Earlier this afternoon, New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman confirmed that President Donald Trump's former attorney and fixer Michael Cohen would be "postponing his Feb. 7 testimony after threats to his family from President Trump and his team."
A statement released by Lanny Davis, Cohen's attorney, confirmed that Cohen would postpone testimony viewed by many political commentators as the opening salvo from a former Trump employee linking the president to collusion with Russian operatives to subvert the 2016 presidential election.
"This is a time where Mr. Cohen had to put his family and their safety first," Davis said.
It was the mention of "family" that prompted adult film actress Stormy Daniels, whom Cohen had repeatedly impugned in a series of lawsuits filed in service to the president, to respond.
"This is your chance to be a hero!" Daniels wrote, after chastising Cohen for his disregard for her family. "I'll loan you some of my balls, hold your hand, or whatever else you need to do the right thing."
The irony of Cohen's dilemma gave Daniels' followers plenty of ammunition—and a lot to consider.
The history that Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, and Cohen share could fill a novel, but that's to be expected for the cast of characters who have found themselves in President Trump's orbit.
In August 2018, Cohen pleaded guilty to eight criminal counts—five charges of felony tax evasion, two counts of campaign finance violations, and one count of bank fraud—in a deal struck with federal prosecutors.
The news that Cohen had implicated the president in a scheme to unlawfully silence two women, including Daniels, without whose very public efforts Cohen would likely never have been charged, sent shock waves around the world.
“How ya like me now?!” she wrote.
Cohen had found himself at the center of the questions regarding a payment Daniels received from him as part of the non-disclosure agreement to keep her from discussing a sexual encounter with Trump back in 2006, while married to his current wife, Melania, and just a few months after Melania gave birth to their son, Barron.
A separate lawsuit filed by Daniels contends that Cohen initiated a “bogus arbitration” hearing against her without notifying her beforehand, and a copy of the restraining order against Daniels confirms that the judge made a “one-party” ruling that did not require her to be notified.
Cohen previously claimed that he paid Daniels out of his own pocket and that the president never reimbursed him for the settlement. But during a highly publicized 60 Minutes broadcast, Daniels' attorney Michael Avenatti presented documents showing that the payment was sent to Cohen at his Trump Tower location, and communicated through his official Trump Organization email, indicating that he made the payment on Trump’s behalf. Analysts have posited that the exchange of funds could well be an illegal campaign expenditure on Trump’s behalf.
But Daniels' admission that she had received threats to stay quiet about her affair with Trump was what galvanized her case.
Daniels recalled she was on her way to a fitness class with her infant daughter in tow several years ago when a man stopped her in a Las Vegas parking lot.
“I was in a parking lot, going to a fitness class with my infant daughter. T– taking, you know, the seats facing backwards in the backseat, diaper bag, you know, gettin’ all the stuff out,” Clifford told 60 Minutes correspondent Anderson Cooper. “And a guy walked up on me and said to me, ‘Leave Trump alone. Forget the story.’ And then he leaned around and looked at my daughter and said, “That’s a beautiful little girl. It’d be a shame if something happened to her mom.” And then he was gone.”
Daniels did not identify the man she said threatened her, but she said that she would recognize him, “100 percent,” if she did. “Even now, all these years later. If he walked in this door right now, I would instantly know.”
Daniels never identified Cohen by name, but she didn’t have to. She received a cease-and-desist notice from Cohen’s lawyer almost immediately after the broadcast.
The news that Cohen would postpone his testimony came scarcely a couple of weeks after three Congressional Democrats warned the president that any attempts to obstruct and influence witness testimony could be construed as a crime after he accused Cohen of lying about him to win leniency from federal prosecutors.
The president’s statements prompted Representatives joint statement in response:, Adam Schiff (CA), and Jerrold Nadler (NY), who respectively chair the Intelligence, Judiciary and Oversight committees, to release the following
“The integrity of our process to serve as an independent check on the Executive Branch must be respected by everyone, including the President. Our nation’s laws prohibit efforts to discourage, intimidate, or otherwise pressure a witness not to provide testimony to Congress. The President should make no statement or take any action to obstruct Congress’ independent oversight and investigative efforts, including by seeking to discourage any witness from testifying in response to a duly authorized request from Congress.”
Other politicians and media professionals agree that Trump is trying to intimidate Cohen and suggest he is guilty of a felony under 18 U.S.C. 1512, which outlines consequences for those who tamper with witnesses, victims, and informants.
At the time, Cohen’s attorney Lanny Davis said that Trump levels “incessant attacks” against Cohen because Trump views Cohen as the “greatest threat to his presidency.”
“This pattern of incessant attacks on my client and his family show what the American people have already witnessed, that Donald Trump sees Michael Cohen, and I would say justifiably, as the greatest threat to his presidency and what could be criminal and impeachable actions,” he said.