House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) sent staffers to meet with President Trump’s former attorney, Michael Cohen, at least four times for a total of 10 hours just prior to his public testimony before Congress last week, Fox News reported Friday.
Cohen told House investigators about the meetings this week, sources familiar with the matter told Fox. The sessions were wide-ranging and broached many topics that were raised during the hearing, leading Republicans to accuse the Democrat of essentially coaching the witness.
Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio) sent a letter to Cohen’s team on Wednesday asking for confirmation of Cohen’s contacts “with Democratic Members or Democratic staff of SSCI [Senate Select Committee on Intelligence], COR [House Committee on Oversight and Reform], or HPSCI [House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence] prior to his appearances before House and Senate committees last week.”
Additionally, Turner requested information about the lengths of the contacts, their locations, and who exactly was involved.
“These questions are important for the public to understand whether or not they were watching witness testimony, a public hearing, or well-rehearsed theater,” he wrote.
Cohen admitted under questioning from Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) last week that he had spoken with Schiff and others “about topics that were going to be raised at the upcoming hearing.”
Jordan said on Fox News Friday morning that normally both sides would be allowed to have a deposition behind closed doors with a contentious, high-profile witness like Cohen before his testimony.
“They did 10 hours of preparation with this witness and he came in front of Congress and still lied to us!” Jordan exclaimed. “We think a total of eight lies.”
Jordan and Rep. Mark Meadows, (R-N.C.) sent a six-page letter to newly sworn-in Attorney General William Barr last week, citing several instances where they say Cohen had been less than truthful during his seven-hour testimony. Earlier this week, Republicans discovered that Cohen also lied about his efforts to obtain a pardon from President Trump. Jordan told Fox News that he and Meadows would be sending another referral letter to the Justice Department, “because we’ve learned a few more things since his testimony last week.”
The congressman said it’s normal for there to be “a little bit of interaction with a witness prior to a hearing, but 10 hours, several trips to his location in New York — that is very unusual, particularly when we asked for a deposition and weren’t given that opportunity.”
Jordan pointed out that Schiff initially claimed that his staff had only met with Cohen “to alleviate any fears that he had and talked about practical concerns about when to show up and where to report.”
But according to Fox, “The sources said the sessions covered a slew of topics addressed during the public hearing before the oversight committee — including the National Enquirer’s ‘Catch and Kill’ policy, American Media CEO David Pecker and the alleged undervaluing of President Trump’s assets.”
Citing the discrepancy, Jordan and Meadows wrote to Cohen’s attorney requesting clarification on his testimony.
Cohen and Schiff seem to have provided conflicting versions of discussions they had in advance of Cohen’s congressional testimony… either Cohen lied again during his testimony or Schiff is lying…again. https://t.co/K1LcqKtpXE pic.twitter.com/rQW60zBWIL
— Nick Short 🇺🇸 (@PoliticalShort) March 8, 2019
A House Intelligence Committee spokesman defended the Schiff staff’s pre-hearing discussions with Cohen in an email to Fox News:
“We are running a professional investigation in search of the facts, and we welcome the opportunity to meet with potential witnesses in advance of any testimony to determine relevant topics to cover in order to make productive use of their time before the Committee,” spokesman Patrick Boland told Fox News. “Despite this professed outrage by Republicans, it’s completely appropriate to conduct proffer sessions and allow witnesses to review their prior testimony before the Committee interviews them — such sessions are a routine part of every serious investigation around the country, including congressional investigations.”
Former House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes told Fox News Friday that the last two weeks have been “all about rolling out a new narrative.” He added: “No matter how much witness tampering you do, you’re not going to find collusion in this unless you talk about the collusion the Democratic Party and the Clinton campaign were doing with Russians.”
He later noted that there are prosecutors on Mueller’s special counsel team who were involved in the Democrats’ election-year scheme to frame the Trump campaign with dirt from the Clinton and DNC-funded Steele dossier.
“The Mueller team is part of the collusion,” Nunes argued. “They were taking information that supposedly came directly from Russians.”
The California congressman pointed out that it’s not illegal for members of Congress to talk to witnesses beforehand, but in a serious investigation, both Republican and Democrat lawyers meet the lawyers of the witness. “In this case, it sounds like they were just meeting with the witness himself, and this is not a serious investigation,” he said.