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Michael Cohen Returns For Another Closed Session Testimony With House Committee


Donald Trump's former attorney Michael Cohen was back before Congress today. This was his fourth session with lawmakers in the past two weeks. Today's questioning was behind closed doors with the House Intelligence Committee. Congressman Eric Swalwell, a Democrat from California, was part of today's hearing. He joins us now from the Capitol.

Congressman, welcome back to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

ERIC SWALWELL: Thank you. Good evening, Audie.

CORNISH: So it's been reported that Michael Cohen gave docs to the - gave documents to the House Intelligence Committee today to substantiate his claim that the White House edited the statement he gave to Congress in 2017. People are talking about this because of course he has been accused of lying to Congress. What can you tell us about that?

SWALWELL: And, Audie, he was accused of lying to Congress on behalf of Donald Trump, which I think is an important, you know, asterisk here. But I can't go into what he, you know, said specifically about pardons. I can say that he provided new information last week that we were not aware of that went to conduct of President Trump. And today he brought corroborating materials. And what we will have to do now is to interview other witnesses who were implicated in this and, you know, move forward.

CORNISH: You mentioned pardons. Is that an area of concern for the committee as well today?

SWALWELL: Yes. And again, I can't go into what he said about pardons. I can just say that, you know, if the president is dangling pardons or offering pardons, that goes to a consciousness of guilt. Only somebody who would be worried about what others would say about their conduct would offer pardons when they themselves are a subject to an investigation.

CORNISH: Now, if your committee could substantiate that the White House in effect directed Michael Cohen to lie to Congress, what should Congress do about that?

SWALWELL: You know, we've got multiple committees with different jurisdictions here. And I also serve on the Judiciary Committee. And right now we are looking at obstruction of justice, abuse of power and public corruption as it relates to about, you know, 81 different witnesses and entities. And so we're examining their conduct. And you know, if that is indeed true, this is a House Judiciary Committee issue. And you know, not to jump to conclusions, but, you know, once you follow the evidence, if you find that, that could lead to impeachment proceedings.

CORNISH: This investigation was supposed to be about collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian interference in the 2016 election. You're talking about many other issues, right? The president says Democrats are just harassing him. What's your response?

SWALWELL: Michael Cohen said publicly to the Oversight Committee that he had suspicions of collusion - you know, circumstantial evidence, if you will, about collusion. So that is still a primary interest that we have. We have other witnesses who know about Donald Trump's efforts to work with the Russians while he was a candidate. One of those is Felix Sater who is coming to our committee next week. So that is still, you know, our top priority.

But if the president and his team are able to bury the evidence successfully, you're not rewarded by a get-out-of-jail-free or a get-out-of-accountability-free card. Instead, you know, we also look at why you did that and hold you accountable through obstruction of justice or abuse of power, you know, accountability.

CORNISH: Finally, you mentioned Felix Sater. He's got credibility problems of his own. Michael Cohen of course has credibility problems. How are Americans supposed to weigh testimony delivered by essentially problematic witnesses? I mean, why should we believe what they have to say?

SWALWELL: Yeah, if you're writing a book about the Trump Organization businesses, campaign and administration, "Credibility Problems" would probably be the title. But what you try to do is corroborate what they tell you through third-party documents. And sometimes, you know, even people who have lied in the past - I saw as a prosecutor, if you start to, you know, piece this together with other, you know, jigsaw puzzle pieces, you can see that even a flawed witness can tell the truth if it can be corroborated. And what we heard from Michael Cohen over the last 16 hours actually aligns with other credible witnesses who have told us information about Donald Trump's conduct.

CORNISH: Congressman Eric Swalwell, a Democrat from California, thank you for speaking with us.

SWALWELL: My pleasure. Thank you, Audie. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tim Mak is NPR's Washington Investigative Correspondent, focused on political enterprise journalism.