Democratic staff on the House intelligence committee traveled to New York four times to meet with Michael Cohen before he testified to their panel, an attorney for Cohen told The Daily Beast.
Fox News first reported on the trips on Friday morning. One Republican member of the committee hinted this week that members of his party were distressed by Cohen’s pre-testimony communication with staff for the panel’s Democratic Chairman Adam Schiff. Rep. Mike Turner, the Republican, wrote a public letter to Cohen asking him about any contacts with Schiff’s staff. “Clearly, there will be questions as to whether or not such contacts, if they occurred, constitute witness tampering, obstruction of justice, or collusion, collaboration, and cooperation between the House Democratic majority, their staff, and you,” Turner wrote.
Lanny Davis, who represents Cohen, told The Daily Beast that the meetings with Schiff’s staff focused on reviewing the text of the testimony Cohen provided to the committee in 2017. He also confirmed that Democratic staff spoke with Cohen for more than 10 hours over the course of their New York meetings.
“It’s completely appropriate, and he would have done the same thing for Republicans had they asked,” he said.
Historically, the House intelligence committee has been a rare oasis of bipartisan comity on Capitol Hill. But when the committee launched an investigation of Russian election-meddling in 2017—then under Republican control—it spiraled into fractious sniping and backbiting. Devin Nunes, who was chairman until Democrats won the House in November 2018, ultimately had to take a step back from the committee’s Russia probe after he made an eyebrow-raising late-night White House trip to review materials about alleged wrongdoing by the intelligence community.
In the months that followed, the committee interviewed a host of witnesses and raked in tranches of documents related to Russian efforts to influence the 2016 presidential campaign. Despite having access to the same materials, the committee’s Democrats and Republicans didn’t coalesce around one interpretation; Republicans released a majority report concluding they found no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin, while Democrats said Republicans deliberately hamstrung the investigation.
Now Democrats, under Schiff’s leadership, have re-opened the probe. Democratic members have told The Daily Beast they want to interview several witnesses they spoke with during Nunes’ time there, including billionaire Erik Prince and Donald Trump Jr.
They have already re-interviewed Michael Cohen––and twice. The president’s estranged ex-fixer, who will begin serving a three-year prison sentence in May, has met with the committee behind closed doors twice since last week. He revealed the four New York meetings with Schiff’s staff in the first of those two sessions.
The news of those meetings highlights the persistent tension between Republicans and Democrats on the committee. And it likely portends more skirmishes to come.
“The American public need to know that what they have witnessed over the past two weeks has been orchestrated theater produced by Democrats,” Turner said in a statement released after this report’s publication. “This level of coaching of a witness is highly unprofessional and inappropriate, and any claim to the contrary is complete nonsense.”