The US House of Representatives’ 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, according to the panel’s chairman.
Jerrold Nadler told ABC’s This Week programme on Sunday the committee wanted to get documents from the Department of Justice, the president’s son Donald Trump Jr 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,” Nadler, whose committee would be responsible for starting impeachment proceedings against Trump, said.
“It’s very clear that the president obstructed justice,” he added, noting, however, that 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, Nadler cited Trump’s May 2017 firing of FBI Director James Comey, who was leading an investigation into Russia activities in the 2016 US presidential election and possible collusion with Trump’s campaign.
That investigation was subsequently taken over by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is expected to deliver his findings to the US attorney general within weeks.
Nadler also cited what he called Trump’s attempts to intimidate witnesses in the probe. He said the committee on Monday would release the list of people and organisations it would request documents from.
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,” Trump said in a tweet on Sunday.
…said was a total lie, but Fake Media won’t show it. 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! Despite this, great success!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 3, 2019
There was no immediate comment from the White House and the Trump Organization on Nadler’s remarks.
Trump 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, Congress’ probes will cast a wider net, Nadler said.
The interview follows the public testimony on Wednesday of Trump’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen, who accused his former boss of telling multiple lies as a candidate and after taking office.
Cohen, who pleaded guilty to lying to Congress, tax evasion and campaign finance violations, called Trump a “conman” and a “cheat” in the testimony before the House Oversight Committee.
Nadler said Congressional investigators will also look at whether Trump used the White House for personal enrichment in violation of the constitution’s emoluments clause.
“All of these have to be investigated and laid out to the American people,” he added.
House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy attacked 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 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 CBS’ Face the Nation programme.
“That is the most compromising circumstance that I can imagine.”