Yesterday Michael Cohen announced that he was indefinitely postponing his public testimony before the House Oversight Committee, citing the threats that Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani were making against his family. Committee Chair Elijah Cummings then vowed that Cohen would end up testifying, which was a clear hint at a subpoena. But now the Senate Intelligence Committee has decided to subpoena Cohen to privately testify instead.
Much has been made today of the fact that the Senate Intel Committee is Republican controlled. But in reality it’s the one congressional committee investigation into the Trump-Russia scandal that’s still functioning in bipartisan fashion. If the Democrats on the committee thought that Republican Chair Richard Burr were pulling any hijinks by suddenly pulling in Cohen before the House can, they would be publicly saying so. Ranking member Mark Warner in particular would be sounding the alarm. His silence is a clear indicator that this isn’t some partisan fight over Cohen. So what’s really going on here?
The two committee investigations in question have been tasked with very different goals. The House Oversight Committee is investigating Donald Trump’s crimes in general, and that includes the role that Michael Cohen played in them. The Senate Intel Committee is investigating Russia’s 2016 election meddling on Trump’s behalf, with the stated goal of preventing it from happening again; Cohen is only relevant in that he acted as a Trump Tower Moscow project liaison.
It’s fair to assume that the Senate Intel Committee decided to forcibly subpoena Michael Cohen today after seeing his sudden hesitance to voluntarily testify at all. But there is no reason to expect that Cohen’s upcoming Senate testimony will have any impact on the prospects for his House testimony. Elijah Cummings can, and will, subpoena Cohen if he ends up concluding it’s the only way to get Cohen to testify before his committee.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report