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House panel opens sweeping probe of Trump, his associates

Democrats launched a sweeping new probe of U.S. President Donald Trump, an aggressive investigation that threatens to shadow the President through the 2020 election season with potentially damaging inquiries into his White House, campaign and family businesses.

The broad investigation could be setting the stage for an impeachment effort, although Democratic leaders have pledged to investigate all avenues and review special counsel Robert Mueller’s upcoming report before trying any drastic action.

Mr. Trump denounced the probe on Tuesday, tweeting that Jerry Nadler and other Democrats “have gone stone cold CRAZY. 81 letter sent to innocent people to harass them. They won’t get ANYTHING done for our Country!”

Mr. Nadler said the document requests, with responses to most due by March 18, are a way to “begin building the public record.”

“Over the last several years, President Trump has evaded accountability for his near-daily attacks on our basic legal, ethical, and constitutional rules and norms,” said Mr. Nadler, D-N.Y. “Investigating these threats to the rule of law is an obligation of Congress and a core function of the House Judiciary Committee.”

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders called the House probe “a disgraceful and abusive investigation into tired, false allegations.”

In a statement on Monday night, Sanders said: “Chairman Nadler and his fellow Democrats have embarked on this fishing expedition because they are terrified that their two-year false narrative of ‘Russia collusion’ is crumbling. Their intimidation and abuse of American citizens is shameful.”

Probes on Trump-Putin ties

Separate congressional probes are already swirling around the President, including an effort announced on Monday by three other House Democratic chairmen to obtain information about private conversations between him and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In a letter to the White House and State Department, the House intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight and Reform panels sent broad requests for details about Mr. Trump and Mr. Putin’s private meetings by phone and in person. In addition to document requests, the committees are asking to interview interpreters who sat in on meetings, including a one-on-one session in Helsinki last summer.

The State Department pledged to “work cooperatively with the committees.”

The new probes signal that now that Democrats hold a majority in the House, Mr. Trump’s legal and political peril is nowhere near over, even as the special counsel’s Russia investigation winds down.

They are also an indication of the Democrats’ current strategy to flood the administration with oversight requests, keeping Mr. Trump and his associates on trial publicly while also playing a long game when it comes to possible impeachment. While some more liberal members of the Democratic caucus would like to see Mr. Trump impeached now, Democratic leaders have been more cautious.

Mr. Trump told reporters after Mr. Nadler’s probe was announced that “I cooperate all the time with everybody.”

Mr. Mueller is investigating Russian intervention in the 2016 election and whether Mr. Trump’s campaign conspired with Russia. But the House probes go far beyond collusion. The House intelligence panel has announced a separate probe not only into the Russian interference but also Mr. Trump’s foreign financial interests. The Oversight and Reform Committee has launched multiple investigations into all facets of the administration.

81 names

The 81 names and entities on the Judiciary Committee’s list touch all parts of Mr. Trump’s life the White House, his businesses, his campaign and the committee that oversaw the transition from campaign to presidency. There are also people connected to Russian interference in the 2016 campaign, including participants in a meeting at Trump Tower with a Russian lawyer before the election.

The committee is also asking the FBI, the Justice Department and others for documents related to possible pardons for Mr. Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, former national security adviser Michael Flynn and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. All three have been charged in special counsel Mr. Mueller’s investigation.

In a request sent to the White House, the committee asks for information surrounding former FBI Director James Comey’s termination, communications with Justice Department officials, the Trump Tower meeting and multiple other matters.

The panel’s list includes two of the president’s sons, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump, and many of his current and former close advisers, including Steve Bannon, longtime spokesperson Hope Hicks, former Press Secretary Sean Spicer and former White House Counsel Don McGahn.

The letters to Ms. Hicks and Mr. Spicer ask them to turn over any work diaries, journals or “a description of daily events related to your employment” by Trump. The committee asked Mr. McGahn for documents related to any discussion involving Mr. Trump regarding the possibility of firing Mr. Mueller around June of 2017 “or any conversation in which President Trump stated, in words or substance, that he wanted the Mueller investigation shut down, restrained or otherwise limited in or around December 2017.”

The committee seeks from Mr. Cohen, Mr. Trump’s former personal lawyer who called Mr. Trump a “con man” and a “cheat” in congressional testimony last week, “any audio or video recordings” of conversations with Mr. Trump or conversations about his presidential campaign.

The list of document requests also includes the National Rifle Association and Mr. Trump’s embattled charitable foundation, which he is shutting down after agreeing to a court-supervised process.

Mr. Nadler said in most of the letters that he was limiting the requests to documents that had already been provided to other investigators, an attempt to receive as much as possible in the two-week timeline. The committee said there might be additional requests.

The panel expects some people to produce right away, and others may eventually face subpoenas, according to a person familiar with the investigation. The person declined to be named to discuss the committee’s internal process.

The top Republican on the committee, Georgia Rep. Doug Collins, said Mr. Nadler was “recklessly prejudging the President for obstruction” and pursuing evidence to back up his conclusion.

Source: thehindu.com

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