Congressional Democrats on Monday formally began drilling deep into virtually every aspect of President Trump’s administration and business ventures — as well as his connections to organizations from the National Rifle Association (NRA) and WikiLeaks — in a sweeping, concerted series of multi-pronged committee investigations.
With a slew of document requests to 81 agencies, entities, and individuals, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., said Monday he would aggressively probe “alleged obstruction of justice, public corruption, and other abuses of power by President Trump.”
Nadler requested information from two of Trump’s children, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump, who are running the Trump Organization while their father is in the White House. While the panel asked the two sons some questions that touch on their business, the document requests also include questions about events that happened in the White House after their father was elected, including the firing of FBI Director James Comey and discussions surrounding the appointment of Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
Several other people related to the Trump Organization were sent letters, including the Trump Organization itself, Allen Weisselberg, the company’s chief financial officer and Rhona Graff, Trump’s longtime assistant. Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump, a White House senior adviser, was not on the Judiciary panel’s list.
Among other matters, the company officials were asked to provide documents regarding “any loan, financing transaction, or capital investment by the Russian Federation, any Russian national, any Russian business, or any other Russian entity to the Trump Organization.”
Additonally, Nadler’s panel requested documents from Julian Assange and his website, WikiLeaks, which published emails stolen from Democrats by Russian spies during the 2016 campaign. Assange is currently living in Ecuador’s embassy in London under a claim of asylum.
A letter to Assange, along with a document request, asks for “discussions or attempts to provide or receive election information, campaign data, or campaign communications with, to, or from foreign entities or individuals in connection with the 2016 U.S. Presidential primary or general elections.”
Nadler made a similar request in a letter and accompanying document request to the NRA, which sought information related to the organization’s purported communications with the Trump team on everything from Russian sanctions to campaign data to the 2016 GOP platform.
Many of the people who received requests were asked about hush money payments to porn actress Stormy Daniels, who alleged she had an affair with Donald Trump. Trump denies the affair.
The topic is currently under investigation by the Southern District of New York. Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, pleaded guilty last year to campaign finance violations for his involvement in the payments to Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal before the 2016 election.
Cohen received a request from the panel, as did American Media Inc., the National Enquirer’s parent company, and its CEO David Pecker. Pecker helped kill potentially embarrassing stories about Trump over the years by paying hush money in a practice known as “catch-and-kill.”
The request asks American Media for “all documents that relate to the purchase of rights for any narrative, personal account, documentation, recording, or photograph (including but not limited to materials colloquially referred to as ‘catch and kill’) concerning Donald Trump from June 2015 to the present.”
Meanwhile, most of the participants in a 2016 meeting in Trump Tower between Trump’s campaign and a Russian lawyer received requests.
People attending the meeting included Trump Jr., Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, publicist Rob Goldstone, Russian-American lobbyist Rinat Akhmetshin, a translator and Ike Kaveladze, a business associate of a Moscow-based developer. All of them received requests asking for any documentation related to the meeting — materials they have all already turned over to the House and Senate intelligence committees, which have both been probing the meeting for almost two years.
But the investigative peppering by Nadler — who over the weekend declared that no investigation is really necessary to determine that Trump obstructed justice — was just one of several far-reaching inquiries by Democrats, which extend far beyond the president’s domain.
For example, three House Democratic committee chairman on Monday formally demanded interviews with any translators who witnessed Trump’s communications with Russian President Vladimir Putin since Inauguration Day — a request that comes as part of a sweeping series of inquiries virtually certain to be met with legal pushback by the White House.
In a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff, Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Eliot Engel, and Oversight Committee chairman Elijah Cummings said they wanted to know whether any Trump-Putin communications had led to the “reconsideration, modification, or implementation” of any aspect of American foreign policy.
The chairmen are specifically seeking access to all State Department employees and contractors with knowledge of Trump’s communications with the Russian leader, including “linguists, translators, or interpreters who participated in [sic] attended, or in any way listened in on President Trump’s in-person meetings with President Putin, as well as President Trump’s phone calls with President Putin.”
The top Democrats also said they were interested in knowing whether Trump or anyone acting on his behalf had “failed to create records of, or in any way destroyed, suppressed, mishandled, or otherwise withheld any federal or presidential records” contrary to federal laws.
The Washington Post reported in January that, following his meeting with Putin in Hamburg, Germany in 2017, Trump took possession of the notes from his own interpreter and instructed the individual not to discuss what had taken place in the meeting with other administration officials.
Trump attended that Putin meeting with then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who has emerged as a vocal critic of the Trump administration since his termination but who has never alleged that anything untoward happened in Hamburg.
The Post also reported that there are no detailed records of Trump’s private meetings with Putin over the past two years, and administration officials have not gotten a full readout from their two-hour, one-on-one meeting in Helsinki, Finland last summer.
California Democratic Rep. Eric Swalwell, on the heels of The Post’s report, accused Trump of having “effectively destroyed” notes from the Helsinki summit, which saw Trump and Putin meeting in private with only their translators present.
Trump told Fox News anchor Jeanine Pirro in January that he would be willing to release a transcript of his talks with Putin in Helsinki if he could, adding, “I don’t care.”
“I’m not keeping anything under wraps. I couldn’t care less,” Trump told Pirro. “I had a conversation like every president does. You sit with the president of various countries. I do it with all countries.”
The president’s reported decision to ask an interpreter not to share details of his meetings with foreign leaders with other members of the administration could have been a response to prior leaks of Trump’s private conversations with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and then-Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto in 2017.
Meanwhile, the head of the House Financial Services Committee, California Rep. Maxine Waters, has focused on Deutsche Bank, the German asset management firm that has loaned Trump’s real estate organization millions of dollars over the years. She said this past week that the bank is cooperating with requests for documents.
And the House Intelligence Committee is reopening and expanding an investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election that the Republican majority closed last year. At that time, Republicans said, over Democratic objections, that there was no evidence to show that Trump’s campaign colluded or conspired with Russia.
The top Democrat on the committee then, Schiff, D-Calif., said Republicans had prematurely closed the matter without interviewing key witnesses and demanding important documents.
Schiff is now chairman, and last month he announced a broad new investigation looking not only at Russian interference, but also at Trump’s foreign financial interests. Schiff said the investigation will include “the scope and scale” of Russian intervention in the 2016 presidential election, the “extent of any links and/or coordination” between Russians and Trump’s associates, whether foreign actors have sought to hold leverage over Trump or his family and associates, and whether anyone has sought to obstruct any of the relevant investigations.
Republicans, meanwhile, accused Democrats of partisan overreach.
House Judiciary Committee ranking member Doug Collins, for example, told Nadler to “come back to reality” on Monday.
“I would say to my chairman, come back to the reality.” Collins, R-Ga., said on Fox News Radio’s “Brian Kilmeade Show.”
“We’ve shown you for two years where the real problem is. Let’s have some open investigations, let’s get [Rod] Rosenstein in there… let’s actually look at what the Department of Justice became and what the people can no longer trust.”
Fox News’ Brooke Singman, Alex Pappas, and The Associated Press contributed to this report.