AUSTIN, Texas — The chairman of the Senate committee that President Donald Trump's former lawyer admitted lying to said Friday that Michael Cohen's guilty plea sends a message that "if you lie to us, we're going to catch you."
Republican Sen. Richard Burr issued the warning a day after Cohen confessed that he lied to Congress about a Russian real estate deal he pursued on Trump's behalf during the heat of the 2016 Republican campaign.
Cohen testified in 2017 to the Senate intelligence committee about a plan to build a Trump tower in Moscow. Burr, who heads the committee, wouldn't reveal Friday how many referrals his intelligence panel has made to special counsel Robert Mueller.
"But we're certainly not scared to refer something that we believe is criminal, and lying to Congress is right at the top of it," Burr said.
He was speaking at a national security forum at the University of Texas at Austin. He was joined by Republican Sen. John Cornyn and Democratic Sen. Mark Warner, who are also on the Senate intelligence committee. Burr said the committee has conducted more than 200 interviews while investigating Russian election interference.
"I won't get into the numbers, but we have made referrals from our committee to the special prosecutor for prosecution. In a lot of cases, those might be tied to lying to us. My message yesterday was if you lie to us, we're going to catch you and we're going to prosecute you. Period, end of sentence."
Cohen is the first person charged by Mueller with lying to Congress, an indication the special counsel is prepared to treat that offense as seriously as lying to federal agents and a warning shot to dozens of others who have appeared before lawmakers.
Cohen told two congressional committees last year that the talks about the tower project ended in January 2016, a lie he said was an act of loyalty to Trump. In fact, the negotiations continued until June 2016, Cohen acknowledged.
Warner, the Senate committee's vice chairman, also declined to elaborate on referrals to prosecutors or who else he believes might have lied to Congress.
"I'm not going to comment about specific individuals at this point. But we do see this pattern of close allies of the president being convicted of not telling the truth about their contacts with Russia. And that pattern seems to be growing."