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 SchiffHillicon Valley: YouTube disables 200+ accounts over Hong Kong misinformation | Lawmakers sound alarm over Chinese influence efforts | DHS cyber agency details priorities | State AGs get tough on robocalls | DOJ busts online scammers Nadler asks other House chairs to provide records that would help panel in making impeachment decision YouTube disables over 200 accounts amid protests in Hong Kong MORE (D-Calif.) said Tuesday that he had limited contacts with Michael CohenMichael Dean CohenCapitol Police advised Gaetz against holding open events I'm not a Nazi, I'm just a dude: What it's like to be the other Steve King Wyden blasts FEC Republicans for blocking probe into NRA over possible Russia donations 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. 

"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 TrumpDavid Axelrod after Ginsburg cancer treatment: Supreme Court vacancy could 'tear this country apart' EU says it will 'respond in kind' if US slaps tariffs on France Ginsburg again leaves Supreme Court with an uncertain future MORE and Reps. Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsTrump knocks news of CNN hiring ex-FBI official McCabe Ben Shapiro: No prominent GOP figure ever questioned Obama's legitimacy Trump finds consistent foil in 'Squad' MORE (R-N.C.) and Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanTrump knocks news of CNN hiring ex-FBI official McCabe Democratic Women's Caucus calls for investigation into Epstein plea deal DOJ releases notes from official Bruce Ohr's Russia probe interviews 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.