomenForCohen, the Twitter account Michael Cohen created to make himself a ‘sex symbol’</b

Launching his own Twitter fan account featuring “women” who found him “sexy” is not the worst thing Michael Cohen has done. The worst thing Michael Cohen has done (that we know of!) is committing nine felonies.

But given the scourge of fake social-media accounts and the craven PR efforts that plague this country’s political process, accountability is necessary when an offender is caught. An example must be set, if for no other reason than to serve as a deterrent.

This is why we had to mine @WomenForCohen’s feed for its worst tweets.

For those who have no idea what this is all about, the Wall Street Journal reported this morning that Cohen paid a man named John Gauger to rig online polls for President Trump’s 2016 campaign. Gauger says Cohen never paid him all of the $50,000 he was owed, even though Cohen took a $50,000 reimbursement from Trump. Cohen has confirmed hiring Gauger to rig the polls, and said it was at Trump’s behest. The Trump team denies this. It’s not clear if any campaign-finance laws were violated.

But buried within the Journal’s story is this juicy tidbit:

During the presidential race, Mr. Cohen also asked Mr. Gauger to create a Twitter account called @WomenForCohen. The account, created in May 2016 and run by a female friend of Mr. Gauger, described Mr. Cohen as a “sex symbol,” praised his looks and character, and promoted his appearances and statements boosting Mr. Trump’s candidacy.

Mr. Cohen asked Mr. Gauger to create the @WomenForCohen account, still active in 2019, to elevate his profile. The account’s profile says it is run by “Women who love and support Michael Cohen. Strong, pit bull, sex symbol, no nonsense, business oriented and ready to make a difference!”

That doesn’t quite capture the sadness of the @WomenForCohen account. A perusal of its 789 tweets shows it doesn’t just praise Cohen’s looks or media appearances; it lifts him up as a paragon of virtue — a “good guy” in a world full of nefarious characters. That this man was even at that time literally committing felonies is just about perfect.

The account is mostly your garden-variety fan feed featuring tweets calling Cohen a “stud,” “handsome” and “sexy” and comparing him to good-looking famous people.

<bMichael Cohen reportedly paid to rig online polls for Trump</b

Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former attorney, tried to rig online polls in favor of Trump by paying a man to code an algorithm that would vote for Trump in two public surveys, according to a newreportby the Wall Street Journal’s Michael Rothfeld, Rob Barry, and Joe Palazzolo.

Cohen hired the same man —John Gauger, owner of RedFinch Solutions LLC — to create a Twitter account called @WomenForCohen that attempted to establish the lawyer as a sex symbol.

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In January 2014, Gauger attempted to rig a CNBC poll to get Trump on a list of influential business leaders. Despite the rigging, Trump ended up losing the poll and posted this angry tweet, as unearthed by the Toronto Star’s Daniel Dale and Politico’s Kyle Cheney:

According to the WSJ report, Cohen said that Trump knew about the rigging and provided personal funds to pay Gauger.

Even though Trump didn’t win the CNBC poll, Cohen later asked Gauger to rig a Drudge Report article of potential Republican candidates in February 2015,the Journal reported. That time, Trump made it into the top five. Even though Gauger provided these services, he claims that Cohen never paid him the total $50,000 he was promised. The two met at Trump Tower in 2015 and Cohen reportedly gave Gauger between $12,000 and $13,000 in a Walmart shopping bag.

Cohen — who was sentenced to three years in prison in December for campaign finance violations, tax evasion, and lying under oath — tweeted Thursday that he regretted his actions but blamed the poll-rigging on Trump:

What may be even more regrettable for Cohen — and harder to blame on Trump — is the Twitter account @WomenForCohen that Cohenreportedly paid Gauger to create.

The account profile states its love for Cohen as a “strong, pit bull, sex symbol …” and was managed by a female friend of Gauger’s, according to the Journal,with theidea that elevating Cohen would boost Trump’s credibility. However, Cohen never told the Trump organization he was using its funds to pay Gauger to make this account.

Here’s a sampling of the account’s tweets:

Cohen has pleaded guilty to charges already, but the report raises more questions about his campaign finance spending. It also gives Congress even more subjects to ask questions about when Cohen testifies before the House Oversight Committee on February 7 — when Democrats can ask him, under oath, about things he did for Trump during the years he was the president’s personal lawyer and fixer.