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House panel launches probe of Trump's foreign interests

House intelligence committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) speaks

House intelligence committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) speaks with reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington on Wednesday. Credit: AP / J. Scott Applewhite

WASHINGTON — On the day after President Donald Trump urged Democrats in his State of the Union address to drop “ridiculous partisan investigations,” the House Intelligence Committee chairman announced a sweeping probe of Trump’s foreign financial interests.

Trump’s appeal to cooperation and compromise in his national speech Tuesday night gave way Wednesday to complaints of “presidential harassment” as Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) unveiled his committee’s investigation and other House committees scrutinized Trump policies.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), meanwhile, complained that Trump had issued a “threat” to Democrats in his speech when he said, “If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation.”

Speaking to reporters as Democratic-led House committees began scrutinizing the Trump administration on health care, climate change and the government shutdown, Pelosi said, “That was a threat. The President should not bring threats to the floor of the House.”

Pelosi explained her concern. “He said he wasn't going to cooperate unless we didn't exercise our Constitutional responsibility to oversight for the responsibilities that the Article 1 of the Legislative branch has,” she said. “It was a threat. It was an all-out threat.”

Undeterred, House Democrats unleashed several hearings Wednesday taking dead aim at Trump administration policies.

“We are not going to be intimidated or threatened by the president to withhold any legislative advancement if we do our proper oversight. We’re going to do proper oversight,” Schiff told reporters as he released five sweeping lines of inquiry into Trump campaign contacts with Russia.

One line is whether “Trump, his family or his associates are or were at any time at heightened risk of, or vulnerable to, foreign exploitation, inducement, manipulation, pressure, or coercion, or have sought to influence U.S. government policy in service of foreign interests.”

Schiff said, “Our job involves making sure that the policy of the United States is being driven by the national interest, not by any financial entanglement, financial leverage or other form of compromise.”

Schiff also said his committee would release 50 transcripts of the committee’s interviews with subjects in the Russia probe to Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his investigation into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia.

“And on what basis would he do that? He has no basis to do that. He's just a political hack who's trying to build a name for himself,” Trump said at an unrelated event. “But there would be no reason to do that. No other politician has to go through that. It’s called ‘presidential harassment,’ and it's unfortunate.”

Meanwhile, the Judiciary Committee opened the first hearing on gun violence in at least eight years, and it has announced other probing sessions, including the quizzing of Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker on Friday and a hearing on the child separation policy at the border next Tuesday.

The Committee on Energy and Commerce examined the threat to workers with pre-existing conditions and the Natural Resources Committee took aim at Trump’s refusal to acknowledge climate change with a hearing Wednesday.

The Oversight and Reform Committee on Wednesday held a hearing on making ethics rules for the executive branch tougher. And two subcommittees examined whether the Trump administration violated spending restrictions during the shutdown.

Pelosi on Wednesday offered to work with Trump on lowering prescription drug prices and building infrastructure. “But a President doesn't come and say, 'either this or no investigations.' It's not investigations, it's oversight. It's our Congressional responsibility.”

And she denied she had been sarcastic in clapping of her hands at Trump when he called for rejecting the resistance and retribution for cooperation and compromise. “It wasn’t sarcastic,” she said. “Look at what I was applauding. I wanted him to know that it was a very welcomed.”

But even her daughter Christine Pelosi doubted the sincerity of the clap.

“Oh yes, that clap took me back to the teen years. She knows. And she knows that you know. And frankly she’s disappointed that you thought this would work. But here’s a clap,” Pelosi’s daughter posted in a tweet Wednesday morning.

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