House Democrats begin oversight of Trump crime family in earnest

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House Democrats last Thursday made plans to dig deeper into President Donald Trump’s business and defunct charity, Planning to use Michael Cohen’s testimony as a road map for new investigations into Trump:

The House Intelligence Committee said it anticipates bringing in for questioning the Trump Organization’s chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg. It also plans to interview Felix Sater, a former Trump business associate who helped Trump develop a hotel in Manhattan (and was involved in Trump Tower Moscow. See, Martin Longman, A Connection Between the Moscow Tower and the Trump Tower Meeting.)

“All you have to do is follow the transcript,” said Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., the chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, which interviewed Cohen Wednesday. “If there were names that were mentioned, or records that were mentioned during the hearing, we want to take a look at all of that.”

Michael Cohen will be back before the House Intelligence Committee this week. Michael Cohen will return to Congress March 6, Felix Sater to testify March 14.

Lawmakers on the House and Senate Intelligence committees pressed Cohen last week on whether Trump or his attorneys had dangled a possible pardon and, if so, when and with whom those conversations took place. Cohen’s testimony before the House Intelligence Committee was reportedly “game changing.” Lawmakers exploring possible pardon talks involving Michael Cohen.

House Oversight Chairman Cummings also wants more info on Jared Kushner’s security clearance:

Elijah E. Cummings, chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, sent a letter to White House Counsel Pat Cipollone on Friday accusing the administration of purposefully delaying the committee’s investigation into executive security clearances.

“The White House has stalled, equivocated, and failed to produce a single document or witness to the committee,” Cummings said.

The letter was prompted by a Thursday New York Times report alleging that President Donald Trump lied to the paper in a January interview about his involvement in granting a security clearance to his son-in-law and senior presidential adviser Jared Kushner.

“President Trump ordered his chief of staff to grant his son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, a top-secret security clearance last year, overruling concerns flagged by intelligence officials and the White House’s top lawyer,” the Times reported.

According to the newspaper, John F. Kelly, the White House chief of staff at the time, and Donald McGahn, the White House counsel, both wrote internal memos over their concerns about Kushner receiving the security clearance.

Cummings wants to know why Trump overruled his advisers on the security clearance as well as what information officials obtained regarding Kushner that led to them initially denying him access to sensitive information.

The Oversight chairman also wants to know why Kelly and McGahn felt compelled to pen memos, and why the counsel’s office is continuing to withhold documents and witness accounts from the committee.

Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), Chair of the House Financial Services Committee, revealed Friday that committee staffers were coordinating with attorneys at Deutsche Bank in order to obtain President Donald Trump’s past financial dealings with the institution and investigate any potential wrongdoing, including money laundering. Democrats Investigating Trump’s Alleged Money Laundering May Soon Have His Deutsche Bank Financial Records:

The Trump Organization has long done business with the foreign bank and reportedly owes hundreds of millions of dollars in outstanding loans, due to be repaid over the next few years. The bank has been fined hundreds of millions of dollars by state and federal regulators over a $10 billion Russian money laundering scheme, and Democrats have suggested the president could be compromised by Russian money laundering.

“We have people that are going up to New York to sit with people and to go over our documents request,” Financial Services Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters told MSNBC’s Chris Hayes. “We’re going to find out a lot about Deutsche Bank and that bank’s relationship to the president. We are very concerned about money laundering.”

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The move to obtain such documents comes on the heels of testimony from Trump’s former attorney and “fixer,” Michael Cohen, before the House Oversight Committee. He revealed several financial documents and accused Trump of inflating “his total assets when it served his purposes,” including to Deutsche Bank in hopes of obtaining a loan and bidding on the Buffalo Bills. Copies of some of Trump’s financial records provided by Cohen showed that in a 2013 financial statement, Trump listed his “brand value” at $4 billion, a category absent from his 2011 and 2012 statements.

A recent Bloomberg report also said that Deutsche Bank executives were so concerned Trump’s organization would default on $340 million worth of loans while president, they chose to cease doing business with him until he is out of office. Executives were reportedly concerned not with the creditworthiness of Trump or his company, but rather the public relations crisis that would ensue, should they be forced to seize assets of a sitting president.

