Top-ranking Democrats are doling out their most serious threats yet of impeaching President Donald Trump after an explosive BuzzFeed report published late Thursday that said Trump directed his attorney Michael Cohen to lie about his negotiations over a Trump Tower in Moscow.
In a strongly worded statement Friday night, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, suggested that Trump could be considered a criminal and would face consequences if the BuzzFeed article proves true.
“We’ve previously known about attempts to develop Trump Tower Moscow and the misrepresentations surrounding those efforts,” Feinstein said.
“Now, media reports say President Trump directed Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about that business deal,” Feinstein continued. “If true, the president committed a crime and must be held accountable.”
Feinstein also called on Republicans to allow special counsel Robert Mueller’s and Congress’ investigations into Trump’s ties to Russia to “run their course without interference.”
“If the latest allegations are true,” the Democratic senator concluded, “they’re too serious to be ignored or withheld from public scrutiny.”
Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) laid it out plainly on Friday morning: “If this report of Trump suborning false testimony is confirmed, then Trump committed a felony and must resign or be impeached,” he tweeted.
According to BuzzFeed’s reporting, Mueller’s office learned of Trump’s orders to Cohen after interviewing multiple witnesses within the Trump Organization and reviewing internal emails, text messages and “a cache of other documents.”
The report also implicates daughter Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr., who are executives of the Trump Organization. Cohen, Trump’s former longtime personal attorney, reportedly kept the two updated on the Moscow development.
As part of Mueller’s investigation, Cohen pleaded guilty in November to lying to Congress about his contacts in Moscow and was sentenced to three years in prison.
In a rare statement to BuzzFeed, special counsel spokesman Peter Carr said their news site’s report Thursday was inaccurate. “BuzzFeed’s description of specific statements to the Special Counsel’s Office, and characterization of documents and testimony obtained by this office, regarding Michael Cohen’s Congressional testimony are not accurate,” Carr told BuzzFeed.
Trump denied BuzzFeed’s report and accused Cohen of lying after he pleaded guilty in order to reduce his jail time.
Democrats have long been suspicious of possible links between Trump’s associates and Russia, but the BuzzFeed report has inspired Democrats to unleash their strongest threats yet against the president.
In the hours after the news site’s investigation was made public, Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) said Trump “must resign or be impeached” if its allegations are shown to be true. Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) said the report suggests Trump obstructed justice, “Period. Full Stop.”
There were even more calls for Mueller to reveal what his team knows about Trump’s Moscow deal, as well as vows from Congress to investigate it themselves.
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, called the allegations against Trump “among the most serious to date.”
“We will do what’s necessary to find out if it’s true,” he tweeted Thursday night.
Schiff revealed Friday morning that the intelligence committee had already launched an investigation into the report.
“These allegations may prove unfounded, but, if true, they would constitute both the subornation of perjury as well as obstruction of justice,” he said in a follow-up statement.
“Our committee is already working to secure additional witness testimony and documents related to the Trump Tower Moscow deal and other investigative matters,” Schiff said.
“As a counterintelligence concern of the greatest magnitude, and given that these alleged efforts were intended to interfere with our investigation, our Committee is determined to get to the bottom of this and follow the evidence wherever it may lead.”
Cohen had already been scheduled to publicly testify before the House Oversight and Reform Committee on Feb. 7.
This article has been updated with a response from the special counsel’s office to the BuzzFeed report.