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Calculus For Impeachment Hasn't Changed, Says Rep. Steve Cohen

Dec 8, 2018
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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

We wanted to talk more about all of this with Congressman Steve Cohen. He is a Democrat from Tennessee, and he sits on the House Judiciary Committee.

Congressman Cohen, thank you so much for speaking with us.

STEVE COHEN: Always good to be with NPR.

MARTIN: We'd like to talk more about this news from the federal prosecutors and the special counsel's office. The prosecutors in New York suggested that the president instructed his then-lawyer Michael Cohen to violate campaign finance laws. And we've heard that the president's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, allegedly lied about contacts he had with Russian officials. I just want to start by asking you what you make of all of that in the aggregate.

COHEN: Well, I think it shows that the president had quite a few people that he was dependent upon and hired to put in positions of responsibility who were not credible individuals and who were not honest and have lied over a period of their lives. They've been schemers, and that's the way they've - they operate. And I think the president chose them because they mirrored his operation.

MARTIN: Well, even though the president has not been named or charged, it does appear that the president has been accused by the Department of Justice of committing a serious crime. Now, Democrats will take control of the House next year. We're a long way from this possibility. So that's the conversation now - that if any impeachment proceedings were to be held, they'd start in the Judiciary Committee. You had introduced articles of impeachment last year. I have to ask - based on this, do you plan on doing that again?

COHEN: Well, not right now. Of course, we haven't - we've considered it, and we're keeping our articles. We introduced articles in November of 2017, and we got about 17 co-sponsors over a year and a half, and they're still alive in this Congress. It's difficult to get people right now to be on record for being a sponsor of an impeachment resolution.

MARTIN: Before we let you go, can I ask your reaction to the testimony you heard yesterday from former FBI Director James Comey who testified before your committee, was asked by the current majority to come back? And after some to to-ing and fro-ing, he did so. Did you learn anything from that?

COHEN: Only thing I really learned - I guess I learned that the Republicans are continuing to the last minute to work with Trump to try to deflect the interest and concern from Trump to Hillary Clinton, James Comey and Loretta Lynch. And that's what they tried to do in the hearings with their questions. It was all about the emails. It was all about Loretta Lynch.

And yet, the Democrats - we asked questions about the morale of the FBI and the Justice Department and the fact that it's affecting our national security and that people don't look at - to us with respect, that our FBI and Justice Department are being sullied. And people don't respect the rule of law as much. Really, the FBI's got a lot of good people, so does the Justice Department. And the people in the Mueller administration, even though Trump talks about them as if they're political, they are the top people in the country. They're honest. They're straight shooters. And, like Robert Mueller, they're going to do their job and dot their I's and cross their T's.

And there's been a whole bunch of indictments. I suspect there's going to be a great number more. And I expect the Trump family to be among the people who find themselves under indictment and then have to go to trial unless the president pardons them. And I don't put anything beyond this president - pardoning his sons, pardoning his daughter, pardoning his son-in-law, pardoning Manafort - you name it. He will use whatever tactics and powers that he has or can conjure up to protect himself to maintain power.

MARTIN: All right. We have to leave it there for now.

Congressman Steve Cohen, Democrat from Tennessee, thank you so much for talking with us.

COHEN: Bye-bye. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.