Two leading Democrats in the US House of Representatives promised to investigate US President Donald Trump‘s dealings with his personal lawyer Michael Cohen after a media report alleged Trump directed Cohen to lie to Congress in violation of US law.
The BuzzFeed news website, citing two law enforcement officials involved in an investigation of the matter, said on Thursday that Trump and Cohen hatched a plan to continue efforts to build a Trump Tower in Russia during Trump‘s 2016 presidential campaign. After Trump won the election, he personally directed Cohen, who has pleaded guilty to lying to Congress and has been cooperating with investigators, to lie to US lawmakers about their endeavours.
Reuters has not verified the report and does not vouch for its accuracy.
Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani, asked about the report by the Washington Post, said, “If you believe Cohen I can get you a great deal on the Brooklyn Bridge.”
Cohen adviser Lanny Davis said he and Cohen declined to comment on the report. Cohen’s lawyer, Guy Petrillo, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
“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,” US House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff said on Twitter late on Thursday following the Buzzfeed report. “We will do what’s necessary to find out if it’s true.”
Representative Jerrold Nadler said on Twitter that the House Judiciary Committee, which he heads, also would investigate.
“We know that the President has engaged in a long pattern of obstruction,” he said. “Directing a subordinate to lie to Congress is a federal crime.”
Giuliani has accused Cohen, who served for years as Trump‘s “fixer” and once said he would “take a bullet” for him, of lying in order to get a reduced sentence. Cohen received a three-year sentence in December and is set to start serving it in March.
Directing or encouraging someone to lie under oath is a crime known as subornation of perjury. While the US Department of Justice has previously concluded that a sitting US president cannot be charged while in office, such an allegation, if found true, could fuel impeachment proceedings in Congress.
Trump repeatedly has denied collusion with Russia and slammed US Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation as a “witch hunt.” Russia also has rejected US intelligence findings that Moscow interfered in US politics in the 2016 election in an effort to boost Trump and harm his Democratic challenger Hillary Clinton.
Representatives for the US Special Counsel’s Office declined to comment and representatives for the White House and the Trump Organisation could not be immediately reached.