WASHINGTON: Investigators in the US Senate and House of Representatives said on Friday they plan to examine whether US President Donald Trump broke the law by directing his former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, to lie to Congress about building a skyscraper in Moscow while he was running for president.Leading Democrats in the House of Representatives said they would seek to verify a Buzzfeed News report that Trump told Cohen to lie to lawmakers who are examining whether his campaign worked with Russia to win the 2016 presidential election.
Buzzfeed, citing two unnamed law enforcement sources, said Cohen told investigators working for Special Counsel Robert Mueller that Trump had directed him to lie about the Moscow project. The report said Mueller’s office learned of Trump’s instructions to Cohen through internal Trump Organization emails, witness interviews, text messages and other documents, and that Cohen told prosecutors about the directive in an interview.Trump said on Twitter that Cohen was lying in order to get less prison time while Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, said in an email statement, “Any suggestion ... that the president counseled his former lawyer Michael Cohen to lie is categorically false.” Mueller’s office declined to comment. Cohen, who once said he was so loyal to Trump that he would “take a bullet” for him, is scheduled to begin a three-year prison sentence in March after pleading guilty to charges that included lying to Congress. If Trump did tell Cohen to lie, that would constitute criminal activity, said House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, who said he would look into the matter. “Directing a subordinate to lie to Congress is a federal crime,” Nadler said on Twitter. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff said the allegation that Trump may have directed Cohen to lie under oath “is among the most serious to date.” “We will do what’s necessary to find out if it’s true,” he said on Twitter. Some Senate Intelligence Committee investigators hope to ask Cohen about the BuzzFeed report when he testifies behind closed doors in February, a committee source told Reuters. He also will face questions about it in testimony before the House Oversight Committee on February 7.