Sunday on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) said he would “absolutely” investigate a BuzzFeed News report that claimed President Donald Trump instructed his lawyer Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about a proposed Trump Tower project in Russia.
Special counsel Robert Mueller’s office has disputed the BuzzFeed report.
Partial transcript as follows:
MARGARET BRENNAN: How do you interpret the special counsel’s statement that seemed to challenge some of the reporting in BuzzFeed that the president directed his attorney to lie to Congress about some business dealings in Russia?
ADAM SCHIFF: Well I assume that this was prompted by the reaction to that BuzzFeed report. But also it may have to do with the special counsel’s wanting to be able to use Michael Cohen as a witness in further prosecutions and wanted to make sure that the public didn’t have a perception that he was saying more than he was saying at least to the special counsel. But, Margaret, I think we need to pay particular attention to what we do know from the special counsel that was not included in this statement yesterday. What we do know from the special counsel is that Michael Cohen has shared information about core matters of the Russian investigation that he learned from people associated with the Trump Organization, the business organization. We also know from the special counsel that he has shared information about his communications with people associated with the White House during 2017 and 2018. Now is that period during 2017 and 2018 that Michael Cohen was making false statements publicly and to Congress and initially the special counsel about the Trump Tower deal. So there is a lot more to learn.
BRENNAN: Are you still going to investigate the claims?
SCHIFF: Absolutely, absolutely. 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.
BRENNAN: And you will be asking questions of Michael Cohen?
SCHIFF: Yes we’ve–
BRENNAN: He’ll be appearing before your committee?
SCHIFF: –given Michael Cohen a date that we’d like him to come in either voluntarily or if necessary by subpoena. But the- the other reason why we have to get to the bottom of this is Bill Barr testified last week that he would not commit to following the advice of ethics lawyers if they urged him to recuse himself and he would not commit to making the Mueller report public. Now either one of those ought to be reasons not to confirm him, but the combination of both should be completely disqualifying.
BRENNAN: Would you subpoena the report in order to make it public?
SCHIFF: We will do everything necessary to make the report public but more than that, because they will fight us on this, we need to do our own investigations because at the end of the day if the Justice Department tries to stonewall the release of that report for whatever reason, the American people are going to need to know what happened, and we’re going to have to press forth. You know the very reason that Bill Barr gave for wanting to be attorney general that he could help bring a credible resolution to this investigation and ensure confidence in the Justice Department will be impossible given that the public knows he was chosen for his hostility to the investigation. He’s refusing to commit to following the ethics advice and should he attempt to bury any part of this report there’s no way that a majority– majority of Americans will have confidence in the result.
BRENNAN: If- if the president knew Michael Cohen was going to lie to Congress but didn’t explicitly tell him to lie, is that a problem for you? Is there something you can do about that? What is that classified as? Is that obstruction of justice?
SCHIFF: Well if the president knew that a witness was going to lie before Congress but played no role in urging him to lie before Congress, I don’t know that it would be a crime, it certainly would be unethical, but this president has done a lot of things that are deeply unethical. But the- the- the question remains and Rudy Giuliani I guess this morning said that he’s not writing off the possibility that the president did talk to Michael Cohen about his testimony or that others may have as well. And we need to know exactly what those conversations were. They’re certainly not protected by any kind of a privilege. And if anyone was instructing – whether it was the president or other people affiliated with the White House or the Trump Organization – encouraging a witness to lie, we need to know about it. And I will say one other thing. We know that the president’s public statements have been false as it pertains to his business dealings with Russia. And so the combination of his public falsehoods with false testimony before Congress certainly contributes to a picture of obstruction of justice.
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