WASHINGTON – Michael Cohen once told lawmakers that he learned about the infamous 2016 Trump Tower meeting with a Russian lawyer only after he read about it in the press.
Now, after President Donald Trump's longtime personal attorney pleaded guilty to eight federal crimes on Tuesday, lawmakers are wondering if he told the truth.
Senate Intelligence Committee leaders are questioning whether Cohen lied to the panel when he testified last fall that he had no advance knowledge of that meeting, which was meant to seek "dirt" on Hillary Clinton.
Cohen could face more legal jeopardy if he lied. Federal law makes it a crime to "knowingly and willfully" give false statements to Congress. The penalty is up to five years in prison.
Cohen testified last October as part of the panel's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. The senators said Cohen testified that he did not know anything about the Trump Tower meeting until he read about it in news accounts.
It is illegal for an American campaign to accept, or solicit, anything of value from foreign nationals. The law aims to prevent foreign influence in U.S. elections.
However, news reports in July said that Cohen had begun claiming that Trump knew and approved of the 2016 Trump Tower meeting before it happened. Cohen alleged he was in the room when Donald Trump Jr. informed Trump of the planned meeting with a Russian lawyer promising dirt on Clinton, according to news reports.
Those reports contradict Cohen's testimony.
Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr, R-N.C., and Vice Chairman Mark Warner, D-Va., said in a joint statement Tuesday that they may want to bring Cohen back to clarify his testimony.
"We hope that (Tuesday's) developments and Mr. Cohen’s plea agreement will not preclude his appearance before our Committee as needed for our ongoing investigation," Burr and Warner said. "We recently re-engaged with Mr. Cohen and his team following press reports that suggested he had advance knowledge of the June 2016 meeting between campaign officials and Russian lawyers at Trump Tower,"
Cohen's attorney, Lanny Davis, did not respond Wednesday to a request for comment about the Burr-Warner statement.
In a written statement prepared for the Intelligence Committee that he released publicly in September, Cohen said he was innocent of any collusion with the Russian government or Russian hackers in the 2016 presidential election. He did not mention any payoffs to women who alleged they had affairs with Trump.
Cohen told a federal court on Tuesday that he had paid off two women to silence them before the 2016 election at Trump’s "direction," and admitted that the payments were illegal.
“If anyone is looking for a good lawyer, I would strongly suggest that you don’t retain the services of Michael Cohen!” Trump said during a morning tweetstorm.
Back in September, Cohen mentioned how honored he was to work for Trump.
"I'm very proud to have served Donald J. Trump for all these years, and I'll continue to support him," Cohen wrote.