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Dems revive impeachment talk after latest Cohen bombshell

Democrats are calling the latest bombshell allegation against President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump vows 'No more money for RINOS,' instead encouraging donations to his PAC Federal judge rules 'QAnon shaman' too dangerous to be released from jail Pelosi says Capitol riot was one of the most difficult moments of her career 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 CicillineHouse passes sweeping protections for LGBTQ people The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - J&J A-OK, Tanden in Trouble Six ways to visualize a divided America 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 JayapalThis week: Congress set to send .9 trillion coronavirus bill to Biden Progressives won't oppose bill over limits on stimulus checks Democrats snipe on policy, GOP brawls over Trump 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 CastroWhy paid internships matter for foreign policy careers State Department establishes chief officer in charge of diversity Texas governor faces criticism over handling of winter storm fallout 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 WarnerGOP votes in unison against COVID-19 relief bill Senate inches toward COVID-19 vote after marathon session Hillicon Valley: YouTube to restore Trump's account | House-passed election bill takes aim at foreign interference | Senators introduce legislation to create international tech partnerships 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 HoyerRepublicans' stonewall forces Democrats to pull bill honoring Capitol Police Overnight Health Care: After a brutal year, is the US getting close to normal? | CDC says it's safe for vaccinated people to gather indoors | Biden to give prime-time address on anniversary of pandemic lockdown House vote on COVID-19 relief expected by Wednesday 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 PelosiPelosi says Capitol riot was one of the most difficult moments of her career Hillary Clinton calls for women to 'repair' COVID-19's 'damage' on women's rights Republicans' stonewall forces Democrats to pull bill honoring Capitol Police 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 SchiffHouse Democrats want to silence opposing views, not 'fake news' White House defends not sanctioning Saudi crown prince over Khashoggi What good are the intelligence committees? 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 ComeyWray says FBI not systemically racist John Durham's endgame: Don't expect criminal charges Trump DOJ officials sought to block search of Giuliani records: report 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 AmashRepublicans eye primaries in impeachment vote Michigan GOP lawmaker says he's 'strongly considering' impeachment Newly sworn in Republican House member after Capitol riot: 'I regret not bringing my gun to D.C.' 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: Trump can make GOP bigger, stronger, or he 'could destroy it' Sunday shows preview: Manchin makes the rounds after pivotal role in coronavirus relief debate Georgia DA investigating Trump taps racketeering expert for probe: report 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 ManafortProsecutors drop effort to seize three Manafort properties after Trump pardon FBI offers 0K reward for Russian figure Kilimnik New York court rules Manafort can't be prosecuted by Manhattan DA 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. LieuPelosi, lawmakers denounce violence against Asian Americans Riot probe to likely focus on McCarthy-Trump call Progressives urge Biden pick for attorney general to prosecute Trump 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."