WASHINGTON — Maryland members of a House oversight committee called on the panel’s Republican chairman Wednesday to summon President Donald J. Trump’s former personal lawyer to testify, saying Michael Cohen’s interactions with Trump “warrant robust and credible oversight” by Congress.
“I have no doubt that you would convene immediate hearings on these matters if the occupant of the White House were a Democrat,” Rep. Elijah E. Cummings of Baltimore wrote to Trey Gowdy, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. “I ask you to apply the same standard here.”
Cummings is the committee’s ranking Democrat, and Gowdy and Trump are Republicans. Committee member John Sarbanes, a Baltimore County Democrat who represents portions of Baltimore City, also urged committee Republicans to endorse seeking information from Cohen. “Maybe things have crossed a threshold now where they realize there is no way to pretend they are doing their job if they don’t have hearings like that,” Sarbanes said in an interview. “Hopefully that will come about. I’m not going to hold my breath.”
The committee said Wednesday it has no plans to call Cohen.
“As Chairman Gowdy has said repeatedly, Congress does not investigate crime,” said Amanda Gonzalez Thompson, Gowdy’s committee spokesperson. “Michael Cohen should turn over any and all evidence to Special Counsel Mueller."
Cohen pleaded guilty Tuesday to eight counts, including campaign-finance violations and tax evasion. He said Trump directed him to buy the silence of porn star Stormy Daniels and former Playboy Playmate Karen McDougal during the 2016 presidential election campaign. Trump denies having had affairs with the women.
Robert Mueller was named by the Justice Department in 2017 to lead the investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 election and whether there was collusion between Russians and Trump associates.
Trump told Fox News on Wednesday that he did not know about the payments made by Cohen to the women until “later on” — and that the repayment came from him and not the presidential campaign.
Lanny Davis, Cohen’s lawyer, told CNN he thinks Cohen would be willing to appear before a congressional committee without seeking immunity.
Some Democratic members of Maryland’s congressional delegation characterized Cohen’s plea as a potential game changer.
Sen. Ben Cardin said the plea — and the conviction Tuesday of former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort on eight counts in a financial fraud trial— “should be sufficient cause for Congress to immediately pass legislation protecting the independence of the Mueller investigation.”
Trump has repeatedly called the Mueller investigation “a witch hunt.”
But Rep. Steny Hoyer of Southern Maryland, the No. 2 Democrat in the House, said the Cohen plea and Manafort conviction “demonstrate why the special counsel’s investigation must continue unimpeded.”
Cardin said he hoped the identification of Trump in the Cohen case “as an unindicted co-conspirator in a criminal scheme to hide information from voters during a presidential election will finally move the Republican leadership to allow Congress to carry out its constitutional role as a co-equal branch of government with oversight responsibility.”
All members of Maryland’s congressional delegation are Democrats except for GOP Rep. Andy Harris of Baltimore County. Julia Nista, the congressman’s press secretary, did not respond to a request for comment.