The Senate Intelligence Committee has referred perjury cases to Special Counsel Robert Mueller, Chairman Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) said Friday. Mueller is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election and Burr’s committee has done its own investigation into the same matter. Burr disclosed that after witnesses were questioned in the Intelligence Committee’s Russia probe several were suspected of lying.
“We have made referrals from our committee to the special counsel for prosecution,” Burr said at a national security conference in Austin, Texas. “In a lot of those cases, those might be tied to lying to us.”
The confirmation by Burr came one day after Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to lying to Congress as part of Mueller’s investigation.
“I don’t want you to get us mixed up with Bob Mueller’s special prosecutor investigation. We have no criminal responsibilities. If we identify a crime in our investigation that has been committed, we refer it to the special prosecutor,” Burr said. “I won’t tell you the number of times, but we have made referrals to the special prosecutor.”
According to public documents, the Senate Intelligence Committee interviewed over 200 witnesses as part of its investigation into Russian election interference and possible connections to the Trump campaign. Michael Cohen was one of the committee’s witnesses, and Burr mentioned Cohen as one of the people referred by the committee to the special counsel.
“One of them, one instance just highlighted of late was the special prosecutor made the indictment yesterday using the transcripts of interviews we have done in our committee to indict somebody for lying to Congress,” Burr said.
Burr said that Cohen’s guilty plea should be viewed by others as a clear warning not to lie to Congress, saying:
“It’s a loud message to everybody that is interviewed by our committee, regardless of where that prosecution comes from: If you lie to us, we’re going to go after you. Our mandate is at the end of this to get as close to the clear truth as we possibly can, and we can’t do it on conjecture. We’ve got to do it on facts.”
In his plea deal, Cohen admitted that he lied about negotiations he had about building a Trump Tower in Moscow. Those discussions with the Kremlin about the Moscow real estate project continued through June of 2016. At the time Cohen was representing Trump in his business dealings.
The top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, said Thursday that they have made several criminal referrals to Mueller. But he also refused to give more information, saying “we’re not going to talk about any individuals.”
Some of the Trump associates and family members who appeared before the Senate Intelligence Committee were: Paul Manafort, Roger Stone, Jared Kushner, and Donald Trump Jr. All of these individuals were “in the know” about Trump campaign involvement with Russia, and all of them had many good reasons to lie to Senate investigators.
Richard Burr is a rare Republican, because he has operated independently of Donald Trump, and has used his committee chairmanship to hold Trump and his associates accountable. His actions of referring individuals to Robert Mueller show that congressional committees have a lot of power and should be respected.
This is a good lesson for many people to keep in mind who might be called before House committees to testify after Democrats take control in January.