Democrats launch sweeping probe | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, March 06, 2019 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, March 06, 2019


Democrats launch sweeping probe

House Judiciary Committee seeks info on 81 people, organisations including Trump's inner circle

US Democratic lawmakers has launched their most ambitious investigation yet into alleged obstruction of justice and abuse of office by Donald Trump, targeting dozens of individuals in the president's inner circle.

With controversies swirling around Trump, the powerful House Judiciary Committee's chairman sent strongly worded letters to family members of the president -- including sons Don Jr and Eric -- as well as political confidantes and related entities.

The letters demanded documents that could shed light on possible wrongdoing by the administration and Trump himself.

Son-in-law Jared Kushner and the Trump Organization's longtime chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, were among the 81 people and organizations -- such as the National Rifle Association -- receiving letters from the panel's Democratic chairman Jerry Nadler.

They also include White House ex-aides Steve Bannon and Hope Hicks, current Trump personal lawyer Jay Sekulow, former attorney general Jeff Sessions, and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

The request is the most serious overt ramp-up of investigations into Trump since Democrats took control of the House of Representatives in early January, and seeks to uncover whether Trump or his administration participated in obstruction of justice or public corruption -- potentially impeachable offenses.

Trump himself swatted away the probe as a "political hoax," but said he would cooperate. He later hardened his reaction, tweeting that any effort by the Democrats to probe new avenues of possible wrongdoing "will never work."

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders lambasted the probe as "disgraceful and abusive." The strong statement further claimed that "the Democrats are not after the truth, they are after the president."

Conspicuously absent from the list of Nadler's targets -- who have two weeks to respond -- is the president's eldest daughter Ivanka Trump, a senior White House advisor married to Kushner.

The chairmen of three other House panels also joined the fray, demanding the White House produce details of communications between Trump and Russian leader Vladimir Putin, after reports that such information was destroyed or hidden in the aftermath of their 2017 Helsinki summit.

The US intelligence community has concluded that Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential election, and that Putin ordered the influence campaign as a way to help elect Trump. The US president has repeatedly casted doubt on the findings.

Nadler's broad investigation focuses on Trump's business dealings and obstruction of justice allegations, along with possible Russian collusion. It also will address accusations of campaign finance law violations and potential violations of the US Constitution's ban on foreign emoluments. It also includes hush money payment to two women who say they had affairs with Trump.

Meanwhile, US Attorney General William Barr will not recuse himself from overseeing Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, a Justice Department spokeswoman said on Monday.

And compiling more pressure on Trump, the Republican-led US Senate is set to reject the national emergency Donald Trump declared to build his Mexico border wall, likely forcing the US president's first veto, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Monday.

The House of Representatives, which is controlled by Democrats, passed the so-called resolution of disapproval and sent it to the Senate, which is expected to vote in the coming weeks.

Senate Republicans have a 53-47 advantage. But four of them have now announced they will vote with Democrats to block Trump, who is seeking to bypass Congress to unlock funds for construction of a wall on the US-Mexico border that he insists will reduce illegal immigration and drug trafficking.

Several other Republicans, while stopping short of announcing they would vote against Trump, have expressed deep concerns about his move, arguing it is a blatant attempt to expand executive authority.

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