Sunday 20 October 2019

Congressional panel launches sweeping probe into Trump

The House Judiciary Committee is sending document requests to 81 people linked to the president and his associates.

Donald Trump (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
Donald Trump (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

By Associated Press Reporters

A US congressional committee has launched a sweeping new investigation into President Donald Trump, his White House, his campaign and his businesses.

The House Judiciary Committee is sending document requests to 81 people linked to the president and his associates.

Committee chairman Jerrold Nadler said the investigation will be focused on obstruction of justice, corruption and abuse of power.

The aggressive, broad investigation could set the stage for impeachment, although Democratic leaders have pledged to investigate all avenues and review special counsel Robert Mueller’s report before taking drastic action.

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 Jerrold Nadler

Mr Trump denounced the probe on Tuesday, tweeting that Mr 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” and that the committee has the responsibility to investigate and hold public hearings.

“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,” Mr Nadler said in announcing the beginning of the probe.

“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, she 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.”

Now that Democrats hold a majority in the House, the new probe is a sign that Mr Trump’s legal and political peril is nowhere near over, even as Mr Mueller’s Russia investigation winds down.

The move all but guarantees that potentially damaging allegations will shadow the president for months to come as Democrats try to keep them in the public eye.

Mr Nadler’s announcement comes after the House intelligence panel announced a separate probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election and Mr Trump’s foreign financial interests.

The House Oversight and Reform Committee has launched multiple investigations.

Several other committees are probing related matters as well, and while many might overlap, the committee chairmen and chairwomen say they are working together on the investigations.

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Jerrold Nadler (Andrew Harnik/AP)

The list of 81 names touches on all parts of Mr Trump’s life — his businesses, his campaign, the committee that oversaw the transition from campaign to the White House and the White House itself.

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.

In a letter 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 list includes two of the president’s children, Donald Trump Jr and Eric Trump, and many of his current and former close advisers, including Steve Bannon.

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Donald Trump Jr (Sue Ogrocki/AP)

It also includes his embattled charitable foundation, which he is shutting down after agreeing to a court-supervised process, and officials at the FBI and Justice Department.

The committee expects some people to produce right away, and others may eventually face subpoenas, an official said. It is unclear how many will eventually be called in for interviews.

The announcement of the new investigation follows a bad political week for the president. He emerged empty-handed from a high-profile summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on denuclearisation, and Mr Trump’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen, in three days of congressional evidence, publicly characterised the president as a “conman” and “cheat”.

Mr Nadler previewed the announcement on ABC’s This Week on Sunday, saying it was “very clear” that Mr Trump had obstructed justice.

He said House Democrats, now in the majority, are doing “our job to protect the rule of law” after Republicans during the first two years of Mr Trump’s term were “shielding the president from any proper accountability”.

“We’re far from making decisions” about impeachment, he added.

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