Friday 18 August 2017

Trump lawyer Michael Cohen rejects congress request for Russia probe documents

Michael Cohen (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)
Michael Cohen (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

Donald Trump's personal lawyer has rejected a request for documents as part of Congress's investigation into Russia's election meddling and contacts with the Trump campaign.

Michael Cohen, a long-time legal representative for the Trump Organisation, remains a personal lawyer for the president. He served as a cable television surrogate for the Republican during the presidential campaign.

The House intelligence committee's request for information from Mr Cohen came as investigators continue to scrutinise members of Mr Trump's inner circle.

The president's first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, has received subpoenas from the Senate intelligence committee regarding his Russian contacts and his business records.

Democratic Representative Adam Schiff said last week that a subpoena from the House panel was likely.

"I declined the invitation to participate as the request was poorly phrased, overly broad and not capable of being answered," Mr Cohen said. "I find it irresponsible and improper that the request sent to me was leaked by those working on the committee."

He told ABC News that he had been asked by both the House and Senate intelligence committees to provide information and evidence about contacts he had with Russian officials.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said the allegations of Moscow meddling in the US presidential election are "fiction" invented by the Democrats to explain their loss.

In an interview with French newspaper Le Figaro, he reaffirmed his strong denial of Russian involvement in the hacking of Democratic emails.

Mr Trump made a similar claim in a tweet early on Tuesday: "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."

Mr Cohen's ties with Russian interests came up in February when the New York Times reported that he 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 Russia in 2014 should be leased to Moscow.

The Russian government denied knowing anything about such a plan.

The NYT reported that the peace plan was the work of Felix Sater, a business associate who has helped Mr Trump try to find business in Russia, and Mr Cohen.

Mr Cohen was a fierce defender of Mr Trump during the campaign, often haranguing probing reporters and famously challenging a CNN reporter live on air to name the specific polls that showed Mr Trump behind his rival, Hillary Clinton.

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