By Warren Strobel and Patricia Zengerle
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Senate intelligence committee on Tuesday canceled a closed-doors interview with President Donald Trump's lawyer Michael Cohen and called on him to appear before the panel in an open session, saying it was disappointed he released a statement despite a request that he refrain from public comment.
"As a result, we declined to move forward with today's interview and will reschedule Mr. Cohen's appearance before the committee in open session at a date in the near future," the committee's leaders, Republican Senator Richard Burr, and Democratic Senator Mark Warner, the vice chairman, said in a joint statement.
"The committee expects witnesses in this investigation to work in good faith with the Senate,” they said.
The committee had scheduled an interview between its investigators and Cohen as part of its investigation into Russia's reported interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and whether Trump or his top aides colluded with Moscow.
The intelligence panel, other congressional committees and special counsel Robert Mueller are investigating Russia's reported interference in the election and whether Trump or top aides colluded with Moscow.
The Russian government denies any attempt to influence the election, and Trump has repeatedly denied any collusion, calling the investigations a "witch hunt."
In his statement, Cohen denied that he or Trump colluded with Russia to interfere in the election, and said such charges were made to discredit Trump's presidency.
"I emphatically state that I had nothing to do with any Russian involvement in our electoral process," Cohen's statement said. "Given my own proximity to the president of the United States as a candidate, let me also say that I never saw anything - not a hint of anything - that demonstrated his involvement in Russian interference in our election or any form of Russia collusion," Cohen said.
Cohen and his attorney, Stephen Ryan, had traveled to Capitol Hill for the closed-door interview with committee investigators, but were told the meeting had been postponed.
"We didn't want to send a message except for what we do is behind closed doors," Burr later told reporters at the Capitol.
Cohen's name surfaced in a dossier, compiled by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele, that reported Cohen played an important role in liaison with the Russian government and secretly met with Kremlin officials in Prague in August 2016.
The Steele dossier, Cohen said in his statement, is "riddled with falsehoods and intentionally salacious allegations."
"I have never in my life been to Prague or to anywhere in the Czech Republic," he said.
Current and former U.S. intelligence officials have said that while they cannot verify all the details in the Steele dossier, neither have they debunked it entirely.
Former Utah governor Jon Huntsman, Trump's nominee to be ambassador to Russia, said on Tuesday there was no question that Moscow meddled in the 2016 U.S. election, and pledged to bring up the issue with the government there.
"There is no question, underline no question, that the Russian government interfered in the U.S. election last year," Huntsman, who has also served as U.S. ambassador to China, said at his U.S. Senate confirmation hearing.
(Additional reporting by Eric Walsh; Editing by Tim Ahmann and Alistair Bell)