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Democrats to probe whether Trump told lawyer to lie to Congress

The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Jerrold Nadler of New York, said directing a subordinate to lie to Congress is a federal crime.

President Donald Trump is accused of telling his lawyer to lie to Congress (Evan Vucci/AP)
President Donald Trump is accused of telling his lawyer to lie to Congress (Evan Vucci/AP)

Senior Democrats have pledged to investigate a report that Donald Trump directed his personal lawyer to lie to Congress about negotiations over a real estate project in Moscow during the 2016 election.

House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff said “we will do what’s necessary to find out if it’s true”.

He said the allegation that the president directed Michael Cohen to lie in his 2017 testimony to Congress “in an effort to curtail the investigation and cover up his business dealings with Russia is among the most serious to date”.

The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Jerrold Nadler of New York, said directing a subordinate to lie to Congress is a federal crime.

“The @HouseJudiciary Committee’s job is to get to the bottom of it, and we will do that work,” Mr Nadler tweeted.

The report by BuzzFeed News, citing two unnamed law enforcement officials, said that Mr Trump directed Cohen to lie to Congress and that Cohen regularly briefed Mr Trump and his family on the Moscow project — even as Mr Trump said he had no business dealings with Russia.

An adviser to Mr Cohen, Lanny Davis, declined to comment on the substance of the article, saying that he and Mr Cohen would not answer questions out of respect for special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe. Mr Mueller is investigating Russian meddling in the election and contacts with the Trump campaign.

The BuzzFeed story says that Cohen told Mr Mueller that Mr Trump personally instructed him to lie about the timing of the project in order to obscure Mr Trump’s involvement.

Mr Trump tweeted that Cohen is “Lying to reduce his jail time!” while White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said that the BuzzFeed story was “absolutely ludicrous”.

Mr Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, also scoffed at the report, saying in a statement: “If you believe Cohen I can get you a good all cash deal on the Brooklyn Bridge.”

Cohen pleaded guilty in November to lying to Congress in 2017 to cover up that he was negotiating the real estate deal in Moscow on Mr Trump’s behalf during the heat of his presidential campaign. The charge was brought by Mr Mueller and was the result of his cooperation with that probe.

Cohen was recently sentenced to three years in prison after pleading guilty to tax crimes, bank fraud and campaign violations. He is scheduled to testify before the House Oversight and Reform Committee on February 7.

The report comes as House Democrats have promised a thorough look into Mr Trump’s ties to Russia. Though House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has discouraged any talk of impeachment in the early days of her new majority, some senior Democrats said that if the BuzzFeed report is true, Mr Trump’s actions could rise to that level.

“If the @BuzzFeed story is true, President Trump must resign or be impeached,” tweeted Texas Representative Joaquin Castro, a member of the House intelligence panel.

William Barr, Mr Trump’s nominee for attorney general, said at his Senate confirmation hearing on Tuesday that a president or anyone else who directs a witness to lie is illegally obstructing an investigation.

That statement attracted attention given Mr Barr’s expansive views of presidential powers and his belief that presidents cannot be scrutinised by prosecutors for acts the constitution allows them to take.

PA

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