Dem calls for Cohen to testify before Senate panel over explosive report

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) wants Michael Cohen to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee in the wake of a bombshell report that President Trump told his former lawyer to lie to Congress about an effort to build a Trump Tower in Moscow.


Blumenthal sent a letter on Friday to Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, saying that Cohen must be asked to testify "immediately" and that the panel "must conduct a thorough investigation of the president's involvement in these crimes and whether he obstructed justice to hide them."


"If these reports are true, the president is guilty of obstruction of justice, suborning perjury, and conspiracy to violate 18 U.S.C. § 1001, which prohibits making false statements to Congress," Blumenthal added.


BuzzFeed News, citing two federal law enforcement officials, reported Thursday that Cohen told special counsel Robert Mueller that Trump personally directed him to lie after his election about the timing of when the negotiations involving the project ended in an effort to obscure the president's involvement.


Trump hit back at Cohen on Friday, accusing his former lawyer of "lying to reduce his jail time." But the explosive report immediately sparked calls from House and Senate Democrats to investigate the allegation. 


Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), another member of the Judiciary Committee, said in a tweet on Friday that "Congress must now determine the facts through vigorous and fearless oversight." 


Cohen has already been scheduled to testify before the House Oversight and Reform Committee on Feb. 7.


Calls for the Judiciary Committee to ask Cohen to testify and investigate the matter come as previous attempts by the panel under then-Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) to investigate various threads of the 2016 election or the fallout from FBI Director James Comey's firing quickly unraveled into partisan fighting on the committee. 


But Blumenthal, in his letter to Graham, argued that members have a "constitutional duty" to be a "check" on the president.


"The hour to put country before petty partisan differences has come. The American people are beginning to ask whether their president is a criminal, and Mr. Cohen's testimony can help answer that question," Blumenthal added.