Dems revive impeachment talk after latest Cohen bombshell

Democrats are calling the latest bombshell allegation against President TrumpDonald John TrumpThe Memo: Biden seeks revival in South Carolina Congress eyes billion to billion to combat coronavirus Sanders makes the case against Biden ahead of SC primary 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 CicillineTrump's intel moves spark Democratic fury Trump adviser presses House investigators to make Bezos testify Hillicon Valley: US hits Huawei with new charges | Judge orders Pentagon to halt 'war cloud' work amid Amazon challenge | IRS removes guidance on Fortnite game currency 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 JayapalCentrist Democrats insist Sanders would need delegate majority to win Democrats cancel surveillance vote over pushback to amendments 22 studies agree: 'Medicare for All' saves money 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 CastroJulián Castro endorses Rep. Cuellar's primary opponent in Texas Harris, Castro introduce resolution condemning Trump aide Stephen Miller As Mexico abuses migrants under Trump's orders, where is Congress? 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 WarnerSurveillance fight emerges as intelligence flashpoint Congress eyes killing controversial surveillance program This week: House to vote on legislation to make lynching a federal hate crime 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 HoyerLawmakers dedicate Oversight room to Cummings, unveil plaque Vulnerable Democrats brace for Sanders atop ticket Trump names Pence to lead coronavirus response 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 PelosiOvernight Health Care — Presented by American Health Care Association — California monitoring 8,400 people for coronavirus | Pence taps career official to coordinate response | Dems insist on guardrails for funding Overnight Energy: Murkowski, Manchin unveil major energy bill | Lawmakers grill EPA chief over push to slash agency's budget | GOP lawmaker accuses Trump officials of 'playing politics' over Yucca Mountain Hillicon Valley — Presented by Facebook — Federal court rules tech giants can censor content | Trump upends surveillance fight | Senate passes bill barring federal funds for Huawei equipment 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 SchiffHillicon Valley — Presented by Facebook — Federal court rules tech giants can censor content | Trump upends surveillance fight | Senate passes bill barring federal funds for Huawei equipment House Intelligence lawyer Goldman leaving committee Schiff presses top intel official to declassify part of report on Khashoggi killing 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 ComeySurveillance fight emerges as intelligence flashpoint Bill Barr is trying his best to be Trump's Roy Cohn Comey responds to Trump with Mariah Carey gif: 'Why are you so obsessed with me?' 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 AmashThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Trump on US coronavirus risks: 'We're very, very ready for this' House passes historic legislation to make lynching a federal hate crime Barr ensnared in Roger Stone firestorm 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 GrahamTrump upends controversial surveillance fight The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Trump on US coronavirus risks: 'We're very, very ready for this' Surveillance fight emerges as intelligence flashpoint 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 ManafortStone judge under pressure over calls for new trial President Trump's assault on checks and balances: Five acts in four weeks Free Roger Stone 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. LieuEthics complaint filed against Nunes asks how he's paying for lawsuits Democrats to plow ahead with Trump probes post-acquittal Trump Jr. dismisses 'likelihood' of Pelosi praying for Trump with Satan comparison 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."