The congressional inquiries into Trump’s finances also support Democrats’ quest for the president’s tax returns, which he has refused to publicly release. House Democrats prepare case to request Trump tax returns:

The House Ways and Means Committee is readying a request for years of President Donald Trump’s personal tax returns that is expected to land at the Internal Revenue Service as early as the next few weeks, according to congressional aides involved in the process. And Democrats are prepared to “take all necessary steps,” including litigation, in order to obtain them.

Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-MA) has asked the committee’s attorneys to prepare the request, according to two aides involved in the process. Neal has also contacted the chairs of several other House investigative committees, including Oversight and Government Reform, Financial Services, Intelligence and Judiciary, asking them to provide detailed arguments for why they need the president’s tax returns to conduct their probes.

“Every day the American people and Congress learn more about President Trump’s improprieties, from conflicts of interest to influence peddling, potential tax evasion and violations of the Constitution — all roads leading back to President Trump’s finances,” said Ashley Etienne, spokeswoman for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

“These improprieties, and the lack of transparency around them, give the House legitimate legislative, oversight and legal reasons to review the President’s tax returns. We will take all necessary steps, including litigation, if necessary, to obtain them.” Etienne confirmed that the committees are working together to “ensure the House is able to present the strongest possible case.”

Ways and Means is the only House committee with the authority to directly make the request for Trump’s returns.

Neal had earlier said he might wait for the conclusion of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of the Trump campaign’s potential ties to Russia before making the request. The case to draw in multiple committee stakeholders was bolstered after Michael Cohen’s testimony before the House Oversight Committee earlier this week, the aides said.

On Sunday, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerold Nadler (D-NY) announced Plans to Request Documents From Dozens of People Tied to Trump:

Representative Jerrold Nadler, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said Sunday that he planned to request documents from more than 60 people with ties to President Trump, his administration and his businesses, including the president’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., as part of the committee’s investigation of the president.

UPDATE: Here Are All 81 Of The Trump Associates Who House Dems Want To Hear From.

Using the language of a prosecutor, Mr. Nadler said his goal was to present “the case to the American people about obstruction of justice, corruption and abuse of power,” which could lay the groundwork for eventual impeachment proceedings or other congressional action. He added that it was “very clear that the president obstructed justice.”

Mr. Nadler, Democrat of New York, told ABC’s “This Week” that he would also request documents from Allen Weisselberg, the chief financial officer for the Trump Organization. Michael D. Cohen, Mr. Trump’s former personal lawyer, repeatedly referred to Mr. Weisselberg’s central role in Mr. Trump’s business transactions during his testimony before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform last week.

Mr. Nadler said Mr. Cohen “directly implicated the president in various crimes, both while seeking the office of president and while in the White House,” singling out as a particular concern Mr. Cohen’s claim that he was reimbursed for hush money payments to keep quiet Mr. Trump’s affairs.

Mr. Nadler said it would be an “impeachable offense” if Mr. Trump were found to have participated in any scheme to “sabotage a fair election.” He cautioned, though, that “impeachment is a long way down the road.”

“We don’t have the facts yet,” he said.

The Judiciary Committee laid out a detailed account of its investigation requests on Monday. With Sweeping Document Request, Democrats Launch Broad Trump Corruption Inquiry:

The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee delivered a flurry of document demands to the executive branch and the broader Trump world on Monday that detailed the breadth of the Democrats’ investigation into possible obstruction of justice, corruption and abuse of power by President Trump and his administration.

In the two months since they took control of the House, Democrats have begun probing members of the president’s cabinet, his businesses, his campaign, his inaugural committee and his ties to key foreign powers, including Russia and its attempts to disrupt the 2016 presidential election. But Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York, the Judiciary Committee chairman, made clear on Monday that the new majority intends to train its attention on actions at the heart of Mr. Trump’s norm-bending presidency — actions that could conceivably form the basis of a future impeachment proceeding.

The letters from Mr. Nadler, dated March 4, went to 81 agencies, individuals and other entities tied to the president, including the Trump Organization, the Trump campaign, the Trump Foundation, the presidential inaugural committee, the White House, the Justice Department, the F.B.I. and dozens of the president’s closest aides who counseled him as he launched attacks against federal investigations into him and his associates, the press, and the federal judiciary. The committee will also investigate accusations of corruption, including possible violations of campaign finance law, the Constitution’s ban on foreign emoluments and the use of office for personal gain.

