WASHINGTON • Sen. Claire McCaskill said Thursday that the guilty plea of President Donald Trump’s former lawyer for lying to Congress showed that the “American people weren’t told the truth” during the 2016 presidential campaign about Trump’s relationship with Russia.
And Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee said that the lawyer, Michael Cohen, should face “serious consequences.”
“Mr Cohen appears to have intentionally misled congressional investigators. This action, and action taken by Chairman (Chuck) Grassley (R-Iowa) in the Judiciary Committee to encourage prosecution of individuals who intentionally lie to Congress, should send a strong message to these and all future congressional witnesses,” Blunt said.
McCaskill said Cohen’s plea sheds new light on special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into possible Russian influence on the Trump campaign in 2016.
“It certainly illuminates the fact that they had the Republican platform changed as it related to Russia during the (2016 Republican national) convention,” McCaskill, D-Mo., said.
That was a reference to reports that GOP platform writers softened language calling for aid to Ukraine in response to Russian aggression.
Trump’s campaign manager at the time, Paul Manafort, who has been convicted of financial fraud in his own lobbying business after an investigation by Mueller, denied that happened. But Trump in 2016 interviews acknowledged it did, although he said he did not direct anyone to do it.
Cohen pleaded guilty to lying to the Senate and House Intelligence committees about a Trump organization construction project in Russia. The construction project was never built, Trump stressed in answering questions about Cohen’s guilty plea Thursday morning before heading to a G-20 Summit in Argentina.
Trump called his former lawyer a liar and a “very weak person,” and declared that Cohen was “trying to get a reduced sentence for things that have nothing to do with me.”
McCaskill said Trump’s attacks on Cohen made no sense.
“No matter what the president says, this was his trusted lawyer for more than a decade. This is a sophisticated businessman who chose this lawyer,” McCaskill said. “So this notion that he is now going to try to make everybody believe that this is somebody that is trying to save his own skin — you just wonder how much my Republican colleagues will swallow of this before they stand up and say, ‘Enough.’”
Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., the highest-ranking Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, said that Cohen’s guilty plea to lying, following several others in Trump’s campaign orbit, made him wonder what they are ultimately trying to cover up.
If “there is no there there” in any collusion between Trump and Russians, as Trump says, “why are all of his close associates being found guilty of lying?” Warner asked.
McCaskill, who will leave office at the end of the year after losing her re-election bid to Republican Josh Hawley, said she agreed with Warner.