Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer, and fixer is expected to return next month for another appearance to testify behind closed doors to the Senate Intelligence Committee, according to the panel’s top Democrat.
“We have invited Michael Cohen back,” Senator Mark Warner of Virginia told reporters Friday. “We are in conversations with him. We expect him to come back in early February.”
Cohen has pleaded guilty to nine felonies and is due to turn himself in on March 6 to begin serving a three-year prison sentence.
He has said Trump directed him to break campaign finance laws by paying hush-money payoffs to two women and that he lied to Congress to hide that negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Moscow continued well into the 2016 presidential campaign. Trump has called Cohen a “rat” and a liar.
Cohen is scheduled to testify before the House Oversight Committee on Feb. 7. That will be an open hearing, so the committee plans to steer clear of issues that may be part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s continuing investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign. The Senate Intelligence panel can pursue those questions in its closed session.
“We’ve never seen this much contact between a presidential campaign and a foreign entity like Russia,” Warner said.
Warner also said he wants to question Cohen about a report by Buzzfeed, which said Trump instructed Cohen to testify falsely that negotiations on the Moscow tower ended in January 2016 when they actually continued through June of that year.
The report hasn’t been confirmed. Democratic lawmakers treated it cautiously.
Warner said, “we don’t know whether the new report about Cohen being told to lie by the president is true or not.”
Representative Adam Schiff, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said in a statement that “these allegations may prove unfounded, but, if true, they would constitute both the subornation of perjury as well as obstruction of justice.” Representative Michael Quigley, an Intelligence panel member, said “my first reaction was: Is there audio? If there is audio, we’ll find out soon enough.”
Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s attorney, said in a statement on Friday that “any suggestion – from any source – that the president counseled Michael Cohen to lie is categorically false.”
Warner wouldn’t discuss whether he believed events are approaching a threshold that would warrant impeaching the president. Instead, the senator gave deference to the House, which would originate any impeachment proceedings.
But Warner pointed to what he called Trump’s “bizarre behavior” toward Russian President Vladimir Putin, including at their summit meeting in Helsinki last year.
He said the committee still needs to find out if anyone in the administration other than the president knows “what really took place between Trump and Putin in Helsinki when frankly Trump embarrassed America before the whole world by kowtowing to Vladimir Putin.”