US House panel launches sweeping obstruction probe into Trump

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The House Judiciary Committee is launching a sweeping new probe of US President Donald Trump, his White House, his campaign and his businesses, sending document requests to 81 people linked to the president and his associates.

Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler said on Monday the investigation will be focused on possible obstruction of justice, corruption and abuse of power.

Among those targeted by the Democratic-led House Judiciary Committee are the president’s sons Donald Trump Jr and Eric Trump, WikiLeaks, White House aide and Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, Trump Organization chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg, former US Attorney General Jeff Sessions and former White House counsel Don McGahn.

The aggressive, broad investigation could set the stage for an impeachment effort, although Democratic leaders have pledged to investigate all avenues and review Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report before undertaking any drastic action.

Nadler said that the document requests, with responses to most due by March 18, are a way to “begin building the public record” and that the committee has the responsibility to investigate and hold public hearings.

“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 in announcing the beginning of the probe.

“Investigating these threats to the rule of law is an obligation of Congress and a core function of the House Judiciary Committee,” he added. 

When asked by reporters if he will cooperate with the committee’s investigation, Trump said he cooperates “all the time with everybody”, but he added, “it’s all a hoax”. 

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Now that Democrats hold a majority in the House, the new probe is a sign that Trump’s legal and political peril is nowhere near over, even as the Mueller’s Russia investigation winds down.

Nadler’s announcement comes after the House intelligence panel has already announced a separate probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election and Trump’s foreign financial interests.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler presides as Acting US Attorney General Matthew Whitaker testifies before a House Judiciary Committee hearing on oversight of the Justice Department on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on February 8, 2019 [Ernst/Reuters]

Multiple investigations

Several committees are probing related matters as well, and while many might overlap, the committee chairmen and chairwomen say they are working together on the investigations. 

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The list of 81 names touches on all parts of Trump’s life, including his businesses, his campaign, the committee that oversaw the transition from campaign to the White House and the White House.

Also on the committee’s list are others who worked on Trump’s 2016 campaign or in the White House such as Hope Hicks, Steve Bannon, Reince Priebus and Sean Spicer, as well as Rhona Graff, a long-time executive assistant at the Trump Organization; and David Pecker, chief executive of American Media Inc, which publishes the supermarket tabloid the National Enquirer.

In a letter to the White House, the committee asked for information surrounding former FBI Director James Comey’s termination, communications with Justice Department officials, the Trump Tower meeting and multiple other matters.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said on Monday the White House had received the letter and that “the counsel’s office and relevant White House officials will review it and respond at the appropriate time”.

The committee is expected to use the information to amass information that officials can then comb through, according to a person familiar with the investigation, The Associated Press reported.

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The committee expects some people to produce right away, and others may eventually face subpoenas, the official said. It is unclear how many will eventually be called in for interviews.

‘Very clear’ Trump obstructed justice

The announcement of the new investigation follows a bad political week for Trump.

He emerged empty-handed from a high-profile summit with North Korea leader Kim Jong Un on denuclearisation, and Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, in three days of congressional testimony, publicly characterised the president as a “conman” and “cheat”.

Nadler previewed the announcement on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday, contending it’s “very clear” that Trump obstructed justice.

He 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 Trump’s term were “shielding the president from any proper accountability”.

“We’re far from making decisions” about impeachment, he said.

In a tweet on Sunday, Trump blasted Mueller’s 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.

US House panel launches sweeping obstruction probe into Trump

The House Judiciary Committee is launching a sweeping new probe of US President Donald Trump, his White House, his campaign and his businesses, sending document requests to 81 people linked to the president and his associates. Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler said on Monday the investigation will be focused on possible obstruction of justice, corruption and abuse of power.

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