Lawmakers preview questions for Cohen testimony this week

Image: Former Trump Lawyer Michael Cohen Enters Plea Deal Over Tax And Bank
Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump's former personal attorney and fixer, exits federal court, August 21, 2018 in New York City. Cohen reached an agreement with prosecutors, pleading guilty to charges involving bank fraud, tax fraud and campaign finance Copyright Drew Angerer Getty Images
Copyright Drew Angerer Getty Images
By Allan Smith with NBC News Politics
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House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff says he wants, first and foremost, to learn why Cohen lied to Congress.


President Donald Trump's former longtime attorney Michael Cohen is set to testify before three congressional committees this week — and lawmakers on Sunday gave a preview of some of the questions he will face.

On ABC's "This Week," House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, a California Democrat, said he hopes to learn from Cohen's closed-door testimony before his committee on Thursday why he made "false statements before our committee when he first appeared."

"Did they go beyond what he told us about Moscow Trump Tower into other areas as well?" Schiff said. "Who would have been aware of the false testimony that he was giving?"

Schiff added that he wants to ask "what other light" Cohen can "shed now that he's cooperating on issues of obstruction of justice or collusion."

"What more could he tell us about the Trump Tower New York meeting or any other issues relevant to our investigation?" he continued. "We think he has a lot to offer."

Trump Organization finances — which Schiff has said he plans to probe as part of a new investigation by his committee — is also certain to be of interest when Cohen testifies on Thursday. Schiff said Cohen "is pivotal" to such an investigation.

"What we have learned to date about Moscow Trump Tower is chilling, and that is as Donald Trump was campaigning for president, even when it became the presumptive nominee of the Republican Party and was telling the country he had no business dealings with Russia, he was privately, through his organization, seeking the Kremlin's help to what may have been the most lucrative deal of his life, even reportedly offering an inducement to Putin to make it happen and at the same time, talking about removing sanctions on Russia, something very important to the Russians," Schiff said, adding that such negotiations were "deeply compromising."

"So those issues have to be probed, and they include money laundering as well," he added.

On NBC's "Meet the Press," Democratic Rep. Jim Himesof Connecticut, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, also said "re-asking the questions [Cohen] felt he needed to lie about in prior testimony needed to be the panel's first step.

Cohen is also set to give closed-door testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday as well as appear publicly before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Wednesday.

At that high-profile Wednesday hearing, Cohen will be asked about Trump's debts and payments related to efforts to influence the 2016 election, compliance with financial disclosure requirements and campaign finance and tax laws, possible conflicts of interests, business practices, the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., the accuracy of the president's public statements, the Trump Foundation, and Cohen's allegations that Trump has tried to intimidate Cohen by threatening him and his family.

Trump and his legal team have repeatedly slammed Cohen as a liar and have said he is not a credible witness. Trump has also publicly targeted other members of Cohen's family, suggesting investigators should probe them. In response to Cohen's allegation that Trump tried to intimidate him, the president told reporters last month that Cohen has "only been threatened by the truth."

"He has other clients also, I assume, and he doesn't want to tell the truth for me or other of his clients," Trump said.

Cohen will not discuss Russia in the open session, instead speaking on that subject in private with congressional investigators, lawmakers said.

Last year, Cohen pleaded guilty to a series of federal felonies, including campaign-finance violations that involved hush-money payments he made to two women who alleged past affairs with Trump to silence them just weeks before the 2016 presidential election.

Cohen also pleaded guilty to making false statements to congressional investigators about the scope and timeline of negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. Cohen had originally said that talks were not pursued past the very onset of 2016 only to later admit that they went on into that summer. He said he lied in order to keep in line with Trump's narrative about the Russian dealings. Cohen was then sentenced to serve a three-year prison sentence for his conviction.

Late last week, The New York Times reported that Cohen, a longtime Trump Organization employee, has provided information to federal prosecutors in New York who are probing the president's inaugural committee and the Trump Organization. Lanny Davis, a lawyer and spokesman for Cohen, said in a statement that Cohen "is interested in cooperating with and assisting the [Southern District of New York] team in any way they believe is helpful."

In a CBS interview clip that aired Saturday, former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon said he didn't think the greatest threat against Trump was special counsel Robert Mueller's report, but probes from federal investigators in New York, such as the one examining the president's inaugural committee.

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