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Sen. Mark Warner Discusses Allegations Made In Michael Cohen's Guilty Plea

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Another member of Congress who was following the Manafort verdict and the Michael Cohen plea deal was Virginia Senator Mark Warner. He's the ranking member on the Senate Intelligence Committee. Senator Warner along with his Republican colleague Senator Richard Burr are charged with overseeing the Senate's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. I spoke with Senator Warner earlier today, and I asked him to respond to this clip - President Trump talking to Fox News about Michael Cohen's allegations that he directed Cohen to make payments to cover up affairs.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "FOX & FRIENDS")

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: They didn't come out of campaign. In fact, my first question when I heard about it was, did they come out of the campaign? Because that could be a little dicey. And they didn't come out of the campaign. And that's big. But they weren't - that's not a - it's not even a campaign violation.

CORNISH: That's the president's speaking in an interview with "Fox & Friends" host Ainsley Earhardt this afternoon, trying to make the distinction that it's somehow not a campaign violation. What's your response to this?

MARK WARNER: I mean, this president has so little regard for rule of law. I'm not surprised at his reaction. I mean, I remember the images of the president denying even any payments to Stormy Daniels, the adult film star. But the notion now that not only did he on tape lie to the American people, but the fact that Mr. Cohen - he's got other reinforcing judgments.

And that's what I think we'll have to see, whether there's other evidence validating that he was doing this at the direction of Mr. Trump. I've been around campaigns long enough to know that's a campaign violation of the law. It's not, again, where our investigation is focused. But what I was also very interested in hearing was that Mr. Cohen's lawyer has said that Mr. Cohen would have very interesting things to tell Robert Mueller.

CORNISH: Let me jump in for a second here.

WARNER: Sure.

CORNISH: The attorney for Michael Cohen says that Cohen is ready to testify before any congressional committee without being granted immunity. He's ready to talk. Are you going to be taking him up on that?

WARNER: We would like to. Matter of fact, yesterday the chairman and I - and I'm very proud of the fact that our Senate investigation committee is still bipartisan - we have questions about some of Mr. Cohen's testimony, about knowledge or non-knowledge of the now-infamous Trump Tower meeting with the Russian agents. We hope that his guilty plea would not preclude him from coming back before the committee. I do know that I also hope that he testifies before Mr. Mueller because I think that's where - again, Mueller has a lot more tools that they can bring to bear that we can't at the Senate investigating committee.

CORNISH: But is he even a credible witness to you? I mean, at this point, between the fraud charges and his shifting story, do you trust him to tell the truth?

WARNER: Clearly Mr. Cohen would have some credibility issues. But if you take the times that Mr. Cohen has maybe misrepresented the truth versus the times of Mr. Trump misrepresenting the truth, that's pretty much a jump ball. One of the things I would hope to see is beyond Mr. Cohen's testimony, what other evidence does the special prosecutor or others have? And frankly, a lot of the things that we've investigated, we've got open gaps that Cohen I think could fill in.

CORNISH: We're just less than three months from Election Day for the midterm elections. What's your response to Rudy Giuliani, the president's current attorney, insisting that Bob Mueller's investigation should wrap up by September - right? - essentially to avoid affecting the midterm elections?

WARNER: I mean, Mr. Giuliani, who depends on the day is saying truth isn't truth or, you know, you can't - some of the things that he's said have been stunning to say the least. I think that's wishful thinking. I think the one thing about the Mueller investigation - I don't know what status. I do know that they've been very professional. They've not been leaking. He's going to do his job in the appropriate way. I do hope, though, that if he is close, the more that can get out before Labor Day or mid-September, I think the better.

I do think there will be some period leading up to the election where I would hope that there wouldn't be activities. I do hope that if Mr. Mueller's team has got other indictments to come down, other charges to file, those that are ready that can be filed before Labor Day or mid-September - I sure hope he moves forward.

CORNISH: Virginia Senator Mark Warner is the ranking member on the Select Committee on Intelligence. Thank you so much for speaking with ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

WARNER: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.