Senate Intelligence Chairman Richard M. Burr said that Thursday’s guilty plea by Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former attorney, should be seen as a clear warning.
“It’s a loud message to everybody that is interviewed by our committee, regardless of where that prosecution comes from: If you lie to us, we’re going to go after you,” Burr said Friday. “Our mandate is at the end of this to get as close to the clear truth as we possibly can, and we can’t do it on conjecture. We’ve got to do it on facts.”
Burr made clear the Cohen situation was not an isolated case.
“I don’t want you to get us mixed up with Bob Mueller’s special prosecutor investigation. We have no criminal responsibilities. If we identify a crime in our investigation that has been committed, we refer it to the special prosecutor,” Burr said, referring to former FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III. “I won’t tell you the number of times, but we have made referrals to the special prosecutor.”
It was fairly clear that Burr was alluding to this week’s legal action in the Southern District of New York.
“One of them, one instance just highlighted of late was the special prosecutor made the indictment yesterday using the transcripts of interviews we have done in our committee to indict somebody for lying to Congress,” the North Carolina Republican said, a reference to Cohen.
Burr said that the committee was regularly going back over previous interviews as new information has come to light regarding the investigation of Russian interference.
“I think the myth out there was that we did interviews and never read them,” Burr said later at the same event. “We continue to go back and look at the testimony we’ve been given and we weigh it against any new information that might be out there.”
The chairman also held open the possibility that potentially uncooperative witnesses could even be held in contempt of Congress before the panel finishes its probe.
“We have made referrals from our committee to the special prosecutor for prosecution. In a lot of cases those might be tied to lying to us,” he said.
“We’ve not held anybody in contempt to this point,“ Burr added. “I’m not sure I’ll be able to finish it and say that, but our congressional tools are limited. They’re not as extensive as the special prosecutor’s got.”