Michael Cohen, Donald Trump’s former personal attorney, compared Trump to a “mob boss” after the committee investigating the January 6 Capitol riot alleged that witnesses had been subjected to intimidation by members of the former president’s circle.
Earlier this week the committee showed messages from Trump allies to witnesses testifying in its inquiry, apparently seeking to warn them against making damaging claims about the former president.
Cohen, who was subjected to a barrage of attacks by the former president after testifying against him in 2019, said that the behavior follows a familiar pattern.
“Donald Trump never changes his playbook,” Cohen told The Washington Post. “He behaves like a mob boss, and these messages are fashioned in that style. Giving an order without giving the order. No fingerprints attached.”
Rep. Liz Cheney, a Republican who sits on the committee, said at Tuesday’s hearing that the messages to witnesses were an attempt to get them to “testify untruthfully” to the committee, and showed examples of the communications.
One text message to a witness, who was not publicly named, said according to Cheney: “What they said to me is as long as I continue to be a team player, they know that I’m on the team, I’m doing the right thing, I’m protecting who I need to protect, you know, I’ll continue to stay in the good graces in Trump world.
“And they have reminded me a couple of times that Trump does read transcripts and just keep that in mind as I proceed through my depositions and interviews with the committee.”
CNN and Punchbowl reported that Cassidy Hutchinson, a former White House aide who provided perhaps the most damaging testimony about Trump to the committee to date, was among the witnesses contacted before their testimony.
The messages echoed those sent by people in Trump’s circle to Cohen when rumors circulated in early 2018 that he was planning on cooperating with investigators from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian interference.
“Sleep well tonight, you have friends in high places,” an attorney close to Trump’s circle emailed Cohen in 2018, CNN reported in 2019. After Cohen testified to Congress in early 2019, Trump and his new personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, attacked Cohen and members of his family in what Cohen’s legal team described as a form of witness intimidation.
In the wake of Hutchinson’s testimony Tuesday, Trump has criticised her in a string of messages on his Truth Social platform, accusing her of being a liar and “social climber.”
Cheney has said that the committee routinely asks witnesses if they have been contacted by Trump or his allies ahead of their testimony in a bid to influence them, and would be soon be making a decision on what to do in relation to the evidence of attempted witness tampering.
Attempting to influence witnesses in a congressional inquiry is a federal crime. The committee has made several criminal referrals to the Justice Department for witnesses defying subpoenas, but none for alleged witness tampering to date.