Michael Cohen’s admission Thursday that he lied to Congress has revived scrutiny of a controversial investigative report, written earlier this year by President Trump’s Republican allies on the House Intelligence Committee, that concluded there was no evidence of a link between Trump or his associates and the Russians who sought to swing the 2016 election in his favor.
The stunning development has emboldened Democrats who have long contended that others loyal to the president — Cohen was Trump’s personal attorney for many years — also lied to lawmakers, prompting new demands that those witnesses be called back to Capitol Hill for further questioning.
“It’s certainly in the Congress’s interest, as well as the broader public interest, that we establish very clearly that, you come and testify before us, then you had better tell the truth,” said Rep. Adam B. Schiff (Calif.), the Intelligence Committee’s top Democrat. “Because if not, you’ll be prosecuted.”
The Republicans’ report became mired in controversy long before it was made public in April, with the panel descending into all-out partisan warfare over the probe.
Cohen’s false statements go largely unchallenged in the report. After Cohen wrote in a letter to the Senate and House Intelligence committees that the attempt to establish a Trump Tower in Moscow ended in January 2016, the Republicans stated in their report that “it appears . . . the project failed” at that time. It is now known those efforts continued for many more months.
When Cohen wrote that he did not recall ever hearing from a Russian government official, the intelligence panel’s Republicans concluded “it does not appear Cohen ever received a response from anyone affiliated with the Russian government.” That has proved false, according to the court filing released Thursday.
Based on Cohen’s statements to lawmakers, the committee’s Republicans determined that “neither candidate Trump nor Cohen traveled to Moscow in support of the [Trump Tower] deal.” The plea deal announced Thursday by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III indicates that information also is inaccurate.
Rep. K. Michael Conaway (R-Tex.), who ran the House Intelligence Committee’s Russia investigation, told The Washington Post on Thursday that their report was based on the “best information we had” as well as lawmakers’ understanding that the witnesses who testified did so under oath. “If they would take the risk of lying to us, then they should suffer the consequences,” Conaway said.
Thus far, no committee Republicans have called for Cohen to come back and correct his testimony or for rewriting their report.
Conaway said he intends to review the charges against Cohen and how they may impact the panel’s report. “I’ll look at it,” he said.
Earlier this year, the left-leaning Center for American Progress wrote that the House Intelligence Committee failed to interview about 60 percent of the Trump associates believed to have had contacts with Russians, and collected about 80 percent of the documents and evidence it needed from witnesses.
That echoes a recurring complaint from Democrats, who have said they were unable to thoroughly question certain witnesses because they did not have materials to review.
Schiff said Thursday that he believed recalling Cohen could help elucidate whether Russia had “financial leverage” over Trump, as there were “credible allegations” that the Russian government laundered money through the Trump Organization.
Schiff said he intends to share with Mueller’s team the transcripts of witnesses whom the Democrats suspect of lying — citing the testimony Trump’s longtime friend Roger Stone as “far from truthful.”