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House Judiciary Launches Probe Of Allegations Of Obstruction By President Trump

Mar 4, 2019
Originally published on March 4, 2019 9:24 pm

Updated at 8:58 p.m. ET

The House Judiciary Committee launched a broad investigation into President Trump's inner circle Monday, targeting figures who have worked in his administration and for the Trump Organization businesses.

The committee told reporters Monday that the investigation will focus on three primary issues: whether the president obstructed justice by interfering with criminal investigations; potential corruption such as violation of campaign and financial reporting laws, as well as possible misuse of office for personal gain; and abuses of power to include misuse of the pardon power and attacks on the press, judiciary and law enforcement agencies.

The subjects of Monday's document requests include both longtime Trump allies and those in the broader universe of individuals and entities linked to Trump, his administration and his business dealings.

The panel has demanded documents from 81 individuals, entities and federal agencies, and given them a deadline of March 18 — just two weeks.

A committee counsel said that if document production negotiations with any particular subject were not fruitful, subpoenas could be issued within weeks of that deadline. The subpoenas could be issued if the House Judiciary Committee takes a vote to authorize them.

Asked whether he would cooperate with the committee's request, Trump said, "I cooperate all the time with everybody." He also reiterated his position that there was "no collusion. It's all a hoax."

In a statement issued by the White House Monday evening, press secretary Sarah Sanders built on the president's comments from earlier in the day. "Today, Chairman Nadler 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."

"Democrats are harassing the President to distract from their radical agenda," Sanders also said, adding "The American people deserve a Congress that works with the President to address serious issues like immigration, healthcare, and infrastructure. The Democrats are more interested in pathetic political games and catering to a radical, leftist base than on producing results for our citizens. The Democrats are not after the truth, they are after the President."

The top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia, accused the committee's chairman, Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., of already having made up his mind before launching this investigation. Nadler had said over the weekend that he believed, based on existing evidence, that the president obstructed justice.

"We don't even know what the Mueller report says, but Democrats are already hedging their bets. After recklessly prejudging the president for obstruction," Collins said. "Chairman Nadler is pursuing evidence to back up his conclusion because, as he admits, 'we don't have the facts yet.' "

The document demands follow last week's dramatic testimony in the House Oversight Committee, in which former Trump personal lawyer Michael Cohen repeatedly named figures in Trump business circles and accused them of being involved in various scandals.

Many of those figures linked to the Trump Organization were named on Monday's list of document requests, including Trump Organization Executive Vice President Donald Trump Jr., Chief Operating Officer Matthew Calamari, Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg, General Counsel Alan Garten and longtime Trump executive assistant Rhona Graff.

But the panel also demanded documents from other figures unrelated to the Trump Organization — an indication on the broad scope of the Judiciary Committee's investigation.

The panel is seeking documents from entities as diverse as Cambridge Analytica, WikiLeaks, the Trump Foundation, the Justice Department, the White House and the National Rifle Association. The full list is below.

"Over the last several years, President Trump has evaded accountability for his near-daily attacks on our basic legal, ethical, and constitutional rules and norms," Nadler said. "Investigating these threats to the rule of law is an obligation of Congress and a core function of the House Judiciary Committee. ... We have sent these document requests in order to begin building the public record."

House Democrats have made investigations of the president a priority since they won control of the chamber in November. In particular, Democrats are focused on investigations of the president's finances, the potential for the president to have obstructed justice, and whether his campaign had any involvement in Russian campaign interference.

Separate from the Judiciary Committee's inquiries, the chairmen of the House Foreign Affairs, Intelligence and Oversight and Reform committees sent a joint letter Monday to the White House demanding documents relating to communications between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The chairmen are interested in the substance of any communications during in-person talks or phone calls and say that their requests for information on this topic in February have been ignored.

"According to media reports, President Trump, on multiple occasions, appears to have taken steps to conceal the details of his communications with President Putin," the three chairmen wrote Monday afternoon. "We wrote a joint letter to the White House [in February] requesting basic information about whether the President in fact destroyed records relating to his conversations with President Putin... The White House failed to provide any response to our inquiry. As a result, we are now expanding our investigation."

Monday's document requests mark a milestone for the Judiciary Committee, which would be the panel responsible for starting impeachment proceedings against the president.

"Impeachment is a long way down the road... but we're going to initiate proper investigations," Nadler said Sunday on ABC News, adding that the investigations will be "to present the case to the American people about obstruction of justice, corruption and abuse of power."

The White House acknowledged Monday morning that it had received a document request from the House Judiciary Committee.

The Justice Department also acknowledged the receipt of the committee's document request.

"The House Judiciary Committee's letter has been received by the White House. The Counsel's Office and relevant White House officials will review it and respond at the appropriate time," White House spokesperson Sarah Sanders said.

