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Monday, March 4, 2019
Dems Unleash SPRAWLING Probe of Trump Family, Administration
OLIVIA BEAVERS AND MORGAN CHALFANT
Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee unleashed a sprawling probe of President Trump's family, campaign and administration on Monday that includes more than 80 requests for documents from associates of the president.
The investigation under Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.)will focus on three key areas: obstruction of justice, public corruption and abuses of power. Nadler rolled out the expansive investigation less than a week after the president’s former attorney Michael Cohen delivered explosive public testimony against him on Capitol Hill.
Democrats will be looking at those involved in the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting between Trump campaign officials and a Russian lawyer linked to the Kremlin; the Trump organization's plans to build a Trump property in Moscow; and a scheme to pay off two women who alleged they had affairs with Trump before the 2016 election.
In a statement, Nadler accused Trump of evading “accountability for his near-daily attacks on our basic legal, ethical, and constitutional rules and norms.”
“Investigating these threats to the rule of law is an obligation of Congress and a core function of the House Judiciary Committee,” Nadler said. “We have seen the damage done to our democratic institutions in the two years that the Congress refused to conduct responsible oversight. Congress must provide a check on abuses of power.”
The committee is demanding a trove of documents from the White House, including those related to the removal of former national security adviser Michael Flynn; the termination of former FBI Director James Comey; and any conversations about the removal of special counsel Robert Mueller.
The committee is also asking for documents from a slew of current and former White House and administration officials, including Flynn; Trump son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner; former White House chief of staff Reince Priebus; former White House communications director Hope Hicks; and former White House counsel Don McGahn.
Nadler first announced that the committee would be issuing the document requests on Sunday, telling George Stephanopoulos on ABC News’ “This Week” that it is “very clear that the president obstructed justice” by firing Comey.
The White House said Monday that it has received the request and would respond at the “appropriate time.” It is unclear whether the White House will assert executive privilege to skirt some of the requests.
“The House Judiciary Committee’s letter has been received by the White House. The Counsel’s Office and relevant White House officials will review it and respond at the appropriate time,” press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement.
The committee is also seeking documents from former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who worked for Trump’s campaign and later served in the administration. Sessions was fired by Trump, who never forgave the early support of his presidential campaign for recusing himself from the Russian investigation, the day after November’s midterm elections
They also want documents from Allen Weisselberg, the Trump Organization’s chief financial officer who emerged as a key person of interest during Cohen’s public testimony last week.
Cohen claimed before the Oversight and Reform Committee that Weisselberg would be able to support his claims that the president knew about the hush money payments made to women claiming they’d had affairs with Trump, among other business deals.
They are also requesting information from the parent company of The National Enquirer, American Media Inc. (AMI), which was granted an immunity deal from federal prosecutors in Manhattan who are actively investigating the hush-money payments in exchange for cooperation.
Several individuals who have been charged by or cooperated with Mueller are also receiving requests, including Flynn; former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort; longtime Trump ally Roger Stone; and former Trump campaign aide Rick Gates.
A committee counsel told reporters Monday that the immediate goal of the requests is to put together “a very large treasure trove of evidence” that can be combed through to help guide the investigation and determine future witnesses.
The committee is giving the recipients two weeks to respond voluntarily to the document requests, and plans to take steps to subpoena them if the individuals do not comply.
“These are documents we plan to get one way or another,” the committee counsel said.
The investigation reflects a burgeoning effort by Democrats to use their newfound majority in the House to launch aggressive probes into Trump and his administration. The leaders of the powerful Intelligence and Oversight Committees, Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), have also launched their own probes into the administration.
Trump has lambasted Mueller and Democrats over their respective investigations, claiming he is the target of partisan and improper probes. On Sunday, Trump accused House Democrats of “presidential harassment.”
“Presidential Harassment by ‘crazed’ Democrats at the highest level in the history of our Country,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “Likewise, the most vicious and corrupt Mainstream Media that any president has ever had to endure - Yet the most successful first two years for any … President. We are WINNING big, the envy of the WORLD, but just think what it could be?"
Later, he also suggested that Cohen’s explosive public testimony before Cummings’ committee last week contributed to the failure of his denuclearization talks with North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un.
Nadler’s committee has jurisdiction should Democrats decide to bring impeachment proceedings against Trump, though he said Sunday that the committee would conduct its investigation before starting any impeachment effort.
“We have to do the investigations and get all this. We do not now have the evidence all sorted out and everything to do — to do an impeachment. Before you impeach somebody, you have to persuade the American public that it ought to happen,” Nadler told ABC.
Nadler said Monday that prosecutors in Mueller’s office and the Southern District of New York are “aware” of the committee’s investigation, signaling he took steps to make sure the requests did not interfere with ongoing investigations linked to Trump.
“We have sent these document requests in order to begin building the public record. The Special Counsel's office and the Southern District of New York are aware that we are taking these steps,” Nadler said in a statement.
“We will act quickly to gather this information, assess the evidence, and follow the facts where they lead with full transparency with the American people,” Nadler added. “This is a critical time for our nation, and we have a responsibility to investigate these matters and hold hearings for the public to have all the facts. That is exactly what we intend to do."