Hours after BuzzFeed News published an explosive report alleging that President Trump directed his longtime lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen, to lie to Congress about his business dealings in Russia, Democratic members of Congress are resolving to get to the bottom of what happened.
The general reaction among House Democrats was that this was a very serious allegation — and that they wanted to hold hearings and investigate to see if the story was true. And some are already on the record as saying that if it is true, impeachment would be the appropriate response.
Rep. Joaquín Castro (D-TX), a member of the House Intelligence Committee, tweeted late Thursday that if the story is true, “President Trump must resign or be impeached.”
If the @BuzzFeed story is true, President Trump must resign or be impeached.— Joaquin Castro (@JoaquinCastrotx) January 18, 2019
The chair of the Intelligence Committee, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), didn’t go quite so far, but he vowed he and his committee will do “what’s necessary to find out” if the report is in fact true.
The allegation that the President of the United States may have suborned perjury before our committee in an effort to curtail the investigation and cover up his business dealings with Russia is among the most serious to date. We will do what’s necessary to find out if it’s true. https://t.co/GljBAFqOjh— Adam Schiff (@RepAdamSchiff) January 18, 2019
Impeachment hearings, were they to take place, would be held by the Judiciary Committee. And the chair of that committee, Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY), tweeted Friday morning that “directing a subordinate to lie to Congress is a federal crime” and that his committee will “get to the bottom of it.”
We know that the President has engaged in a long pattern of obstruction. Directing a subordinate to lie to Congress is a federal crime. The @HouseJudiciary Committee’s job is to get to the bottom of it, and we will do that work.— (((Rep. Nadler))) (@RepJerryNadler) January 18, 2019
One member of the committee, Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA), tweeted that “it is time for the House Judiciary Committee to start holding hearings to establish a record of whether [the president] committed high crimes.”
Based on the Buzzfeed report and numerous other articles showing @realDonaldTrump committed Obstruction of Justice and other possible felonies, it is time for the House Judiciary Committee to start holding hearings to establish a record of whether @POTUS committed high crimes.— Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) January 18, 2019
Another member of the Judiciary Committee, Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI), tweeted that “If the President directed Cohen to lie to Congress, that is obstruction of justice. Period. Full stop.”
If the President directed Cohen to lie to Congress, that is obstruction of justice. Period. Full stop.— David Cicilline (@davidcicilline) January 18, 2019
During an interview on CNN on Friday morning, Cicilline characterized the report as “the most serious threat to the Trump presidency we’ve seen so far,” but added that he thinks it’s wise to wait on an impeachment push until the reports are confirmed.
“You have one opportunity to move forward on something so serious,” he added.
One of the two BuzzFeed reporters bylined on the piece, Anthony Cormier, told CNN that he and his fellow reporter, Jason Leopold, haven’t directly seen evidence that Trump directed Cohen to lie. But Cormier characterized his sourcing as “rock solid” and said it goes beyond the “two federal law enforcement officials involved in an investigation of the matter” mentioned in the piece.
On the Senate side, Connecticut’s Chris Murphy urged special counsel Robert Mueller to provide Congress with more information about the allegations detailed in the BuzzFeed report “before it’s too late for us to act.”
Listen, if Mueller does have multiple sources confirming Trump directed Cohen to lie to Congress, then we need to know this ASAP. Mueller shouldn't end his inquiry, but it's about time for him to show Congress his cards before it's too late for us to act. https://t.co/ekG5VSBS8G— Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) January 18, 2019
While there are obviously good reasons to fear that Trump is trying to curtail Mueller’s investigation, his attorney general nominee, Bill Barr, said multiple times during his confirmation hearing earlier this week that the president directing a witness to lie would constitute obstruction of justice. Obstruction of justice charges were part of the articles of impeachment against both Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton.
Giuliani isn’t helping
Shortly after the BuzzFeed story was published, Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani released a statement that doesn’t even address the substance of the story, but instead tries to discredit Cohen as a liar.
Just in, Rudy Giuliani’s response to Buzzfeed story: “If you believe Cohen I can get you a great deal on the Brooklyn Bridge.”— Philip Rucker (@PhilipRucker) January 18, 2019
Trump used the same strategy in a tweet Friday morning.
Kevin Corke, @FoxNews “Don’t forget, Michael Cohen has already been convicted of perjury and fraud, and as recently as this week, the Wall Street Journal has suggested that he may have stolen tens of thousands of dollars....” Lying to reduce his jail time! Watch father-in-law!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 18, 2019
BuzzFeed’s piece, however, isn’t based on anything Cohen said. As the report makes clear, the two law enforcement sources told the reporters that Trump directed Cohen to lie, and they claim to have lots of other evidence backing this up.
“The special counsel’s office learned about Trump’s directive for Cohen to lie to Congress through interviews with multiple witnesses from the Trump Organization and internal company emails, text messages, and a cache of other documents,” the report says. “Cohen then acknowledged those instructions during his interviews with that office.”
In short, you don’t have to “believe Cohen” to conclude that BuzzFeed’s reporting may be credible.