With Sweeping Document Request, Democrats Launch Broad Trump Corruption Inquiry

WASHINGTON — The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee delivered a flurry of calls for for paperwork from the chief department and the broader Trump world on Monday that detailed the breadth and ambition of a brand new investigation into doable obstruction of justice, corruption and abuse of energy by President Trump and his administration.

In the 2 months since they took management of the House, Democrats on a number of committees have begun scrutinizing members of the president’s cupboard, his companies, his marketing campaign and his inaugural committee, in addition to his ties to key international powers, together with Russia, which tried to disrupt the 2016 presidential election. They have additionally laid the groundwork to attempt to get hold of Mr. Trump’s tax returns.

But the latest requests from Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York, the Judiciary Committee chairman, opened maybe essentially the most perilous entrance up to now for Mr. Trump — an inquiry that takes purpose on the coronary heart of his norm-bending presidency and will conceivably type the premise of a future impeachment continuing.

Mr. Nadler was express on Monday in saying that the House was not content material to await the findings of the particular counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, and would delve into most of the similar points, however with a unique customary of proof not wedded to a prison indictment.

“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,” Mr. Nadler mentioned in an announcement. “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.”

Unlike Mr. Mueller, although, who has entry to a grand jury to compel proof, the Judiciary Committee might face important hurdles to acquiring among the materials it seeks. Aides to the committee mentioned that that they had deliberately restricted their preliminary requests to materials already offered to different congressional committees or federal investigators to make sure substantial compliance.

But witnesses might nonetheless select to slow-walk manufacturing or defy subpoenas. Mr. Trump might select to go additional and assert govt privilege over sure supplies, as properly.

The letters from Mr. Nadler, dated March 4, went to 81 agencies, individuals and other entities tied to the president. They included the Trump Organization, the Trump campaign, the Trump Foundation, the presidential inaugural committee and the White House. The Justice Department and the F.B.I., which have collected substantial evidence on Mr. Trump’s behind-the-scenes interactions with federal investigators, were also recipients.

Letters also went out to dozens of the president’s closest family members and aides who counseled him as he sought to suppress the story of a pornographic film actress, Stormy Daniels, whose claim of an affair threatened his presidential campaign, and later as he began attacks against federal investigations into him and his associates, the news media and the federal judiciary.

As a part of the inquiry, the committee will also investigate accusations of corruption, including possible violations of campaign finance law, the Constitution’s ban on foreign emoluments and the use of office for personal gain.

Mr. Nadler did not mention the word impeachment in any of Monday’s documents, but its specter hangs heavily over Democratic leaders as they wade deeper into the president’s circles.

The House Judiciary Committee is where impeachment proceedings begin. In an interview last week with The New York Times, Mr. Nadler said that he believed Mr. Trump had committed crimes while in office and had threatened basic constitutional norms. But he said he did not yet have the evidence to make the kind of overwhelming, bipartisan case against the president he believes he needs before pursuing a step as disruptive as impeachment.

Monday’s requests could build that case. Twice in the past half-century, the committee has drawn up impeachment articles based, in part, on the same themes that Mr. Nadler laid out: obstruction of justice and abuse of power. There is already evidence in the public of the kind of actions the committee believes could cross those lines, and Mr. Mueller’s investigation could provide more, even if it does not ultimately recommend charging the president.

The politics of impeachment are more charged. The president and the White House have repeatedly rejected accusations of wrongdoing, arguing that Mr. Trump is innocent of many accusations and has broad powers in his office to run the government as he chooses. And there have been few cracks among Republican lawmakers, the president’s congressional firewall.

In a statement on Monday evening, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, assailed the inquiry as “disgraceful and abusive,” and called it a “fishing expedition.”

“The Democrats are not after the truth,” she said. “They are after the president.”

Republicans in Congress assert that Democrats have already decided to target Mr. Trump for impeachment, saying repeatedly in recent weeks that despite public statements to the contrary, the new majority is determined to kick Mr. Trump out of office.

“We don’t even know what the Mueller report says, but Democrats are already hedging their bets,” said Representative Doug Collins of Georgia, the Judiciary Committee’s top Republican. “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.’”

Democrats also widened another front on Monday, as the chairmen of the Foreign Affairs, Intelligence and Oversight committees wrote to the White House and State Department to request detailed documentation related to Mr. Trump’s communications with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and to reported efforts to conceal aspects of those communications.

Committees in both the House and Senate have nibbled around the edges of several of the episodes raised by Mr. Nadler. But his investigation suggests a more coherent, deep investigation that could seek to tie together the scheme to pay off Ms. Daniels; the firing of James B. Comey as F.B.I. director; Mr. Trump’s attempts to remove the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III; the president’s apparent dangling of pardons and threatening of witnesses to the investigation; and other events.

From Donald F. McGahn II, the former White House counsel, alone, Mr. Nadler requested all documents related to the resignation of Michael T. Flynn as national security adviser; interactions with and the firing of Mr. Comey; attempts to fire Mr. Mueller; communications with Mr. Trump about Jeff Sessions, the president’s first attorney general; and about open investigations into his presidency, among more than a dozen other topics.

Mr. Nadler requested documents from Annie Donaldson, Mr. McGahn’s deputy who took exhaustive notes detailing Mr. Trump’s behavior in the West Wing in real time.

Other targets include David J. Pecker, the chairman of American Media Inc., which publishes The National Enquirer and played a key role in suppressing Ms. Daniels’s story; Allen Weisselberg, the chief financial officer of the Trump Organization; Alan Garten, its lawyer; Mr. Sessions; and Thomas J. Barrack Jr., a close associate of Mr. Trump’s who led his inaugural committee.

Michael D. Cohen, the president’s former lawyer and longtime fixer, who testified publicly last week before another House committee about the illegal hush money scheme, was sent three pages of requests, including any relevant “audio or video recordings.”

Source link Nytimes.com

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