Dems revive impeachment talk after latest Cohen bombshell

Democrats are calling the latest bombshell allegation against President TrumpDonald John TrumpFive takeaways from the Democratic debate As Buttigieg rises, Biden is still the target Leading Democrats largely pull punches at debate MORE — that he ordered his personal attorney to lie to Congress — the most damning yet, with several raising the possibility of impeachment, or even resignation, less than a month into the new Congress.

Rep. David CicillineDavid Nicola CicillineHillicon Valley: Federal inquiry opened into Google health data deal | Facebook reports millions of post takedowns | Microsoft shakes up privacy debate | Disney plus tops 10M sign-ups in first day Top antitrust Dem presses DOJ, FTC on Google's Fitbit acquisition Hillicon Valley: California AG reveals Facebook investigation | McConnell criticizes Twitter's political ad ban | Lawmakers raise concerns over Google takeover of Fitbit | Dem pushes FCC to secure 5G networks MORE (R.I.), the head of House Democrats’ messaging arm, said on CNN on Friday that the allegations laid out in a Thursday BuzzFeed report, if true, are “the most serious threat to the Trump presidency that we've seen so far,” as well as an “impeachable offense.”  

At least one House Judiciary Committee member, Rep. Pramila JayapalPramila JayapalHillicon Valley: Google to limit political ad targeting | Senators scrutinize self-driving car safety | Trump to 'look at' Apple tariff exemption | Progressive lawmakers call for surveillance reforms | House panel advances telecom bills Dozens of lawmakers call for government surveillance reforms Jayapal hits back at Biden on marijuana 'prohibition' MORE (D-Wash.), a top progressive leader, said the report suggests Trump obstructed justice. “That’s a federal crime,” she said.

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And Rep. Joaquin CastroJoaquin CastroHillicon Valley: Google to limit political ad targeting | Senators scrutinize self-driving car safety | Trump to 'look at' Apple tariff exemption | Progressive lawmakers call for surveillance reforms | House panel advances telecom bills Minority lawmakers call out Google for hiring former Trump DHS official Castro tweaks brother's beard: 'If I knew it'd look like that I wouldn't have suggested it' MORE (D-Texas), a member of the Intelligence Committee and twin brother of presidential hopeful Julián Castro, said Trump “must resign or be impeached” if the story is accurate.

The explosive allegations as reported by BuzzFeed — that Trump personally directed Cohen to lie to Congress about the timing of negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Moscow — ramp up the stakes for a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing featuring Cohen slated for next month.

Cohen's lawyer, Lanny Davis, notably did not try to undermine the BuzzFeed story during a Friday appearance on MSNBC's "Meet the Press Daily."

"You have in the past denied others or corrected the record when something has been wrong," host Chuck Todd pointed out.

"[Cohen] had nothing to do with the writing of the story. He didn't initiate the story. It was done by independent reporting. So the story stands on its own," Davis said, while neither explicitly confirming nor denying the story.

Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani denied the allegations on Friday, saying in a statement that "Any suggestion — from any source — that the President counseled Michael Cohen to lie is categorically false.”

Trump said on Twitter on Friday that his former self-described "fixer" was "lying to reduce his jail time." Cohen was convicted last year of charges including bank fraud and campaign finance violations — actions he also said he took at Trump's behest.

Virginia Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerBipartisan senators urge national security adviser to appoint 5G coordinator Hillicon Valley: Commerce extends Huawei waiver | Senate Dems unveil privacy bill priorities | House funding measure extends surveillance program | Trump to tour Apple factory | GOP bill would restrict US data going to China Klobuchar unveils plan to secure elections as president MORE, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, also said Friday that he expects Cohen to return for another closed-door appearance in early February.

“We are in conversations with him,” Warner told reporters.

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But top Democratic leaders are showing more caution as they seek to temper expectations. House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerHouse passes stopgap as spending talks stall This week: Round 2 of House impeachment inquiry hearings Lawmakers skeptical of progress on spending deal as wall battle looms MORE (Md.) sidestepped the question when asked by reporters if the allegations change the calculus on impeachment, replying: “I don’t want to get into that right now.”

“We’ll see what Mr. Cohen has to say” at the hearing, Hoyer said.

The impeachment talk, amid a grueling shutdown showdown between Trump and Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiKlobuchar shuts down idea a woman can't beat Trump: 'Pelosi does it every day' Budowsky: Trump destroying GOP in 2018, '19, '20 On The Money: Senate scraps plan to force second shutdown vote | Trump tax breaks for low-income neighborhoods draw scrutiny | McConnell rips House Dems for holding up trade deal MORE (D-Calif.), underscores the political perils ahead for the Republican president under the new Democratic House majority.

