In the most dramatic step yet by congressional Democrats in their efforts to probe President Donald Trump’s misconduct in office, the House Judiciary Committee on Monday requested documents from more than 80 people, businesses, and institutions with connections to Trump, launching an extremely broad probe into any possibly impeachment-worthy offenses by the president.
The sought-after documents relate to a range of scandals and controversies that could point to obstruction of justice, corruption, or abuse of power by Trump and his administration. Obstruction of justice inquiries relate largely to the administration’s responses to the Mueller probe: possible lies to federal investigators, Trump’s decision to fire FBI Director James Comey, and the president’s repeated public condemnations of the probe.
According to the committee’s statement Monday, the corruption line of inquiry relates to Trump’s potential violations of the U.S. Constitution’s Emoluments Clause, which bans presidents from using the office for financial gain or accepting gifts from foreign states (as some have argued Trump’s business holdings allow), as well as possible campaign finance violations (hush money payments arranged by Michael Cohen to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, for example). Potential abuse of power relates to Trump’s attacks on the press, attacks on the judiciary, and the misuse of the president’s power to pardon, according to the statement.
The committee has given the recipients of the letters two weeks to comply, at which point it will subpoena the documents, staff told reporters Monday. The list of those who received letters requesting documents includes family members (sons Donald Trump Jr. and Eric, along with son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner); administration officials, current and former (Hope Hicks, Sean Spicer, Don McGahn, Jeff Sessions, Steve Bannon, Michael Flynn, and Reince Priebus); campaign officials (Paul Manafort, Carter Page, Corey Lewandowski, George Papadopoulos, Rick Gates, Tom Barrack, and Brad Parscale); business associates (Allen Weisselberg, Felix Sater, and Rob Lieberman); media figures (David Pecker and Jerome Corsi); foreign or foreign-connected lobbyists (George Nader and Paul Erickson); longtime friend Roger Stone; and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
Businesses and institutions include American Media Inc. (the parent company of the National Enquirer, owned by Pecker); Cambridge Analytica; the Trump Organization; the Trump campaign; the administration’s transition team; WikiLeaks; the White House; and the Department of Justice.
As the New York Times noted, the committee’s work will overlap in many places with Robert Mueller’s investigation, but the significance differs in that congressional standards of misconduct differ from criminal ones. The requested information could establish grounds for impeachment proceedings, as the committee has jurisdiction over impeachment.
“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,” Rep. Jerrold Nadler, the committee chairman, said in a statement. “We have sent these document requests in order to begin building the public record. … We will act quickly to gather this information, assess the evidence, and follow the facts where they lead with full transparency with the American people. This is a critical time for our nation, and we have a responsibility to investigate these matters and hold hearings for the public to have all the facts.”