Politics

Josh Hawley Says He’s ‘Not Inclined’ to Believe Michael Cohen

Cohen implicated President Donald Trump in a federal crime

Missouri Attorney General and U.S. Senate candidate Josh Hawley, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, and Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens listen to President Donald Trump during a rally on November 29, 2017 in St. Charles, Missouri. (Whitney Curtis/Getty Images file photo)

Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley said Thursday that he was “not inclined” to believe the testimony of Michael Cohen, a former attorney for President Donald Trump who implicated Trump in a federal crime this week.

Trump has endorsed Hawley, who is challenging Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill in her bid for a third term. Hawley’s comment will likely be welcomed by the scores of Trump supporters in the Show-Me State, which Trump won by 19 points in 2016.

Cohen pleaded guilty Tuesday to acting to silence two women who had affairs with Trump in order to influence the 2016 election, which amounted to illegal campaign contributions. Cohen said he acted at Trump’s direction.

In a wide-ranging phone interview Thursday, Hawley was asked for his reaction to Cohen’s plea that implicated the president.

“I don’t know that I believe anything that Mr. Cohen says as a now-admitted felon who has a history of being a liar,” Hawley said.

Hawley went on to say that people in Missouri are more concerned about issues that directly affect their lives, like supporting conservative judges, rising health care costs, and their wages.

“This saga playing out in D.C. and New York is nonsense,” Hawley said. “And the Democrats’ great enthusiasm for impeaching this president, and the glee with which the claims of Mr. Cohen are being met in the news media and Democratic circles, I think is frankly alarming to people here.”

Hawley said the fallout from Cohen’s plea shows that the Democratic Party “is a lot more interested in finding some way to reverse the results of the 2016 election than they are in doing anything else.”

Cohen did testify under oath that he acted “in coordination with and at the direction of a candidate for federal office.” Cohen paid Stephanie Cliffords, an adult film actress known as Stormy Daniels, and arranged for a tabloid to quash a story from former Playboy model Karen McDougal. The payment exceeded federal campaign finance limits, and the tabloid’s involvement was an illegal corporate campaign contribution.

Asked if he believed Cohen was lying under oath, Hawley said, “Well he’s admitted he’s a liar, right? He’s admitted now that he lied about his taxes. He’s admitted to felonies. So I can say as a prosecutor ... somebody who is a now-admitted felon and someone who is an admitted criminal is not the best witness.”

“So I don’t know, of course, what the facts are here, but I’m not inclined to take the word of Mr. Cohen,” Hawley said.

Cohen’s plea has raised questions about the likelihood of Trump facing a criminal investigation or impeachment, especially if Democrats win back the House this year. The news also renewed calls from Senate Democrats to delay confirming Trump’s Supreme Court pick.

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer said on the Senate floor Thursday that the Senate should “hit pause” on the confirmation hearing for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, which is set for Sept. 4. Schumer cited Kavanaugh’s extensive records, his views on executive authority, and “the president’s legal trouble” as reasons to delay the hearing.

Hawley said such calls to delay Kavanaugh’s hearing were “absurd,” and said McCaskill should be forcefully challenging her leadership for trying to delay the hearing.

McCaskill told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that Kavanaugh’s hearing should move forward.

“While this is ultimately Mitch McConnell’s decision, we need consistency in how our Supreme Court nominees are handled — which we haven’t had,” McCaskill said. “I favored moving forward with Judge [Merrick] Garland’s nomination process, I favored moving forward with Judge [Neil] Gorsuch’s nomination process, and I feel the same way about Judge Kavanaugh.”

McCaskill also told the Post-Dispatch that Cohen’s plea and the conviction of former Trump advisor Paul Manafort were “deeply troubling.” She offered support for Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference and potential collusion in the 2016 election.

“I continue to stand with many of my Republican colleagues that the Mueller investigation is legitimate and needs to continue without political interference,” McCaskill said.

Hawley also commented on Mueller’s investigation, saying the special counsel should present evidence of a criminal conspiracy if Mueller and his prosecutors have found it.

“If not, he should wind down and let’s get on with the business of the country,” Hawley said.

McCaskill is one of the most vulnerable incumbents this cycle. She has the difficult task of appealing to Trump voters in Missouri, where the president remains popular, while also capitalizing on Democratic energy fueled by resisting the president.

Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the Missouri Senate race a Toss-Up.

Watch: ‘North Dakota Nice’ Takes a Backseat in Senate Race

Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.