Cohen plea gives Dems new momentum for Russia probes

Cohen plea gives Dems new momentum for Russia probes

Democrats are abuzz with newfound energy this week after learning that Michael Cohen lied before Congress, giving lawmakers an opening to demand that he testify again on Capitol Hill about President TrumpDonald John TrumpBusiness, ballots and battling opioids: Why the Universal Postal Union benefits the US Sanders supporters cry foul over Working Families endorsement of Warren California poll: Biden, Sanders lead Democratic field; Harris takes fifth MORE’s ties to Russia during the 2016 campaign.

The revelation that Cohen gave false statements about his efforts to arrange a Trump Tower deal in Moscow — a development that surfaced when the president’s former attorney pleaded guilty in federal court on Thursday — contributes to a growing body of evidence that people in Trump's orbit had been concealing their ties to the Kremlin, according to some Democratic lawmakers.

“This is yet another example of the President's closest allies lying about their contacts with Russia,” Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerCalifornia Law to rebuild middle class shows need for congressional action Hillicon Valley: FCC approves Nexstar-Tribune merger | Top Democrat seeks answers on security of biometric data | 2020 Democrats take on Chinese IP theft | How Google, Facebook probes are testing century-old antitrust laws Top Democrat demands answers from CBP on security of biometric data MORE (D-Va.), vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said in a statement Thursday.

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The House and Senate Intelligence panels interviewed Cohen last year, months before he began cooperating with special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerFox's Cavuto roasts Trump over criticism of network Mueller report fades from political conversation Trump calls for probe of Obama book deal MORE’s team.

Individuals who lie to Congress can be charged and prosecuted for perjury, even if they weren’t under oath when providing testimony.

Rep. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffSunday shows - Guns dominate after Democratic debate Schiff: Diplomacy with Iran 'only way out of this situation' Sunday shows preview: Democratic candidates make the rounds after debate MORE (Calif.), the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said that in addition to wanting Cohen to testify again, this recent development warrants further scrutiny of Russia probe-related congressional testimony from other witnesses.

“We think that the special counsel ought to have the benefit of transcripts, not only of Mr. Cohen's testimony but other witnesses like Roger StoneRoger Jason Stone3 real problems Republicans need to address to win in 2020 Judge rejects Stone's request to dismiss charges Judge dismisses DNC lawsuit against Trump campaign, Russia over election interference MORE who may similarly have attempted to mislead the committee,” Schiff told reporters on Thursday.

Democrats on other investigative committees echoed that view.

“I think there is going to be a fresh reexamination of the testimony of all witnesses before Oversight, just as probably Mr. Schiff is doing on Intelligence,” said Rep. Raja KrishnamoorthiSubramanian (Raja) Raja KrishnamoorthiThe Hill's Morning Report - What is Trump's next move on Iran? House committee launches investigation into Transportation Secretary Chao Hotel industry mounts attack on Airbnb with House bill MORE (D-Ill.), a member of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee. “I think this culture of telling things that are basically not true and just flat-out telling falsehoods starts at the top, and it just permeates through all the agencies.”

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Democrats are already scrutinizing conflicting accounts between Cohen and other witnesses. They are also looking to find other false or misleading statements Cohen may have made to congressional intelligence panels.

Despite the false statements, Democrats view Cohen as a witness with a lot of potential.

After he began cooperating with Mueller’s team, he abruptly shifted from being the president’s most loyal defender to a top White House political foe. If House Democrats — who are gearing up to launch a series of investigations into the Trump administration next year — can persuade Cohen to turn on his longtime former boss, they would have a close-up source to speak about the president and his business dealings.

Cohen’s cooperation with Mueller appears to have softened his previous critics.

“I think because he is cooperating so completely with the special counsel, we probably see more flexibility,” a Democratic lawmaker on the House Intelligence panel told The Hill.

Separately, Schiff told The Hill on Friday that he doesn’t think his panel has been in contact with Cohen’s lawyers since the plea deal.

Cohen's legal team did not respond to a request for comment on whether he would agree to testify again before certain congressional committees.

Republicans have also displayed an appetite to examine whether they were misled by Cohen.

“Michael Cohen’s indictment and guilty plea is once again an example that you cannot lie to Congress without consequences,” Sen. Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrLawmakers applaud Trump's ban on flavored e-cigarettes Trump to hold campaign rally in North Carolina day before special House election Hoekstra emerges as favorite for top intelligence post MORE (R-N.C.), chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said in a statement. “It should be no surprise that Mr. Cohen has had in his possession for months a letter requesting return visits to the Committee.”

The misleading testimony also raised concerns with Rep. Tom RooneyThomas (Tom) Joseph RooneyHouse Dem calls on lawmakers to 'insulate' election process following Mueller report Hill-HarrisX poll: 76 percent oppose Trump pardoning former campaign aides Dems fear Trump is looking at presidential pardons MORE (R-Fla.), who served as a senior member of the House panel’s investigation into Russian interference.

“It did make me think about what other witnesses we had,” said Rooney, who is retiring from Congress in January.

However, Rooney suggested it would not be particularly fruitful for Democrats to bring Cohen back, saying that his testimony would just rehash that he had lied to them.

Cohen initially testified that the president did not have ties to Moscow, a statement he reversed in his guilty plea. He now says he kept Trump and his family updated about negotiations over the Moscow Trump Tower deal as late as June 2016.

Before the plea deal, Cohen was entangled in the courts over his involvement with providing a hush payment to adult-film star Stormy Daniels. In August, Cohen pleaded guilty to tax evasion connected to those payments.

News of Cohen’s plea deal also came amid reports that Trump has responded to a series of Mueller’s questions that focus on his knowledge of events as well as actions during the 2016 election.

"Trump said he had no dealings with the Russians, that is now shown to be a lie," said Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), who is expected to lead the House Judiciary Committee starting in January. "He lied about it to the American people during the election."