An explosive report alleging that Donald Trump ordered his lawyer to lie to Congress about a Russia skyscraper project prompted opposition Democrats Friday to pledge an investigation into whether the US president had committed a felony.
Buzzfeed reported that Michael Cohen told investigators Trump personally instructed him to lie about the Moscow Trump Tower plan in testimony in 2017 to the House and Senate Intelligence Committees.
The White House sought to brush the report off by questioning Buzzfeed's credibility and accusing Cohen of serial lying -- while not directly addressing the allegations in the story.
"Lying to reduce his jail time!" Trump said of Cohen, who was convicted last year of fraud and perjury.
"This is just another in a long line of ridiculous charges without any corroboration or credibility whatsoever," White House deputy spokesman Hogan Gidley told Fox News.
"The premise is ridiculous. We are also talking about a person in Michael Cohen, who now quite frankly has been proven to be a liar," Gidley said.
Rudy Giuliani, one of Trump's lawyers dealing with Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into possible collusion with Russia by the Trump campaign, likewise suggested to several journalists that Cohen was lying.
"If you believe Cohen I can get you a great deal on the Brooklyn Bridge," Giuliani, the former New York mayor, is reported to have quipped.
No other media has confirmed Buzzfeed's allegations which, if true, constitute a felony crime -- suborning perjury -- and an impeachable offense. But Democrats took the report seriously.
"The allegation that the President of the United States may have suborned perjury before our committee in an effort to curtail the investigation and cover up his business dealings with Russia is among the most serious to date," said Adam Schiff, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.
"We will do what's necessary to find out if it's true."
"If this report of Trump suborning false testimony is confirmed, then Trump committed a felony and must resign or be impeached," tweeted Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley.
The Buzzfeed report was based on interviews with two anonymous "federal law enforcement officials" whom Buzzfeed said were involved in investigations relating to the matter.
The report came two months after Cohen pleaded guilty in a New York court to making "false, fictitious and fraudulent" written testimony to Congress in connection with the Moscow project.
A statement of the facts in his November 29 plea deal, in a case brought by Mueller, suggested that his written testimony to Congress in August 2017 had been prepared in consultation with unnamed people in the White House.
In the 2017 testimony Cohen falsely said the Moscow project talks ended in January 2016, when in fact they went on at least six months longer, to June 2016 when Trump had already secured the Republican nomination for president.
Cohen also claimed at the time that others in the campaign, including Trump, were not informed about the project.
But in the November plea deal Cohen admitted the deal had in fact been discussed with Trump -- designated "Individual 1" in court documents -- several times in early 2016.
"Cohen made the false statements to minimize links between the Moscow project and Individual 1... in hopes of limiting the ongoing Russia investigations," prosecutors wrote.
Trump's right-hand man
The Buzzfeed report raised the stakes for Trump in his battle against Cohen and added to the political turmoil in Washington, where the government has been partially closed for four weeks due to a faceoff between Democrats and the White House over the president's demand to fund a wall on the US-Mexico border.
Meanwhile Cohen continues to be a headache for the White House.
He was the president's personal lawyer and right-hand man for years at the Trump Organization, often relied upon to quietly fix difficult problems and negotiate deals for the real estate mogul.
But he has turned on his former boss after he was charged with giving hush money to women credibly claiming to have had affairs with Trump ahead of the 2016 election -- payments that violated campaign finance laws.
Cohen, who has been sentenced to three years in jail, said Trump ordered him to make the payments, and now says he regrets his work for the president.
"I truly regret my blind loyalty to a man who doesn't deserve it," Cohen said Thursday in response to another article on his work for Trump.