The full list of entities, individuals and agencies that are the target of the Judiciary Committee's requests:

1. Alan Garten
2. Alexander Nix
3. Allen Weisselberg
4. American Media Inc.
5. Anatoli Samochornov
6. Andrew Intrater
7. Annie Donaldson
8. Brad Parscale
9. Brittany Kaiser
10. Cambridge Analytica
11. Carter Page
12. Columbus Nova
13. Concord Management and Consulting
14. Corey Lewandowski
15. David Pecker
16. Department of Justice
17. Don McGahn
18. Donald J Trump Revocable Trust
19. Donald Trump Jr.
20. Dylan Howard
21. Eric Trump
22. Erik Prince
23. Federal Bureau of Investigation
24. Felix Sater
25. Flynn Intel Group
26. General Services Administration
27. George Nader
28. George Papadopoulos
29. Hope Hicks
30. Irakly Kaveladze
31. Jared Kushner
32. Jason Maloni
33. Jay Sekulow
34. Jeff Sessions
35. Jerome Corsi
36. John Szobocsan
37. Julian Assange
38. Julian David Wheatland
39. Keith Davidson
40. KT McFarland
41. Mark Corallo
42. Matt Tait
43. Matthew Calamari
44. Michael Caputo
45. Michael Cohen
46. Michael Flynn
47. Michael Flynn Jr.
48. Paul Erickson
49. Paul Manafort
50. Peter Smith (Estate)
51. Randy Credico
52. Reince Priebus
53. Rhona Graff
54. Rinat Akhmetshin
55. Rob Goldstone
56. Roger Stone
57. Ronald Lieberman
58. Sam Nunberg
59. SCL Group Limited
60. Sean Spicer
61. Sheri Dillon
62. Stefan Passantino
63. Steve Bannon
64. Ted Malloch
65. The White House
66. Trump Campaign
67. Trump Foundation
68. Trump Organization
69. Trump Transition
70. Viktor Vekselberg
71. WikiLeaks
72. 58th Presidential Inaugural Committee
73. Christopher Bancroft Burnham
74. Frontier Services Group
75. J.D. Gordon
76. Kushner Companies
77. NRA
78. Rick Gates
79. Tom Barrack
80. Tom Bossert
81. Tony Fabrizio

NPR justice correspondent Ryan Lucas and White House correspondent Tamara Keith contributed to this report.

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

To another story now, and confirmation today, if you needed it, that the Democratic-controlled House is ramping up investigations of President Trump. The House Judiciary Committee sent requests for documents to 81 individuals, organizations and federal agencies. Committee chairman - that would be New York Democrat Jerry Nadler - told ABC's "This Week" he is focused on three areas of inquiry.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THIS WEEK")

JERRY NADLER: It's our job to protect the rule of law. That's our core function. And to do that, we are going through initiate investigations into abuses of power, into corruption and into obstruction of justice.

KELLY: OK. Let's bring in NPR political reporter Tim Mak. He is on Capitol Hill. Hey, Tim.

TIM MAK, BYLINE: Hey there.

KELLY: Who are these 81 individuals and groups and agencies that the committee wants documents from?

MAK: So it's 81. It's a very broad set of requests. It involves dozens of names and entities from across the Trump universe. Some will be pretty familiar. There were requests to the Justice Department, the White House and The Trump Organization. And then you get into some of these individuals who may not be household names, people that Michael Cohen named in that dramatic hearing last week before the House Oversight Committee, for example. So on that list are the president's son, Donald Trump Jr., various Trump executives...

KELLY: Both his sons, I think, right? Eric Trump's on the list, too.

MAK: Yes, and Eric Trump. You've got other Trump executives as well and Trump's longtime executive assistant. But there are also other names unrelated to the Trump business. There's a document request for WikiLeaks and Julian Assange, Cambridge Analytica and even the National Rifle Association.

KELLY: OK. That's the who, let me turn you to the what. We said the committee is asking for documents, what exact documents?

MAK: Well, this is supposed to be among the first round of document requests from the committee. And the specific documents differ depending, obviously, on the person that's asked. But the topics are generally familiar to the public, I think - for example, the committee is demanding The Trump Organization provide documents relating to any foreign government discussing, providing a present to Trump or his business interests after he became president, which has been a longtime concern of Democratic lawmakers.

The committee is also setting a tight deadline. They're signaling that if people don't respond by March 18 - that's two weeks from now - the committee may vote on subpoenas to compel them to produce those documents. Meanwhile, Republicans like ranking member Jim Jordan are arguing that this investigation is a, quote, "fishing expedition," end quote. Here's how Nadler responded to George Stephanopoulos on ABC.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THIS WEEK")

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you think the president obstructed justice?

NADLER: Yes, I do.

STEPHANOPOULOS: If that's...

NADLER: It's very clear that the president obstructed justice.

MAK: So because Nadler has already said he believes, based on what's available in the public, that the president has obstructed justice, Republicans are saying Nadler is trying to find facts to fit a conclusion he's already made.

KELLY: Right. Republicans have also alleged that this is laying the groundwork for impeachment proceedings against the president. When you asked members of the committee about that, what did they say?

MAK: Well, Democratic leaders are trying to tamp down expectations on impeachment at least for now. Nadler has said that they don't have the facts yet. But Nadler's committee would be the panel where impeachment proceedings begin. It just doesn't look like Democrats or Nadler are ready to go that far right now.

KELLY: Real quick before I let you go, Tim. Several other - three other House chairmen - and I should note they are all Democrats now - they are demanding that the White House hand over documents to do with the president's conversations with Vladimir Putin. What's going on there?

MAK: Yeah. The chairmen of these committees are saying that the president has, on multiple occasions, appeared to take steps to conceal the details of his communications with President Putin, and they're really concerned about this. They're demanding documents in short order from the White House on that.

KELLY: NPR's Tim Mak on Capitol Hill. Thank you, Tim.

MAK: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.