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 that the investigation will be focused on possible obstruction of justice, corruption and abuse of power.
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 trying any drastic action.
Mr 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,” Mr 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 said.
Now that Democrats hold a majority in the House, the new probe is a sign that Mr Trump’s legal and political peril is nowhere near over, even as the special counsel’s Russia investigation winds down.
The move all but guarantees that potentially damaging allegations will shadow Mr Trump for months to come as Democrats try to keep them in the public eye.
Mr Nadler’s announcement comes after the House intelligence panel has already announced a separate probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election and Mr Trump’s foreign financial interests.
The House Oversight and Reform Committee has launched multiple investigations. Several other 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.
The list of 81 names touches on all parts of Mr Trump’s life — his businesses, his campaign, the committee that oversaw the transition from campaign to the White House and the White House.
There are also people connected to Russian interference in the 2016 campaign, including participants in a meeting at Trump Tower with a Russian lawyer before the election.
In a letter to the White House, the committee asks 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 that 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 list includes two of the president’s children, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump, and many of his current and former close advisers, including Steve Bannon.
It also includes his embattled charitable foundation, which he is shutting down after agreeing to a court-supervised process, and officials at the FBI and Justice Department.
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 person declined to be named to discuss the committee’s internal process. 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.
The announcement of the new investigation follows a bad political week for Mr Trump.
He emerged empty-handed from a high-profile summit with North Korea leader Kim Jong-un on denuclearisation, and Mr Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, in three days of congressional testimony, publicly characterised the president as a “conman” and “cheat.” Mr Nadler previewed the announcement on ABC’s This Week on Sunday, contending it’s “very clear” that Mr 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 Mr 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, Mr Trump blasted Mr 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.