US House panel explores possible abuse of power by Trump

Judiciary committee to investigate possible obstruction of justice by president

Donald Trump: ‘All of a sudden they are trying to take you out with bullshit!’ Photograph: Jose Luis Magana/AP

Donald Trump: ‘All of a sudden they are trying to take you out with bullshit!’ Photograph: Jose Luis Magana/AP

 

The US House Judiciary Committee will seek documents from more than 60 people and organisations as it begins investigations into possible obstruction of justice and abuse of power by President Donald Trump, the panel’s chairman said on Sunday.

Committee chairman Jerrold Nadler told ABC’s This Week show the panel wanted to get documents from the Department of Justice, the president’s son Donald Trump jnr and Trump Organization chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg, among others.

“We are going to initiate investigations into abuses of power, into corruption ... and into obstruction of justice,” said Mr Nadler. “It’s our job to protect the rule of law. It’s very clear that the president obstructed justice.”

He said it was too soon to consider whether impeachment should be pursued. “Before you impeach somebody, you have to persuade the American public that it ought to happen,” he said.

As evidence of obstruction, Mr Nadler cited Mr Trump’s May 2017 sacking of FBI director James Comey. The then director was leading an investigation into Russia activities in the 2016 US presidential election and possible collusion with the Trump campaign.

That investigation was subsequently taken over by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is expected to deliver his findings to attorney general William Barr within weeks. Mr Barr was sworn in on February 14th just gone.

Mr Nadler also cited what he referred to as Mr Trump’s attempts to intimidate witnesses during the investigation. He said the committee on Monday would release the list of people and organisations from which it would request documents.

Mr Trump has denied his campaign worked with Moscow. “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,” tweeted the president on Sunday.

The White House and the Trump Organization did not respond to requests for comment on Mr Nadler’s remarks.

The president told a group of conservative activists and politicians on Saturday that investigators want to look at his finances and business dealings because no evidence of collusion has been found. “All of a sudden they are trying to take you out with bullshit!” he said.

While the Mueller investigation is focused on specific crimes, congressional inquiries will cast a wider net, said Mr Nadler.

Testimony by former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen last week directly implicated the president in various crimes including campaign finance violations, said Mr Nadler.

Political temperature rises in Washington

Congressional investigators will also look at whether Mr Trump used the White House for personal enrichment in violation of the Constitution’s emoluments clause, he added.

“All of these have to be investigated and laid out to the American people,” said Mr Nadler, whose committee would take the lead in any effort to impeach the president. “This investigation goes far beyond collusion.”

House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy attacked Mr Nadler as having an impeachment agenda.

“They’re setting a whole new course because there’s no collusion so they want to build something else,” he told ABC.

Several US congressional committees are pursuing investigations focusing on Mr Trump.

The House Intelligence Committee’s Democratic chairman, Adam Schiff, said his panel would look closely at negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, which Cohen said continued well into the 2016 presidential campaign.

“That was a deal that stood to make him more money than any other deal in his life. And it was a deal where he was pursuing help from the Kremlin, from [Russian president Vladimir] Putin himself, at a time when Putin was seeking relief from sanctions,” Schiff told the CBS show, Face the Nation.

“That is the most compromising circumstance that I can imagine.” – Reuters