As the Trump administration continues to deal with the fallout over their decision to shut down the federal government because they haven’t gotten the billions of dollars for a border wall they want, they’re also dealing with the continuing fallout from the Russia scandal. During an appearance on CBS’s Face the Nation this weekend, new House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) insisted that no matter who ambiguously pushes back on certain aspects of the story, his committee will be seeking to understand once and for all whether or not President Donald Trump directed his former attorney Michael Cohen to lie to Congress.
‘Congress has a fundamental interest in two things — first, in getting to the bottom of why a witness came before us and lied and who else was knowledgeable that this was a lie… [and] we needs to do our own investigations, because at the end of the day, if the Justice Department tries to stonewall the release of that [final Mueller] report for whatever reason, the American people are going to need to know what happened.’
As Schiff noted, in his recent confirmation hearings, Trump’s attorney general nominee William Barr declined to commit to releasing Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s final report publicly. Should he be confirmed, he’s joining the ranks of a team that’s already made similar moves, although recently, Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani said he didn’t want to block the release of the Mueller report, just have a chance to respond — in some capacity.
More acutely, in a rare move, the special counsel’s office issued a statement in recent days pushing back on a Buzzfeed News story claiming that Trump had directed Cohen to lie to Congress about the scope of efforts to construct a Trump Tower in Moscow. That effort has figured prominently into at least Cohen’s stake in the Russia scandal — he’s already pleaded guilty to perjury and for that and other crimes been sentenced to three years in prison.
However, Mueller’s office said that specific aspects of Buzzfeed’s characterization of the situation were incorrect. They did not say which aspects, but they’ve never issued a statement like that one before in all the months of the Russia investigation and its leaks — so something’s up.
Schiff says he wants to figure out what. As he noted during his time on Face the Nation, possibilities include that Trump did not personally and actively direct Cohen to lie but instead either simply knew about it — or the pressure was delivered through someone else in the president’s circle. The Congressman noted that Mueller’s office has confirmed that Cohen has handed over information about interactions with people inside both the White House and the Trump Organization during the time period in which he lied to Congress.
Schiff has previously indicated that he would be reopening his committee’s Russia investigation after the former Republican majority prematurely shuttered it. To that end, he said this weekend that he’s willing to subpoena Cohen if he won’t appear for testimony voluntarily. He’s already testifying before a separate House committee publicly on February 7.
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