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Rep. Schiff says Cohen testimony ‘bolstered his credibility’

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., chairs the House Intelligence Committee. He talks to Judy Woodruff about his impressions from Cohen’s Wednesday appearance in front of the House Oversight Committee, including evidence of a “code of dishonesty” in the president’s inner circle, plus what he plans to discuss when Cohen comes to his committee Thursday for a closed-door session.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    And now to Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff of California. He's chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.

    Welcome, Congressman Schiff.

    We know that Michael Cohen is going to be before your committee tomorrow following this. But, tomorrow, it's behind closed doors. We have just heard from a number of Republicans, including Mr. Comer, who say they just don't see credibility from Michael Cohen.

    How do you respond to that?

  • Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif.:

    Well, look, there's no question that any witness coming before Congress who has a history where they been dishonest with Congress comes in with a credibility problem.

    But, at the same time, a lot of what he said today, I think, bolstered his credibility, for the reason that you mentioned. And that is — and I say this speaking as a former prosecutor — when people want to make things up, they generally don't do it in a half-fashion.

    And so when Mr. Cohen testified, for example, that he overheard a conversation between Don Jr. and his father that, in retrospect, he recognized was about the Trump Tower in New York meeting with the Russians, if he was just determined to bury the president, he wouldn't have made any ambiguity about that.

    There were also times when I thought that his testimony was quite striking, and in a very credible fashion. For example, when he testified about the rumors of a videotape of the president striking his wife in an elevator, he was very quick to come to the president's defense and say, I don't believe he would do that.

    Now, that's not something you do if your agenda is just to bury the president or receive a lighter sentence. And those type of things do give a witness credibility.

    I find it striking, though, Judy, listening to my colleague that you just interviewed, that there's really any question about these hush money payments. And what I found shocking today, just to hear it again said out loud, is that this illegal conduct, this conspiracy to violate the campaign finance laws, continued during the presidency, while Donald Trump was in the Oval Office.

    And, you know, I think Mr. Cohen properly pointed out that Giuliani admitted to these reimbursements.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Right.

  • Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif.:

    So, to somehow say they were about something else doesn't even square what the president's lawyers are saying.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    What about something else that Congressman Comer said?

    And that is, he thinks Democrats — this is basically the Democrats' first step in trying to impeach this president. Is that what's really going on here?

  • Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif.:

    You know, I think that's the narrative that we saw the Republicans wanted to say today, which is, don't hear what Mr. Cohen has to say. Don't look at the substance or try to find corroboration for what he has to say. Let's just try to tear him down and make this all about impeachment.

    It's certainly been the case for the last couple of years that Donald Trump has been the biggest champion of his own impeachment, because he feels it rallies his base.

    No, I think what Chairman Cummings did — And I think he did a spectacular job today — is bring to light a whole series of seriously concerning allegations of wrongdoing and deep criminality by the president.

    And what is striking, I think, to my GOP colleagues is, for two years, there was no oversight. And now we're getting it, the country's getting it for the first time. And, yes, that may be jarring, but that is actually what Congress is supposed to do.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Are you hearing from your Republican colleagues that they now have doubts about the president that they didn't have before?

  • Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif.:

    You know, my Republican colleagues express those doubts in private. What we saw today, they're not willing to express those doubts in public.

    And, quite to the contrary, they are playing to the president in the Oval Office. Sometimes, they're playing his base back in their districts. But the willingness to speak truth to power was nonexistent, unfortunately, by the GOP in today's hearing.

    I hope, for the sake of our country, that changes, because one thing they think ran through the entire hearing today is a portrait of a president and those around him who have a code of dishonesty, a way of life of dishonesty.

    And we have seen that in the thousands of falsehoods that have come from the president since he took office. We have seen that in the multiple convictions of all the people around him.

    And I will say this, also, Judy. If my GOP colleagues are complaining about bringing in a witness who has been convicted of a crime, well, then we can't bring in a whole set of people around Donald Trump who have all been convicted of various crimes.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Finally, just one very quick question.

    Your committee, as we said, the Intelligence Committee, tomorrow, you're meeting behind closed doors. But is there one thing you can tell us about the direction you're going to be taking with Mr. Cohen that we didn't hear today?

  • Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif.:

    Yes.

    And, you know, we're going to be drilling down on some of the topics you heard about today and some you didn't, but to give you an illustration, Moscow Trump Tower, this project that Michael Cohen talked about today, having repeated conversations on the campaign trail with Donald Trump, while Donald Trump was denying this was happening to the public.

    We're going to be drilling down in great detail, going over dozens of documents dealing with that transaction, talking about other witnesses to that transaction, talking about who in the Kremlin they were reaching out to for help, going into a lot of detail on that and other issues.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    We appreciate it.

    Thank you very much, Chairman Schiff.

  • Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif.:

    Thank you.

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