Burr backs away from public hearing for Trump attorney Michael Cohen

Trump attorney tries to silence alleged affair
Trump attorney tries to silence alleged affair

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(CNN)Senate Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr appears to be backing away from plans to bring Trump attorney Michael Cohen in for a public hearing before his panel, breaking from the committee's top Democrat, who has called for the high-profile witness to be questioned in an open session.

Burr told CNN Wednesday that he sees little reason to bring Cohen into an open hearing after the attorney met with Senate Intelligence Committee staff for a private interview last fall.
"We've had him in for a full interview -- and I don't think we have any outstanding issues with him," the North Carolina Republican said.
Asked if there was any reason to bring him back for a public hearing, Burr said: "I don't think so."
    In September, the committee abruptly postponed Cohen's closed-door interview with staff and demanded he return the following month for a public hearing, angry that he released his opening statement to the media. But a month later, the committee changed course and conducted the staff interview with Cohen. Burr and Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, the committee's ranking Democrat, said in a joint statement that Cohen's public hearing had been postponed and would be "rescheduled at a later date."
    On Wednesday, Warner reiterated his call for Cohen to return to the panel. "I've got lots of questions for Mr. Cohen," Warner told CNN. "The chairman and I will talk about it."
    As President Donald Trump's personal lawyer, Cohen has long had a hand in Trump's business dealings, including reaching out to the Russian government about a potential Trump Tower in Moscow while Trump's campaign was underway, although the project was not ultimately pursued. The opposition research dossier on Trump and Russia alleged that Cohen had traveled to Prague to collude with Moscow, although Cohen has denied being in Prague ahead of the election.
    And Cohen has come under growing scrutiny after his name resurfaced this year following his admission that he made a $130,000 payment weeks before the 2016 election to Stormy Daniels, the porn star who allegedly had a sexual encounter with Trump in 2006.
    On Capitol Hill, the break between Burr and Warner over Cohen is a rare public sign of disagreement between the two men, who have tried to show unity amid the Russia investigation. Warner has called for Trump associates who have met with staff investigators privately -- including son-in-law Jared Kushner and son Donald Trump Jr. -- to testify in an open setting where they would be questioned by senators. But Burr has yet to commit to bringing them back.
    Warner told CNN Wednesday that he was "still operating on that premise" that a public hearing with Cohen was postponed and not canceled, though he said he had to discuss the matter further with Burr.
    "We've not specifically discussed timing on when and who we're bringing back," Warner said.