Democrats seize on report that Trump told Cohen to lie before Congress

Rep. David Cicilline

“If the President directed [Michael] Cohen to lie to Congress, that is obstruction of justice. Period. Full stop,” tweeted Rep. David Cicilline. | Alex Edelman/Getty Images

Leading Democrats said late Thursday that President Donald Trump would have obstructed justice if he instructed his former personal attorney to lie before Congress, pledging to further investigate after an explosive report drew swift reaction online.

“If the President directed [Michael] Cohen to lie to Congress, that is obstruction of justice. Period. Full stop,” Rep. David Cicilline of Rhode Island wrote online.

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That post came less than half an hour after the publication of a report by BuzzFeed News stating that the president ordered his longtime ex-fixer to lie to lawmakers about negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, citing two law enforcement officials involved in the investigation of the matter.

“THIS IS OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE,” tweeted Rep. Ted Lieu of California.

“This stunning Trump Tower Moscow story establishes a clear case of Obstruction of Justice, a felony. I’ve lost count now how many times @realDonaldTrump has engaged in Obstruction of Justice,” Lieu wrote in another post, adding: “Oh, fyi the first Article of Impeachment for Richard Nixon was Obstruction of Justice.”

As chair of the House Democratic Policy and Communications Committee, Cicilline is charged with overseeing House Democrats’ policy and messaging arm. Lieu is a co-chair of the committee.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman and frequent Trump foil Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) also weighed in on the report, tweeting that the allegation of subornation of perjury by the president “is among the most serious to date.”

“We will do what’s necessary to find out if it’s true,” Schiff wrote online.

“If the @BuzzFeed story is true, President Trump must resign or be impeached,” tweeted Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas), who sits on the Intelligence committee.

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) called on special counsel Robert Mueller to brief members of Congress on potential evidence of the claims against the president.

“Listen, if Mueller does have multiple sources confirming Trump directed Cohen to lie to Congress, then we need to know this ASAP,” Murphy tweeted. “Mueller shouldn’t end his inquiry, but it’s about time for him to show Congress his cards before it’s too late for us to act.”

Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani dismissed the story Thursday evening, telling various media outlets: “If you believe Cohen I can get you a good all cash deal on the Brooklyn Bridge.”

Cohen is scheduled to testify publicly to the House Oversight Committee on Feb. 7. He was sentenced in December to three years in prison for tax and fraud charges, for lying to Congress and for a pair of campaign finance violations stemming from hush money that prosecutors in the Southern District of New York allege Trump directed him to pay to a porn star and the National Enquirer tabloid.

Former Attorney General William Barr, Trump’s nominee to lead the Justice Department, said earlier this week at his confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee that a president persuading a witness to commit perjury or change his or her testimony would constitute an obstruction of justice.

Former Attorney General Eric Holder tweeted: “If true – and proof must be examined – Congress must begin impeachment proceedings and Barr must refer, at a minimum, the relevant portions of material discovered by Mueller. This is a potential inflection point.”

“This is now squarely within the ambit, if these reports are accurate, of criminal activity by Donald Trump,” former acting solicitor general Neal Katyal said Thursday on CNN.