Updated 8:02 p.m. | The top Democrats on the House Intelligence and Judiciary committees said they will investigate the allegations that President Donald Trump directed his former attorney Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about negotiations in 2016 to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, as BuzzFeed News reported late Thursday.
House Intelligence Chairman Adam B. Schiff said the allegations underlying the BuzzFeed report are “among the most serious to date” and indicated he will direct committee investigators to probe them.
“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,” Schiff tweeted late Thursday night. “We will do what’s necessary to find out if it’s true.”
Chairman Jerrold Nadler of the Judiciary Committee tweeted Friday morning that Thursday’s revelation about Trump ordering Cohen to lie to Congress fits into a “long pattern of obstruction” by the president.
But such a move by the president — or anyone who tells a subordinate to perjure himself — constitutes a concrete “federal crime,” Nadler wrote.
“We know that the President has engaged in a long pattern of obstruction. Directing a subordinate to lie to Congress is a federal crime,” Nadler tweeted. “The [House Judiciary] Committee’s job is to get to the bottom of it, and we will do that work.”
But in a rare public statement issued Friday evening, a spokesman for special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, who is overseeing the Russia investigation, disputed the BuzzFeed News report.
“BuzzFeed’s description of specific statements to the Special Counsel’s Office, and characterization of documents and testimony obtained by this office, regarding Michael Cohen’s Congressional testimony are not accurate,” Peter Carr said.
The White House has also denied the Buzzfeed story, with Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders calling it “categorically false.”
Cohen pleaded guilty in November to lying about the Moscow Tower project in a two-page statement and in testimony to the House and Senate Intelligence Committees in 2017.
The BuzzFeed report cites two “federal law enforcement officials involved in an investigation of the matter” who told the publication that Trump directed his former lawyer to lie about Moscow Tower negotiations, which at one point included a planned face-to-face meeting between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin while Trump was the Republican nominee for president.
Trump supported the plan for that meeting with Putin, though it never took place, according to BuzzFeed’s sources, who said there are multiple witness interviews, email and text exchanges, and other documents to support the allegation.
Some Democrats on the Intelligence and Judiciary committees batted around impeachment Thursday and Friday as they digested the implications of the BuzzFeed report.
“If the story is true, President Trump must resign or be impeached,” Rep. Joaquin Castro of Texas, who sits on the Intelligence Committee, tweeted late Thursday after the story broke.
Rep. Ted Lieu echoed Nadler’s notion that Trump could have committed “obstruction of justice” and suggested that the Judiciary Committee should begin compiling evidence through hearings for possible impeachment proceedings.
“It is time for the House Judiciary Committee to start holding hearings to establish a record of whether [the president] committed high crimes,” Lieu tweeted, alluding to language in the Constitution’s section on impeaching federal officials.
Nearly 10 hours after the BuzzFeed report’s publication, no Republican has commented publicly on it.
Watch Trump blast former fixer Michael Cohen