Pelosi has sought to set a high bar for impeachment despite calls from liberals in her caucus agitating for action.

“If there's to be grounds for impeachment of President Trump – and I’m not seeking those grounds – that would have to be so clearly bipartisan in terms of acceptance of it before I think we should go down any impeachment path,” Pelosi told USA Today shortly before becoming Speaker.

Democrats, who just regained control of the House on Jan. 3, now have subpoena power that Republicans chose not to deploy against the White House and Trump administration over the past two years.

Beyond the Oversight hearing with Cohen next month, chairmen of the Intelligence and Judiciary committees both pledged to investigate the matter.

“As a counterintelligence concern of the greatest magnitude, and given that these alleged efforts were intended to interfere with our investigation, our Committee is determined to get to the bottom of this,” House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffNunes's facial expression right before lawmakers took break from Sondland testimony goes viral Sondland brings impeachment inquiry to White House doorstep Maloney wins House Oversight gavel MORE (D-Calif.) said.

Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) said that the allegations that Trump directed Cohen to lie to Congress is only the latest example of appearing to obstruct justice, which his panel will investigate. Democrats have already pointed to Trump’s firing of James ComeyJames Brien Comey3 reasons why impeachment fatigue has already set in Day 2 impeachment ratings drop by more than 1 million from first day Chris Wallace on Yovanovitch testimony: 'If you're not moved, you don't have a pulse' MORE as director of the FBI in May 2017 as a previous example of potential obstruction of justice.

“We know that the president has engaged in a long pattern of obstruction,” Nadler said.

Republicans in Congress largely avoided commenting on the report.

But one Republican member of the Oversight and Reform Committee, Michigan Rep. Justin AmashJustin AmashAmash: GOP acts like 'we're all stupid' over impeachment hearings Trump allies assail impeachment on process while House Democrats promise open hearings soon Hoyer: We are going to move as fast 'as the facts and truth dictate' on open hearings MORE, called it “an extremely serious allegation” that needs confirmation beyond the unnamed federal law enforcement officials cited by BuzzFeed.

Trump’s nominee for attorney general, William Barr, even faced questions this week during his confirmation hearings about whether a president who tells someone to commit perjury is obstructing justice.

“So if there was some reason to believe that the president tried to coach somebody not to testify or testify falsely, that could be obstruction of justice,” Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGraham: Report on alleged surveillance abuse in 2016 to be released Dec. 9 McConnell hopes Senate impeachment trial 'not too lengthy a process' Hillicon Valley: Progressives oppose funding bill over surveillance authority | Senators call for 5G security coordinator | Facebook gets questions over location tracking | Louisiana hit by ransomware attack MORE (R-S.C.) said.

“Yes,” Barr replied without hesitation.

Asked by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) whether a president could be indicted, Barr responded: “For 40 years, the position of the executive branch has been you can’t indict a sitting president. … I see no reason to change it.”

Thursday night’s BuzzFeed report, which set tongues wagging all across Washington and on Twitter, came in the wake of a cascade of shocking developments in the Russia investigation this month.

This week, Giuliani told CNN’s Chris Cuomo that he never said no one in the 2016 Trump campaign colluded with Russia, contradicting months of statements from the president that there was “no collusion.”

Last week, The New York Times reported that the FBI had begun investigating whether Trump was secretly working on behalf of Russia after he fired Comey.

And earlier this month, a court filing revealed that Trump’s onetime campaign chairman, Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortDemocratic impeachment investigators looking at whether Trump misled Mueller Gates sentencing set for next month Yovanovitch says John Solomon's columns were used to push false allegations MORE, had shared polling data with a business associate with ties to Russian intelligence in the heat of the 2016 campaign.

“This stunning Trump Tower Moscow story establishes a clear case of Obstruction of Justice, a felony. I've lost count now how many times @realDonaldTrump has engaged in Obstruction of Justice,” Rep. Ted LieuTed W. LieuWyden urges FCC to secure 5G networks against cyber threats Democrat hits White House spokeswoman after Trump appointee changes testimony PETA asks DOJ to stop conducting training that harms animals MORE (D-Calif.), a Judiciary Committee member and vocal Trump critic, wrote on Twitter, adding: “Oh, fyi the first Article of Impeachment for Richard Nixon was Obstruction of Justice.”

The response to the latest allegations on Friday came as Democrats moved in recent days to start delivering on their promised oversight of the Trump administration.

The Cohen hearing on Feb. 7 won’t be the only high-wattage event of the week on Capitol Hill.

Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker is slated to testify before the House Judiciary Committee the next day, where he’s likely to get questions about obstruction of justice.

Lieu made a prediction: Trump "is really, really not going to like the House Judiciary Committee this year."