Did Adam Schiff’s staff conduct a deposition with former Trump attorney Michael Cohen — or did they suborn perjury and coach the witness? House Intelligence Committee member Michael Turner (R-OH) wants to know what precisely happened in their ten-hour-plus of meetings with Cohen prior to his testimony last week to three House committees. Cohen had previously pled guilty to lying to Congress and faces a three-year prison sentence, and Republicans want him referred for more falsehoods from his latest testimony as well:
President Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen told House investigators this week that staff for Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., traveled to New York at least four times to meet with him for over 10 hours immediately before last month’s high-profile public testimony, according to two sources familiar with the matter — as Republicans question whether the meetings amounted to coaching a witness. …
Turner specifically asked for confirmation of Cohen’s contacts, if any, “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” — as well as the lengths of such 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 supplied the topics discussed with Schiff’s team to House investigators after his tour through the House committees. Fox News notes that the House Oversight Committee stepped through each of the subjects that Schiff’s team discussed with Cohen. That’s not usually a problem, although the fact that Schiff’s team spent more than ten hours with Cohen when his testimony to Intel only lasted seven certainly seems odd. Lawyers depose witnesses all the time in order to structure their questioning in trials as well as in congressional hearings; it would be malpractice not to depose such witnesses first.
What complicates this is the scummy nature of the witness in question. Michael Cohen not only lied to Congress under oath earlier, he spent his career being Trump’s legal bully. Cohen expresses remorse about that now, of course, but that’s a function of (a) having been caught at breaking the law and (b) not getting a big-time job in Trump’s White House. That level of coaching with a witness of Cohen’s *ahem* aroma looks very suspicious, especially after the highly questionable decision to bring Cohen back to Congress after being convicted of perjury from his previous appearance.
Cohen’s performance at the Oversight hearing makes it look potentially criminal, too. Republicans Jim Jordan and Mark Meadows have already referred Cohen’s most recent testimony to the Department of Justice for potential prosecution on six points of potential perjury. Another allegation of perjury arose after Jordan and Meadows’ letter when it came out that Cohen had directed his attorneys to discuss a pardon with White House counsel.
Turner will surely demand to know what role Schiff’s staff had in honing Cohen’s testimony on these seven points. If they coached Cohen on this specific testimony, then they could be accused of suborning perjury. We’re still quite a ways away from that yet, but the possibility exists. And it exists because Adam Schiff, Elijah Cummings, and other House Democrats chose to hitch their investigative wagons to a known perjurer and convicted fraudster. The next time Jim Jordan starts off a hearing warning about that choice, perhaps they’ll pay more attention.