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House Democrats launch sweeping probe of President Trump

Rep. Jerrold Nadler, chairman of the House Judiciary

Rep. Jerrold Nadler, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, speaks to House Democrats during an event at the Capitol on Jan. 4, 2019. Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite

WASHINGTON — House Democrats intensified their efforts to investigate President Donald Trump on Monday, firing off a series of records requests that seek information about Trump’s business dealings, his campaign operation and his one-on-one discussions with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The House Judiciary Committee demanded a wide-range of documents from 81 individuals and government entities tied to Trump — including his eldest children, former campaign advisers and former White House employees — as part of a sweeping probe into the “alleged obstruction of justice, public corruption, and other abuses of power by President Trump,” said Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), the committee’s chairman, in a statement.

Asked if he would cooperate with the committee’s request, Trump told reporters at the White House on Monday, “I cooperate all the time with everybody,” before knocking the ongoing investigations swirling  around his presidency as a “political hoax.”

Three other House committees — Foreign Affairs, Intelligence and Oversight — also issued a joint request to the White House and State Department seeking documents “related to communications between” Trump and Putin. The request also seeks interviews with Trump administration officials familiar with the president’s private talks with Putin and alleged efforts to conceal records of those discussions.

The House investigations could lay the groundwork for impeachment proceedings, though House Democratic leaders have been careful to cast such assertions as premature.

Nadler, whose committee is granted jurisdiction over impeachment hearings, told ABC’s “This Week” the prospect of impeachment was “a long way down the road,” even though he believed “it’s very clear that the president obstructed justice,” citing Trump’s actions related to the Justice Department’s Russia probe, such as the firing of former FBI Director James Comey.

“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,” Nadler said in a statement Monday. “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.”

The committee's record request stretches across Trump’s political and personal life — seeking documents from his eldest sons Donald Jr. and Eric, who took the helm of the Trump Organization when their father was elected; son-in-law Jared Kushner, who serves as White House adviser, and Allen Weisselberg, the longtime Trump Organization chief financial officer. In a separate letter to the White House, records related to Trump's daughter Ivanka and Kushner's business dealings were also requested. 

Former campaign aides-turned-White House advisers Michael Flynn, Hope Hicks and Steve Bannon also received letters, as did Thomas Barrack, the chairman of Trump’s inauguration committee.

The records request seeks to gather information about a number of subjects, including the hush money payments allegedly paid by Trump through an intermediary to two alleged paramours in the weeks leading up to the 2016 election, details about Trump’s firing of Comey, and information about a June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower between Trump campaign associates and a Kremlin-linked attorney offering “dirt” on Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

The multiple requests come amid reports that special counsel Robert Mueller is winding down his more than two-year investigation into Russia’s election interference in the 2016 presidential race and possible obstruction of justice by Trump related to the Russia probe. Nadler said the committee’s work was “even more urgent” amid speculation that Mueller’s final report may not be disclosed publicly, saying the panel would “begin building the public record” about Trump’s alleged misdeeds.

Nadler said Mueller’s office, and the Manhattan-based Southern District of New York which has its own set of probes into Trump’s business dealings, “are aware that we are taking these steps.”

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the president’s legal team “and relevant White House officials will review it and respond at the appropriate time.”

On Monday night Sanders issued a follow-up statement accusing Nadler and Democrats of embarking “on this fishing expedition because they are terrified that their two-year false narrative of ‘Russia collusion’ is crumbling.” 

“The Democrats are not after the truth, they are after the President,” Sanders said.

The House Judiciary Committee gave most recipients of its records request until March 18 to comply. Committee aides, in a conference call with reporters, noted that most of the documents requested have already been provided to Mueller and other federal investigators. The panel has threatened to issue subpoenas if the individuals and entities do not produce the records.

The heads of the House Foreign Affairs, Intelligence and Oversight committees, in a letter to White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, cited the need to investigate Trump’s communications with Putin following media reports that have indicated Trump “appears to have taken steps to conceal the details of his communications” with Putin, including reportedly seizing notes from one meeting and directing “at least one American interpreter not to discuss the substance of communications with President Putin with other federal officials.”

“These allegations, if true, raise profound national security, counterintelligence, and foreign policy concerns, especially in light of Russia’s ongoing active measures campaign to improperly influence American elections,” Reps. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), and Elijah Cummings (D-Maryland) wrote in their letter.

The State Department said in a statement to reporters that it would “work cooperatively with the committees.”

Republican Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia, the ranking member of the House Judiciary panel, denounced the series of probes, saying in a statement: “We don’t even know what the Mueller report says, but Democrats are already hedging their bets."

Citing Nadler's previous remarks in a TV interview, Collins said: "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.’”

The House Judiciary Committee sent letters demanding documents to 81 agencies, individuals and other organizations linked to President. They included:

Two of Trump’s sons: Donald Jr. and Eric.

Jared Kushner, his son-in-law.

Rhona Graff, his former personal secretary.

Allen Weisselberg,  chief financial officer of the Trump Organization.

Donald McGahn II, former White House counsel.

Michael Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer.

Hope Hicks, former White House communications director.

Sean Spicer, former White House press secretary.

Stephen K. Bannon, former Trump advisor.

David Pecker, chairman of American Media Inc.

The Trump Foundation

The presidential inaugural committee.

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