GOP Rep. Chris Stewart Shares Focus Of Michael Cohen's Closed-Door Testimony
MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
Now we go to Capitol Hill where for the third day in a row, the president's one-time fixer and lawyer Michael Cohen is testifying before Congress. Yesterday in an, at times, explosive hearing, Cohen talked about his view of the president's character, his own remorse about choices he made while working for Trump and details about events that have consumed the country since 2016, including whether Trump confidant Roger Stone told then candidate Trump about a coming release of hacked emails.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
MICHAEL COHEN: Mr. Stone told Mr. Trump that he had just gotten off the phone with Julian Assange and that Mr. Assange told Mr. Stone that within a couple of days, there would be a massive dump of emails that would damage Hillary Clinton's campaign.
KELLY: Chris Stewart is a Republican who represents the state of Utah. He sits on the House intelligence committee, and he has been sitting inside today's hearing with Michael Cohen. He joins me now from the often very echoey Statuary Hall in the Capitol. Congressman Stewart, welcome.
CHRIS STEWART: Thank you. Good to be with you.
KELLY: Good to have you with us. What have you learned in the last 24 hours that you did not know before?
STEWART: I think we've learned a little bit that's new. I don't think we've learned much that is dramatic. Not talking about my closed session but talking more generally and about other public information, I think we know now that there is no evidence of collusion and conspiracy between the president or his campaign and Russian officials. There's no evidence of obstruction of justice on his part. We know that the Steele dossier was a political hit piece that I don't think anyone gives any credibility to. And...
KELLY: Cohen testified yesterday along these lines, saying he has no direct evidence of collusion. But he has suspicions. And he didn't...
KELLY: ...Say he could rule it out.
STEWART: Well, you know, I have suspicions about a lot of things. But that doesn't make them true. And you ask - the next question is, well, what are those suspicions based upon? Is there actual evidence, or can you describe what it's based upon? And I think his description of that was very vague and fairly unconvincing.
KELLY: Well, let me drill down on something that's not vague. Cohen testified yesterday, so we're talking about public testimony - testified that he briefed members of the Trump family, Ivanka and Don Jr., about plans to build a Trump property in Moscow, that he briefed them about 10 times. Your committee has interviewed Don Jr. about this. Without getting into classified testimony, is that consistent with what Cohen told you...
STEWART: You know what...
KELLY: ...And with what Don Jr. has told you?
STEWART: Yeah. I mean, generally, I don't think that it's been - I don't think it's been a secret that they had these ongoing conversations about, potentially, building a Trump Tower in Moscow. I think that goes back many, many years.
KELLY: It's the questions about the timing of how long...
KELLY: ...Those discussions continued.
STEWART: Well, and once again, I don't think there's a lot of inconsistency or secrets about that. Now, I'd have to read the transcripts before me. And I don't have those, obviously, to compare dates, et cetera, et cetera. But, again, I don't know that anything Mr. Cohen said yesterday is contradictory to testimony that we had heard before.
KELLY: Just one last question, and it's this. As I watched the hearing unfold yesterday, which we keep referring to 'cause that was the one that we can - we all saw unfold in public, the Republican strategy appeared to be attacking Cohen as a liar and as not credible. And the challenge seems to be how you square that with the fact that Michael Cohen was among the president's closest confidants and giving him legal advice for a decade.
KELLY: Is there a risk? If you tarnish one man, do you not risk tarnishing the other?
STEWART: Well, I don't think there's much value in that line of questioning 'cause it's something we already know. And no one is surprised by it. I mean, that's been definitively answered. Yes, he's a liar. Yes, he was dishonest. Yes, he had engaged in criminal activity. But once again...
KELLY: And I guess that's why I was curious why that seemed to be the line of questioning from Republican after Republican yesterday.
STEWART: Yeah, and I - and you would have to ask them. But the format downstairs in our committee is very, very different. Again, it's not five minutes. And it's not in front of TV cameras. And that's the big difference. And so we have an hour each, and we - and then, again, another shared hour. We can really follow a line of questioning. It's a very different experience. And you can have - you can expose so much more information in our process than you can in these open hearings in front of cameras in five-minute blocks.
KELLY: Republican Congressman Chris Stewart. He sits on the House intelligence committee. We have been speaking to him from Statuary Hall at the Capitol. Congressman, thank you.
STEWART: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.