Democrats eye new inquiries, witnesses after Cohen testimony

WASHINGTON (AP) – After three days of grilling Michael Cohen, United States (US) President Donald Trump’s former lawyer, Democrats are quickly using his words as a roadmap to open new lines of investigation into the President’s ties to Russia and summon additional witnesses.

Cohen completed a third day of testimony on Capitol Hill on Thursday, one day after publicly branding his former boss a racist and a con man who lied about business dealings in Russia and directed him to conceal extramarital relationships. He was interviewed behind closed doors by the House Intelligence Committee for more than eight hours.

As he left the HouseIntelligence interview, Cohen said he would be returning to Capitol Hill on March 6 for another round of questioning with that panel.

The weeklong gauntlet of interviews with Cohen launched what is expected to be months of investigations of Trump and those connected to him. Multiple Democrat-led House committees are pledging to investigate not only Trump’s campaign’s ties to Russia, which are also the subject of special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe, but presidential conflicts of interest, possible money laundering and other oversight matters that Democrats say were ignored under GOP control.

House Intelligence Chairman Rep Adam Schiff called the closed-door session with Cohen productive and said lawmakers were able to “drill down in great detail” on issues they are investigating. Another Democratic committee member, California Rep Eric Swalwell, said Cohen “has been asked, based on a lot of new evidence we learned today, to bring corroborating materials that he believes he has.”

Michael Cohen speaks briefly to the media as he leaves a closed-door hearing of the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington. – AP

Schiff said the committee will hear from Felix Sater, a Russia-born executive who worked with Cohen on an ultimately unsuccessful deal to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, in an open hearing on March 14.

In addition, a committee aide said the panel also anticipates inviting Trump Organisation chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg to testify. Cohen mentioned the Trump Organisation chief financial officer several times in his public House Oversight testimony, linking him to hush money payments to actress Stormy Daniels, who alleged had an affair with Donald Trump. Trump denies the affair.

The Oversight Committee is also planning on calling additional witnesses after Cohen’s testimony. The committee’s chairman, Maryland Rep Elijah Cummings, indicated the panel could bring in a broad swath of people that Cohen mentioned in Wednesday’s hearing. He told reporters that his panel is poring over the transcript and anyone mentioned multiple times has a chance of hearing from them.

Based on who was mentioned in the hearing, possible witnesses could include Weisselberg and two of the President’s children, Donald Trump Jr and Ivanka Trump. Daniels was also mentioned frequently.

Cohen, who pleaded guilty last year to lying to Congress about the Moscow real estate project and reports to prison in May for a three-year sentence, gave harsh testimony about Trump on several fronts on Wednesday. He said Trump knew in advance that damaging emails about Democrat Hillary Clinton would be released during the 2016 campaign – a claim the President has denied – and accused Trump of lying during the 2016 campaign about the Moscow deal.