In a statement released Monday, Mr. Nadler said that it was imperative to “begin building the public record” of what he has contended are Mr. Trump’s abuses. He acknowledged that his work could replicate that of the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, who is also studying whether Mr. Trump obstructed justice, as well as federal prosecutors in New York.

But those are criminal cases, and aides to the committee noted that Congress has different evidentiary standards than the Justice Department when it comes to potential wrongdoing.

“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,” Mr. Nadler said in his statement. “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. That is exactly what we intend to do.”

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Committees in both the House and Senate have nibbled around the edges of several of the episodes raised by Mr. Nadler. But his investigation suggests a more coherent, deep investigation of the firing of James B. Comey as F.B.I. director; Mr. Trump’s attempts to remove the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III; his apparent dangling of pardons and threatening of witnesses to the investigation; and other events.

From Donald McGahn III, the former White House counsel, alone, Mr. Nadler requested all documents related to the resignation of Michael T. Flynn as national security adviser, the firing of Mr. Comey, attempts to fire Mr. Mueller, communications with Mr. Trump about Jeff Sessions, the president’s first attorney general, and about ongoing investigations into his presidency.

Mr. Nadler also requested documents from Annie Donaldson, Mr. McGahn’s deputy who took exhaustive notes detailing Mr. Trump’s behavior in the West Wing in real time.

Other targets include David J. Pecker, chairman of American Media Inc., which publishes the National Enquirer; Allen Weisselberg, the chief financial officer of the Trump Organization; Alan Garten, its lawyer; Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law; Mr. Sessions; and Thomas J. Barrack Jr., a close associate of Mr. Trump who led his inaugural committee.

A counsel to the Judiciary Committee said on Monday that response to the letters would determine who and when the committee calls to testify. Lawyers for Mr. Nadler are prepared for protracted negotiations and fights over certain requests.

If the recipients of the requests do not voluntarily comply, Mr. Nadler will probably issue subpoenas to compel them.

UPDATE: Three committees in the House of Representatives are pursuing missing information about conversations between President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin after news reports that Trump took actions to conceal and even destroy records of those talks. House Democrats Want Trump’s Communications With Putin:

The letter, which comes from Democratic Reps. Adam Schiff of California, Eliot Engel of New York and Elijah Cummings of Maryland, who head the committees on intelligence, foreign affairs, and government oversight and reform, respectively, request internal documents about meetings and phone calls between Trump and Putin, any efforts to destroy those records, and any policy implications relevant to the committees. The letters, addressed to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, request the information by March 15.

In January, the Washington Post reported that Trump had tried to conceal records of meetings with Putin, including confiscating his interpreter’s notes after a meeting in Germany in 2017. As a result, “there is no detailed record, even in classified files, of Trump’s face-to-face interactions with the Russian leader at five locations over the past two years,” the Post reported. Democrats in Congress quickly raised questions about whether this violated the Presidential Records Act, legislation passed after Watergate to ensure that the president’s records ultimately belong to the public. The three committees first requested information from the White House about the meetings last month, but received no response.

“These allegations, if true, raise profound national security, counterintelligence, and foreign policy concerns, especially in light of Russia’s ongoing active measures campaign to improperly influence American elections,” Schiff, Engel, and Cummings said in a statement.

This is what real oversight looks like.




1 COMMENT

  1. Looks like we need to add Rupert Murdoch and Fox News executives to the list. Talking Points Memo reports, Fox News Had Stormy Daniels Story Before Election, Killed It To Protect Trump, https://talkingpointsmemo.com/news/fox-news-daniels-story-before-election-killed-protect-trump

    A Fox News reporter had doggedly reported on President Donald Trump’s hush money payment to Stormy Daniels only to see it killed because Fox News co-chairman Rupert Murdoch wanted Trump to win, according to a New Yorker report.

    The reporter, Diana Falzone, had the bulk of the story together and confirmed by October 2016, per the New Yorker. She had confirmation from Daniels, emails between Michael Cohen and Daniels’ attorney and even the contract Daniels signed. Fox editors punted it around the newsroom until the head of FoxNews.com, Ken LaCorte, allegedly told Falzon they wouldn’t publish the story.

    “Good reporting, kiddo. But Rupert wants Donald Trump to win. So just let it go,” LaCorte reportedly said.

    * * *

    Falzone did not give up, but kept digging and found out about Trump’s attempt to get the National Enquirer to make a “catch-and-kill” deal with Daniels. Fox News also blocked her from publishing that, per the New Yorker.

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