Jerrold Nadler seeks Donald Trump associates’ documents

March 4, 2019 GMT

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler on Sunday said Democrats will request documents from dozens of people close to the White House, including Donald Trump Jr. and the Trump Organization’s chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, though he downplayed talk of impeaching President Trump.

Mr. Nadler said the panel will request information from 60 Trump associates Monday, signaling Democratic plans to go big in digging into the president’s campaign and business after Mr. Trump’s longtime attorney, Michael Cohen, outlined numerous avenues of inquiry in Capitol Hill testimony last week.

Speaking on ABC’s “This Week,” Mr. Nadler said Congress has a duty to protect the rule of law despite protests from Mr. Trump, who declared himself an “innocent man” Sunday, and Republican leaders who say Democrats are blindly fishing for dirt.

The chairman said he believes Mr. Trump obstructed justice by repeatedly slamming special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of the 2016 campaign, by allegedly urging former FBI Director James B. Comey to back off former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and by citing “this Russia thing” in a TV interview after firing Mr. Comey.

Even so, Mr. Nadler said any attempt to oust the president would be premature.

“We do not now have the evidence all sorted out and everything to do an impeachment,” Mr. Nadler, of New York, told ABC’s “This Week.” “Before you impeach somebody, you have to persuade the American public that it ought to happen.”

He said that includes convincing Trump supporters that Democrats aren’t merely trying to overturn the election result an argument Mr. Nadler and other Democrats made to dismiss Republicans’ late-1990s impeachment of President Clinton.

“It is a high bar,” Mr. Nadler said. “We may or may not get there.”

The push indicates Democrats are entering an aggressive phase in their oversight of the president’s personal business, his campaign and goings-on at the White House, and that they feel there is more to examine besides special counsel Robert Mueller’s scrutiny of Russian meddling in the 2016 campaign.

“We can’t depend on the Mueller investigation for this,” Mr. Nadler said. “The Mueller investigation, No. 1, we don’t know when it’s ending despite lots of rumors. No. 2, it’s focused on specific crimes.”

Elsewhere, House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Elijah E. Cummings, Maryland Democrat, said he has run out of patience with the White House for failing to produce documents related to its handling of security clearances, particularly in light of reports that Mr. Trump intervened to grant his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, a top-level clearance.

Mr. Cummings set a Monday deadline to begin handing over the documents and scheduling interviews with key witnesses.

Mr. Trump lashed out against the wide-ranging investigations in a series of Sunday tweets, saying his onetime “fixer” is a liar who painted him in a poor light to ease legal pressure on himself.

Mr. Trump said he is the victim of “presidential harassment” and that two years of investigations have found wrongdoing only by others.

“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!” he said.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, California Republican, warned that Democrats, despite what Mr. Nadler says, will latch onto whatever excuse they can find to impeach the president after the Mueller investigation fails to produce a smoking gun over alleged ties between Mr. Trump’s circle and Russia.

“There’s no collusion, so they want to build something else,” Mr. McCarthy told ABC.

Top Democrats rejected the idea that Mr. Mueller’s pressure has produced nothing, citing the high-profile Trump Tower meeting between campaign figures and Russians promising dirt on Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, and lingering questions about what Trump campaign contacts knew about WikiLeaks’ dump of hacked Democratic emails.

Sen. Mark R. Warner, Virginia Democrat and vice chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, told NBC’s “Meet the Press” that based on those things, “there’s no one that could factually say there’s not plenty of evidence of collaboration or communications” between Mr. Trump’s circle and the Russians.

Mr. Mueller reportedly is finalizing a report on his findings for the Justice Department, prompting new questions about what top officials will reveal to Congress and the broader public.

Mr. Nadler said Americans deserve to see what the special counsel uncovers in terms of Russian meddling in the 2016 campaign, so he will subpoena that information if the Justice Department keeps it under wraps.

“We do want the underlying evidence. I mean, people are entitled to know it,” he said. “And Congress is entitled to know it because it’s our job to hold the president accountable.”

Beyond the Mueller investigation, Democrats are revisiting payments that Cohen says he made to porn actress Stormy Daniels on Mr. Trump’s behalf to cover up an alleged affair on the cusp of the election.

“Seeking to sabotage a fair election would be an impeachable offense,” Mr. Nadler told ABC. “We’ll see about that, but we’re far from making decisions about that.”

Mr. McCarthy said Cohen, as an attorney, had a responsibility to advise Mr. Trump on the law and what is right or wrong in the process. He also said campaign finance violations, even if they were committed, would not be impeachable. The Constitution says a president can be impeached for “high crimes and misdemeanors.”

“Those are fines,” Mr. McCarthy said.