Michael Cohen was supposed to testify in private this week before the House Intelligence Committee, but it was just postponed for three weeks, with the blessing of Chairman Adam Schiff. So what’s really going on here? Hint: check the court docket, because Cohen’s name just surfaced on it.
Schiff simply said that the delay is in the “interests of the investigation.” That doesn’t tell us much on its own. But at nearly the exact same time the delay in Michael Cohen’s House testimony was being announced, a new sealed item surfaced on the court docket reading “USA v. Cohen” as spotted by CourtHouseNews. Based on the case number, this is definitely the Michael Cohen case. So it’s fair to conclude that this new filing – whatever it may be – is the reason Cohen’s testimony was postponed. But why?
SDNY brought the criminal case against Cohen, but SDNY is working with Robert Mueller, so there’s no way to know for sure whether this filing is SDNY’s doing or Mueller’s doing. There’s a theoretical possibility that this is a new indictment against Cohen. But if prosecutors did decide to hit Cohen with a new criminal charge at this late date, after he’s already been sentenced, it would have to be based on stunning new evidence against him – and we expect such a revelation would have been unsealed immediately.
This leaves one other possibility: the sealed filing relates to one of the criminal cases that Michael Cohen has been helping prosecutors with. This week alone we learned that SDNY has subpoenaed the financial records of the Trump inauguration committee, and subpoenaed Trump Organization executives to testify, even as the House Intel Committee just voted to hand over dozens of potentially perjured Trump-Russia testimony transcripts over to Robert Mueller.
In other words, Mueller and/or SDNY is about to move on someone within the next three weeks, Michael Cohen is a cooperating witness, the sealed filing is either an indictment of someone important or a precursor to an indictment, and Cohen can’t talk about any of it until it becomes public. Stay tuned. Cohen’s three week delay suggests that prosecutors are absolutely certain this secret criminal case will be ready to roll within three weeks at most, which means it’ll probably be ready sooner.
Update, 3:05pm EST: The sealed item in “USA v. Cohen” has since been deleted, with the explanation that “The document was incorrectly filed in this case.” Our interpretation is that this doesn’t necessarily discount any of what we’ve laid out above. It’s unlikely that prosecutors would have made the random mistake of filing a document from an unrelated matter in the Cohen case, unless they intended to file something in the Cohen case. Now we wait to see what else shows up on the docket as the day goes on.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report