Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX) declared President Donald Trump must step down or face impeachment if a report alleging the president directed Michael Cohen, his former attorney, to make false statements to Congress about a proposed real estate deal in Russia is proven true.
Citing two anonymous federal law enforcement officials, BuzzFeed reported Thursday that President Trump allegedly supported a plan headed up by Cohen to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin amid the 2016 election to “jump-start” talks on a proposal to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, asking his longtime lawyer to “make it happen.” BuzzFeed claims President Trump received ten updates on the deal from Cohen, whom he allegedly asked to tell lawmakers that his involvement in the deal ended earlier than acknowledged.
Shortly after the report’s publication, Castro tweeted, “If the @BuzzFeed story is true, President Trump must resign or be impeached”:
If the @BuzzFeed story is true, President Trump must resign or be impeached.
— Joaquin Castro (@JoaquinCastrotx) January 18, 2019
The House Intelligence Committee member retweeted his remark on Friday.
In a separate statement, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), chairman of the House Intelligence panel, vowed to “do what’s necessary” to find out if the report is accurate. “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,” he added.
The president’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, laughed off the allegations, telling the Washington Post’s Philip Rucker, “If you believe Cohen I can get you a great deal on the Brooklyn Bridge.”
Anthony Cormier, a co-author of the BuzzFeed report, told CNN’s New Day Friday morning that he stands by his work, despite having not personally examined the evidence. “No, I’ve not seen it personally,” he told host Alisyn Camerota. “The folks we have talked to — two officials we have spoken to — are fully, 100 percent read into that aspect of the special counsel’s investigation.”
In November, Cohen stated in a guilty plea that he lied to Congress about a Moscow real estate deal he pursued on President Trump’s behalf during the heat of the 2016 Republican campaign. He claimed he lied to be consistent with President Trump’s “political messaging.”
Cohen said he discussed the proposal with President Trump on multiple occasions and with members of the president’s family, according to documents filed by special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating Russian interference in the presidential election and possible coordination with the Trump campaign. Cohen acknowledged considering traveling to Moscow to discuss the project, which never came to fruition.
The former Trump lawyer was sentenced December 12 to three years in federal prison after pleading guilty to several charges, including campaign finance violations and making false statements to Congress. Prior to his sentencing, federal prosecutors in New York suggested a judge sentence Cohen to a “substantial term of imprisonment,” stating that he had been driven by “personal greed.”
There is no clear link in the court filings between Cohen’s lies and Mueller’s central question of whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia. And nothing said in court, or in associated court filings, addressed if Trump or his aides had directed Cohen to mislead Congress.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.