WASHINGTON — Democratic lawmakers pledged Friday to investigate a report that President Donald Trump directed Michael Cohen, his longtime lawyer and fixer, to lie to Congress about Trump’s role in negotiations to build a skyscraper in Moscow during the 2016 presidential campaign.
In a flurry of public statements, senior members of Congress said that the allegations, if true, could be grounds for initiating impeachment proceedings against Trump.
A proven effort by Trump to pressure a witness to commit perjury would be one of the most damning revelations so far in the investigation into Russia’s attempts to sabotage the 2016 presidential election and could be the cornerstone of a case that the president obstructed justice to keep investigators at bay.
Lawmakers were reacting to a report published by BuzzFeed News on Thursday evening that Trump pressured Cohen to lie to Congress in 2017.
Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s lawyer, called the BuzzFeed article “categorically false.”
“Today’s claims are just more made up lies born of Michael Cohen’s malice and desperation, in an effort to reduce his sentence,” Giuliani said.
Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said that his panel would investigate the report and was “already working to secure additional witness testimony and documents related to the Trump Tower Moscow deal and other investigative matters.”
If true, Schiff said, the allegations “would constitute both the subornation of perjury as well as obstruction of justice.”
Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, another member of the House Intelligence Committee, wrote in a tweet that “if the @BuzzFeed story is true, President Trump must resign or be impeached.”
The New York Times has not independently confirmed the BuzzFeed report.
In a December court filing, prosecutors working for special counsel Robert Mueller described how Cohen had repeatedly lied to Congress both about the length of negotiations over the Trump Tower Moscow deal and about Trump’s involvement in the project.
Cohen had told lawmakers that the negotiations ended in January 2016 — before the first presidential primaries — and were never discussed extensively among executives of Trump Organization. In fact, according to prosecutors, the discussions continued as late as June 2016, after Trump was the presumptive Republican presidential nominee.