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Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi On Cohen Testimony


Michael Cohen sang to Congress this week in public testimony to the House Oversight Committee and then a private session before the House Intelligence Committee. Raja Krishnamoorthi is congressman from Illinois's 8th District. He sits on both committees and joins us today from the great 8th. Thanks very much for being with us, congressman.

RAJA KRISHNAMOORTHI: Hey, hey, Scott. Good morning.

SIMON: You spent a lot of time with Michael Cohen this week. And you asked the question that got him to say he was aware of other illegal activity, in addition to hush money to mistresses and using charity to pay for his own portrait - other illegal activity that was being looked at by the Southern District of New York. Did you ask him about that in private hearing? Did he spill the beans on that?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Well, thanks, Scott. We - I can't get into the details of that testimony in the private hearing. But what I can say is he will likely be examined on that in the private setting. He had so much to say on so many questions that, quite frankly, we asked him to voluntarily come in next week. And he agreed so that he could continue with his really fascinating testimony. And with regard to that misconduct, I would just point to one previous question that I asked in the hearing. I asked about his conversation with the president - his last conversation with the president or his advisers. And apparently, it happened two months after the raid. And he wouldn't get into it because he said that, too, is under investigation by the Southern District of New York.

SIMON: President Trump supporters say that Michael Cohen's a liar. And who could believe him? But they did urge people to believe two things - one, that he testified Donald Trump didn't tell him directly to lie to Congress. And two, he said he saw no evidence of collusion with Russia. Are those two points in the president's favor?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Well, I think that when he said he did not see direct evidence of collusion, I think that there's definitely some kind of confusion on that. Because at the same time he said that, he also talked about overhearing a conversation on the speaker phone in President Trump's office at the Trump Organization where the president and Roger Stone talked about an upcoming dump of emails attacking Hillary Clinton by WikiLeaks. And, again, that was something that was new news. And it had been previously denied - these types of conversations - by both President Trump and Mr. Stone. And so that could be some evidence of, you know, a conspiracy or collusion. And therefore, we have to continue to investigate.

SIMON: You've been raising questions about Jared Kushner's security clearance for a couple of years. Should he have one?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: No. He should not - well, he should not have top-secret security clearance. You know, there are at least three problems - one is that he had numerous errors and omissions on his initial security clearance form where he did not report foreign contacts. Two, he has tremendous financial vulnerabilities, including this property called 666 Fifth Avenue in New York City where he's tremendously indebted. And he's seeking investment from all over the world to shore it up. And then three, it appears that the president concealed the fact that he had actually ordered John Kelly and Don McGahn to give Jared Kushner a top-secret clearance. And law enforcement officials didn't want him to have it. And so these factors all point to him not having it or not - he should not have it, I should say.

SIMON: Quick last question. Do people in Schaumburg, Ill. - in your district - care about whether Donald Trump lied about paying hush money to an actress or the job he's doing as president?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: I think they really care about making sure that we get to the bottom of what happened in 2016. At the same time, they also care about us delivering on their pocketbook priorities. And so as Chairman Cummings pointed out in the Oversight hearing, this hearing with Michael Cohen was not the first hearing of the 116th Congress in Oversight. The first hearing was about trying to tackle the problem of rising prescription drug prices. And so we got to walk and chew gum at the same time, Scott.

SIMON: Democratic Representative Raja Krishnamoorthi - Illinois 8th district - thanks very much for being with us.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Thank you, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.