Schiff says his contact with Cohen was a 'brief phone call' amid escalating GOP allegations

Schiff says his contact with Cohen was a 'brief phone call' amid escalating GOP allegations
© Stefani Reynolds

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffGiuliani pens op-ed slamming 'unprecedented' impeachment inquiry Jim Jordan: Latest allegation of ignoring sexual misconduct is 'ridiculous' Democrats face make-or-break moment on impeachment MORE (D-Calif.) said Tuesday that he had limited contacts with Michael CohenMichael Dean CohenDC bars to open early for impeachment mania Ex-Trump campaign official testifies Stone gave updates on WikiLeaks email dumps Broadcast, cable news networks to preempt regular programming for Trump impeachment coverage MORE, remarks that aimed to push back against GOP allegations Democrats met extensively with Cohen ahead of his scheduled testimony. 

Schiff (D-Calif.) told reporters during a Christian Science Monitor breakfast that there was a “brief phone call” with Cohen, his staff and his attorneys, in which the lawmaker says he worked to convince the president's former personal lawyer to testify voluntarily, rather than under a subpoena.

"I had a brief phone call with my staff, Mr. Cohen and his attorneys to encourage him to come and testify voluntarily and to try to allay the concerns that he had with the threats that he was receiving from the president, from the president's allies in the Congress and outside the Congress," Schiff said. 

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"We had a great desire to have him come in voluntarily, not under subpoena. If it were necessary to subpoena him, then there's always the risk that the witness decides not to cooperate, to take the Fifth or not provide the information that's very pertinent [to the] investigation," Schiff continued, noting that “proffer sessions are done in every credible investigation.”

The California Democrat also went after Republicans, accusing President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump faces high stakes in meeting with Erdoğan amid impeachment drama Democrats worry they don't have right candidate to beat Trump Trump threatening to fire Mulvaney: report MORE and Reps. Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsHouse Republicans prepare for public impeachment proceedings with mock hearing Live updates on impeachment: Schiff fires warning at GOP over whistleblower Democrats sharpen their message on impeachment MORE (R-N.C.) and Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanJim Jordan: Latest allegation of ignoring sexual misconduct is 'ridiculous' Democrats face make-or-break moment on impeachment Here are the key players to watch at impeachment hearing MORE (R-Ohio) of pushing out a “false narrative” that he had spent 10 hours meeting with Cohen.

Republicans have alleged that Democrats knew ahead of time what the president’s former personal lawyer was planning to testify to on Capitol Hill, voicing concerns of cooperation — and even coaching — between Cohen and the committee majorities.

Democrats have strongly rejected these claims, stating that meeting in advance with potential witnesses is standard practice for committees conducting investigations.

"Now several Republicans, Mr. Meadows, Jordan, the president and others have pushed out this false narrative that I spent 10 hours with Mr. Cohen. That's simply not true and they know it's not true, but it makes for good Fox [News] pundit commentary and so they have pushed out this falsehood," Schiff said.

Lanny Davis, a spokesman and attorney for Cohen, told The Hill on Monday that Schiff “did not” attend the pre-testimony interviews, adding that “Mr. Meadows is in the habit of accusing first [and looking] for facts second.”

Despite denials, Republicans appeared to escalate their attacks on Tuesday against Schiff, claiming he may have met with Cohen for as long as 14 hours.

Meadows said he believes there is little difference between Schiff attending personally or his staff attending these meetings at the chairman's direction.

"Proffer sessions can certainly be commonplace, however, coordinated meetings that allegedly have lasted as much as 14 hours to address potential questions is certainly not in keeping in an open and transparent oversight process," Meadows told The Hill Tuesday.

"The concern that some of us have that members of the Oversight committee requested a transcribed interview of Mr. Cohen before his public testimony was given and we were denied that opportunity," he continued.

When pressed how he went from saying 10 hours to claiming as much as 14 hours, Meadows pointed broadly to press reports.

Other conservative lawmakers have also seized on this matter.

"Why did [Schiff] say that his talks with Michael Cohen were limited to inviting him and allaying any concerns about threats to his family—but NOT mention the 14 hours his staff spent prepping Cohen BEFORE the hearing?" tweeted Jordan, the top Republican on the House Oversight and Reform Committee.