Trump 'clearly obstructed US justice', claims judiciary head
It's "very clear" US President Donald Trump obstructed justice, the chairman of the House committee that would be in charge of impeachment said yesterday.
Jerrold Nadler said the House Judiciary Committee is requesting documents from more than 60 people from Mr Trump's administration, family and business as part of the rapidly expanding Russia investigation.
Mr Nadler said the committee wants to review documents from the Justice Department, the president's son Donald Trump Jr and Trump Organisation chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg. Former White House chief of staff John Kelly and former White House counsel Don McGahn also are likely targets, he said.
"We are going to initiate investigations into abuses of power, into corruption and into obstruction of justice," Mr Nadler said. "We will do everything we can to get that evidence." Asked if he believed Mr Trump obstructed justice, Mr Nadler said: "Yes, I do."
Mr Nadler isn't calling the inquiry an impeachment investigation but said House Democrats, now in the majority, are simply 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 said.
In a tweet, Mr Trump blasted anew the Russia investigation, calling it a partisan probe unfairly aimed at discrediting his win in the 2016 presidential election. "I am an innocent man being persecuted by some very bad, conflicted & corrupt people in a witch hunt that is illegal & should never have been allowed to start - And only because I won the election!" he wrote.
Mr Nadler's comments follow a bad political week for Mr Trump. He emerged empty-handed from a high-profile summit with North Korea leader Kim Jong-un on denuclearisation and Mr Trump's former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, in three days of congressional testimony, publicly characterised the president as a "con man" and "cheat".
Newly empowered House Democrats are flexing their strength with blossoming investigations. A half-dozen House committees are now probing alleged co-ordination between Trump associates and Russia's efforts to sway the 2016 election, Mr Trump's tax returns and possible conflicts of interest involving the Trump family business and policy-making.
The House oversight committee, for instance, has set a Monday deadline for the White House to turn over documents related to security clearances after 'The New York Times' reported that the president ordered officials to grant his son-in-law Jared Kushner's clearance over the objections of national security officials.
Mr Nadler's added lines of inquiry also come as special counsel Robert Mueller is believed to be wrapping up his work into possible questions of Trump campaign collusion and obstruction in Russia's interference in the 2016 presidential election. In his testimony, Mr Cohen acknowledged he did not witness or know directly of collusion between Trump aides and Russia but had "suspicions".
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy accused House Democrats of prejudging Mr Trump based purely on partisan politics.
"I think Congressman Nadler decided to impeach the president the day the president won the election," Mr McCarthy said. "Listen to exactly what he said. He talks about impeachment before he even became chairman and then he says, 'you've got to persuade people to get there'. There's nothing that the president did wrong.-
"Show me where the president did anything to be impeached... Nadler is setting the framework now that the Democrats are not to believe the Mueller report," he said.
Mr Nadler said his committee will seek to review the Mueller report but stressed the investigation "goes far beyond collusion".
He pointed to what he considered several instances of obstruction of justice by the president, including the "1,100 times he referred to the Mueller investigation as a 'witch hunt'" as well as Mr Trump's abrupt firing of FBI director James Comey in 2017. According to Mr Comey, Mr Trump had encouraged the then-FBI director to drop an investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn. Mr Trump has denied he told Mr Comey to end the Flynn probe.
"It's very clear that the president obstructed justice," Mr Nadler said.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has kept calls for impeachment at bay by insisting that Mr Mueller first must be allowed to finish his work, and present his findings publicly.