Senators Praise Mueller, Want Cohen to Testify Again to Congress
(Bloomberg) -- Senators in both parties praised Special Counsel Robert Mueller for obtaining a guilty plea from Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, for lying to Congress and said they want Cohen to return to answer more questions.
“Michael Cohen’s indictment and guilty plea is once again an example that you cannot lie to Congress without consequences," said Senate Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr of North Carolina in a statement Thursday. "It should be no surprise that Mr. Cohen has had in his possession for months a letter requesting return visits to the committee.”
Burr said in an interview that he still doesn’t see the need for more public hearings in his committee’s nearly two-year investigation of Russian election meddling, which now appears certain to spill over into 2019. He said he wants Cohen to be re-interviewed in private.
Cohen, in a New York courtroom, admitted lying in 2017 to the House and Senate Intelligence Committees when he said Trump’s effort to develop a building in Moscow ended in January 2016 when it actually continued until the following June, deeper into Trump’s presidential campaign. The lawyer also agreed to cooperate with Mueller’s investigation of the president’s campaign. Trump told reporters Thursday that Cohen was a liar and "weak."
A number of Democrats, including Ron Wyden of Oregon and Virginia’s Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Intelligence panel, are seeking a public forum to ask questions to key figures like Cohen.
Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine said in an interview that she wants a chance to question Cohen at an Intelligence Committee hearing, provided the queries don’t interfere with Mueller’s investigation of Russian election-meddling in 2016.
Collins, who has been one of Mueller’s staunchest supporters in the Senate, said his probe is bearing fruit.
“It shows once again the value of the special prosecutor and the special counsel’s investigation, which continues to produce results," she said. "And I also hope that it sends a strong warning that it is a crime to lie to Congress.”
The comments are an implicit rebuke of Trump, who has steadily attacked Mueller’s probe on Twitter and in public comments.
No Republicans, however, have joined retiring GOP Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona in refusing to support any judicial confirmations until the Senate votes on legislation protecting Mueller from being fired without good cause.
Warner said Trump’s latest attacks on the Mueller probe show even more the need for Congress to protect Mueller.
"Why are all of his closest associates being found guilty of lying about their ties to Russia?" Warner said. He also warned Trump against pardoning anyone in the investigation.
"That would be a complete abuse of power," he said. "The power to pardon has not ever been used to protect a president and his family."
Senator John Cornyn of Texas, the No. 2 Senate Republican and another Intelligence Committee member, also praised Mueller.
"Glad to see that the special counsel takes lying to Congress seriously," Cornyn said. The senator said he hopes the Justice Department will investigate referrals from the Judiciary Committee for possible prosecution of false statements in the confirmation hearing for Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
Still, Cornyn said Cohen’s guilty plea doesn’t mean Mueller has a case on possible collusion between the Russians and the Trump campaign in 2016.
"There’s been no indictments or charges based on collusion, and I think we all pretty much have concluded that there isn’t any evidence that’s been revealed yet, or it would have leaked," Cornyn said.
Cornyn predicted Mueller "will continue to turn over rocks" and he said he’s confident that acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker hasn’t impaired the investigation since taking over the Justice Department.
Cornyn indicated he doesn’t want the job himself, although he didn’t completely rule out the idea. He cited the tumultuous tenure of his former Senate colleague Jeff Sessions, and said the same thing is likely to happen to Sessions’s replacement as long as the president acts like the attorney general should be "his personal lawyer."
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