Democrats hit 81 Trump allies with demands for documents
The screw has been further tightened on US President Donald Trump with House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler extending the terms of its investigation.
It has made sweeping new demands for information from scores of people on topics including the administration's activities, the president's business and his potential ties to Russia.
Mr Nadler's probe includes allegations of obstruction of justice, public corruption and other abuses of power and touches on many of the controversies that have dogged Mr Trump since the 2016 presidential campaign.
It is now understood Democrats will employ a strategy of prolonged congressional committee hearings and investigations to oust Mr Trump, instead of going all out for impeachment.
Fearing such proceedings might encourage sympathy for the president as an embattled underdog, the opposition's approach to removing a man they consider unfit for office would see him essentially put on trial before the public as a succession of witnesses and documents are summoned and his finances and actions picked apart for evidence of wrongdoing. The panel asked for documents from 81 individuals, agencies and entities, including the president's son Donald Trump Jr, Trump Organisation chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg, and the publisher of the 'National Enquirer', David Pecker, who is accused of killing unflattering news stories about Mr Trump during his candidacy.
"President Trump and his administration face wide-ranging allegations of misconduct that strike at the heart of our constitutional order," Mr Nadler wrote in letters asking for documents.
Mr Nadler, who asked for information to be provided by March 18, follows other committee chairmen who have made extensive document requests since Democrats took control of the chamber in January. If responses aren't provided, the panel plans to hold votes authorising subpoenas, a committee counsel said. This is only the first round of document requests, the counsel said.
"It's all a hoax," Mr Trump told reporters at the White House. Asked about the document demands, he said, "I co-operate all the time."
In a statement, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Mr Nadler had "opened up a disgraceful and abusive investigation into tired, false allegations already investigated by the special counsel and committees in both chambers of Congress. 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."
The move is already fuelling Republican charges that Mr Nadler's probe is a thin disguise for a predetermined outcome: impeachment. Any impeachment proceeding would be run by Mr Nadler's committee.
"After recklessly prejudging the president for obstruction, Chairman Nadler is pursuing evidence to back up his conclusion because, as he admits, 'We don't have the facts yet,'" Doug Collins of Georgia, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, said in a statement.
The White House was among the recipients of numerous document requests, including for Mr Trump's communications over his dismissal of former FBI director James Comey, possible pardons for several former Trump associates and any loans by Russians to the Trump Organisation or several family members. It also asks for documents on discussions about US sanctions against Russia involving Mr Trump, his campaign, business and associates.
Other topics raised for the White House include the meeting with Russians at Trump Tower in 2016 and changes in that year's Republican Party platform concerning Russia and Ukraine.
Mr Nadler also sought documents on any attempts to give or receive information to "foreign entities" or individuals in connection with the 2016 campaign. Mr Trump has been lashing out over Democrats' probes. "Presidential Harassment by 'crazed' Democrats at the highest level in the history of our Country," he wrote on Sunday on Twitter.
Mr Nadler (71) made clear he's prepared to proceed with his probe in ways that go beyond Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into possible Russian election collusion with Mr Trump's 2016 presidential team.