The House intelligence committee has subpoenaed President Donald Trump’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen, as part of its ongoing investigation into Russia’s election meddling and contacts with the Trump campaign, according to a congressional aide.
The aide spoke on condition of anonymity in order to discuss internal committee matters, reported AP.
Meanwhile, a long-promised shake up of the White House staff began on Tuesday with the resignation of the White House’s communications director, Michael Dubke who was on the job only three months. His departure could be the first of many in the White House.
According to reports, Cohen, a longtime attorney for the Trump Organization, remains a personal lawyer for Trump. He served as a cable television surrogate for the Republican during the presidential campaign.
Cohen told ABC News on Tuesday that he was asked by House and Senate investigators “to provide information and testimony” regarding communication he has had with people connected to the Russian government.
“I declined the invitation to participate as the request was poorly phrased, overly broad and not capable of being answered,” Cohen said in an email to ABC News.
NBC News reported on Tuesday that the request letters sent to Cohen were the same ones sent to former Trump aides Carter Page, Roger Stone, Paul Manafort and Michael Flynn.
Last month, Cohen defended the president’s relationship with Russia, saying in an interview that Trump is reducing tensions between the United States and Moscow.
“At least there’s a relationship that’s been started between the president and President Putin,” Cohen said. “Now he can actually reach out to him and have a conversation with him that’s not already predicated on tension. The president will get done what he needs to get done.”
Russian state media jumped into the fray Tuesday with a tweet that might not be helpful to the president’s denials, saying that the foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, does want an open channel to work on cooling down the war in Syria.
For his part, Mr. Trump retweeted an article from Fox News that said it was Mr. Kislyak (Russian Ambassador to U.S.), not Mr. Kushner, who proposed a secure line between the Russian government and the Trump team.
The subpoena for Cohen comes as the congressional investigations into ties between the Trump campaign and Russia advance beyond formal requests for information from Trump associates.
The president’s first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, has also received subpoenas from the Senate panel regarding his Russian contacts and his business records. The House intelligence committee has also subpoenaed Flynn, the congressional aide said.
The multipronged investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election — and the possible collusion of Trump campaign associates in that interference — now sprawls from the F.B.I. to at least three committees and subcommittees in Congress.
In February, The New York Times reported that Cohen helped to broker a Ukraine peace plan that would call for Russian troops to withdraw from Ukraine and a referendum to let Ukrainians decide whether the part of the country seized by Russian in 2014 should be leased to Moscow. The Russian government denied knowing anything about such a plan.
The Times reported that the peace plan was the work of Felix Sater, a business associate who has helped Trump try to find business in Russia, and Cohen.
Cohen was a fierce defender of Trump during the campaign, often haranguing probing reporters and famously challenging a CNN reporter live on-air to name the specific polls that showed then-candidate Trump behind his rival, Hillary Clinton.
In the early 2000s, he formed his own firm working on a range of legal matters, including malpractice cases, business law and work on an ethanol business in Ukraine. Cohen also owned and operated a handful of taxi medallions, managing a fleet of cabs in New York.
Cohen’s business associates in the taxi enterprise included a number of men from the former Soviet Union, including his Ukrainian-born father-in-law.Cohen has made his own unsuccessful attempts at public office, losing a city council race and briefly running for state assembly in New York.
Reports in recent days have focused on Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and a senior White House adviser, who reportedly sought in December to set up a backchannel line of communication between the Trump transition team and Moscow.
The Justice Department earlier this month named a special counsel to investigate Russian election meddling.
Trump on Tuesday said Russian officials are likely “laughing” at the U.S. amid continuing reports about the Russian election meddling.
“Russian officials must be laughing at the U.S. & how a lame excuse for why the Dems lost the election has taken over the Fake News,” Trump tweeted Tuesday.