(This post will be updated throughout the day.)
Late Thursday night, BuzzFeed published a story alleging that President Trump directed his then-personal attorney Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about a proposed Moscow project.
Democrats responded immediately to this bombshell, calling for a full investigation. Some argued that the offense, if true, would be grounds for impeachment. Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), chairman of the Intelligence Committee, called the allegation “the most serious to date.”
Republicans? Not so much. So far, the Republicans who’ve said anything about the accusations are regular Trump defenders such as Rudy Giuliani and Newt Gingrich. And Trump himself.
Giuliani, currently serving as one of Trump’s lawyers and television surrogates, tweeted: “If you believe Cohen I can get you a great deal on the Brooklyn Bridge.”
On Fox News, Gingrich dismissed the story by attacking BuzzFeed as “the equivalent of those tabloids you buy at the grocery store on the way out that introduce you to Martians.”
“To take BuzzFeed seriously is a sign how desperate we are for news,” he said. (BuzzFeed has won many awards and recognition for its reporting, including a Pulitzer nomination.)
Gingrich, notably, was speaker of the House when Republicans voted to impeach Bill Clinton for obstruction of justice. He’s rejected the idea that Trump could be impeached on the same charges.
So far, most Republican lawmakers currently serving in Congress have remained quiet. Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) told CNN’s Manu Raju that if it’s true it’s a “very big issue.”
Sen Rob Portman (R-Ohio), when asked about the Buzzfeed report, dodged.
“I’ve spent the last 24 hours focused on one thing and one thing only and that’s getting us out of this impasse, the government shutdown,” he told my colleagues on Capitol Hill. “I think the Mueller investigation is the place to sift all this out ... my hope is that this will be included as part of the investigation and we’ll get to the bottom of everything.”
Susan Collins told our colleagues that she is hoping Cohen will return to the Intelligence Committee to testify under oath and said she believes that request has been made to his attorney.
As more congressional Republicans do respond (and inevitably, they’ll all be asked), expect them to point to Cohen as an untrustworthy source, since he’s going to jail, in part because he lied to Congress. After Cohen was sentenced in December, Sen, Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) mused to reporters: “To what extent do you want to put confidence in what a liar says?”
That’s what Trump has done already, accusing Cohen in a tweet this morning of “lying to reduce his jail time.” Then the president added: “Watch father-in-law!," which sounds a lot like a warning/threat against Cohen’s family.
But if it turns out to be true that Cohen committed perjury at the direction of the president, it’s going to be very hard for congressional Republicans to say Cohen was in the wrong and the president was not.