The Senate Intelligence Committee has referred cases to the special counsel investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election after witnesses questioned in the panel’s own Russia probe were suspected of lying, the committee chairman said Friday.
“We have made referrals from our committee to the special counsel for prosecution,” Chairman Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) said at a national security conference in Austin. “In a lot of those cases, those might be tied to lying to us.”
His remarks came a day after President Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen pleaded guilty in federal court to lying to Congress about a Moscow real estate project that Trump and his company pursued at the same time Trump was seeking the GOP nomination in 2016.
The Intelligence Committee did not refer Cohen’s case for prosecution. Rather, a committee aide said, special counsel Robert S. Mueller III had asked the panel for the transcript of Cohen’s October 2017 interview with the panel and was given a copy with Cohen’s attorney’s consent.
Mueller’s office also based its charge against Cohen on his August 2017 letter to the House and Senate Intelligence committees that contained “materially false statements about the Moscow Project,” Mueller said.
Nonetheless, the Senate committee, which has interviewed more than 200 people since its investigation began in January 2017, has referred some cases for prosecution that involve suspected lying, said Burr, speaking at the University of Texas.
“We’re certainly not scared to refer something that we believe is criminal, and lying to Congress is right at the top of that,” he said. “My message . . . was if you lie to us, we’re going to catch you and we’re going to prosecute you, period, end of sentence.”
Most of those interviewed appeared willingly, but “a handful” of those interviews were conducted under subpoena, Burr said, and he suggested that he may have to issue subpoenas again to bring people before the committee.
Burr also said that, by the end of the Senate Intelligence Committee investigation, Republicans and Democrats might not be able to reach unanimous agreement on all matters. He declined to say where the two sides might disagree.
Prosecutions for lying to Congress are rare but not unprecedented. In 2010, baseball ace pitcher Roger Clemens was indicted on charges of perjury and making false statements to Congress about his use of performance-enhancing drugs. A jury later acquitted Clemens on all charges.
Rep. Adam B. Schiff (Calif.), the House Intelligence Committee’s ranking Democrat, said his panel believes “other witnesses were untruthful before our committee.” He would like Mueller to have those transcripts, he said. In particular, Schiff cited Trump adviser Roger Stone as someone whose answers were “far from truthful.”