Posts tagged with "House Judiciary Committee"

Trump claims executive privilege over full Mueller report; House Judiciary votes to hold Barr in contempt

May 9, 2019

At the instigation of the Justice Department on the evening of May 7, President Donald Trump claimed executive privilege over the full Mueller report.

The maneuver represented a last-ditch effort to shield hidden portions of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s unredacted report on Russian interference in the 2016 election, as well as the supporting evidence he collected, from Congress and the American people.

“This is to advise you that the president has asserted executive privilege over the entirety of the subpoenaed materials,” a Justice Department official, Stephen Boyd, wrote Wednesday morning, referencing not only the Mueller report but the underlying evidence that House Democrats are seeking.

The assertion came as the House Judiciary Committee was set to vote on Wednesday, May 8, on whether the House of Representatives should hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress for defying a subpoena for the same materials, The New York Times reported.

In response, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-New York) commented in a formal release, “Tonight, in the middle of good faith negotiations with the attorney general, the [DoJ] abruptly announced that it would instead ask President Trump to invoke executive privilege on all of the materials subject to our subpoena.

“This is, of course, not how executive privilege works,” Nadler noted. “The White House waived these privileges long ago, and the department seemed open to sharing these materials with us earlier today. The department’s legal arguments are without credibility, merit, or legal or factual basis.”

He said that the move could have alarming and risky repercussions, remarking, “Worse, this kind of obstruction is dangerous. The department’s decision reflects President Trump’s blanket defiance of Congress’s constitutionally mandated duties.

“In the coming days,” Nadler continued, “I expect that Congress will have no choice but to confront the behavior of this lawless administration.  The committee will also take a hard look at the officials who are enabling this cover-up.  In the meantime, the committee will proceed with consideration of the contempt citation as planned.  I hope that the Department will think better of this last minute outburst and return to negotiations.”

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders released a blistering statement: “The American people see through Chairman Nadler’s desperate ploy to distract from the President’s historically successful agenda and our booming economy. Neither the White House nor Attorney General Barr will comply with Chairman Nadler’s unlawful and reckless demands,” she wrote, according to The Times.

She added: “Faced with Chairman Nadler’s blatant abuse of power, and at the Attorney General’s request, the President has no other option than to make a protective assertion of executive privilege.”

Shortly after 1 p.m. on May 8, after negotiations had once again tanked, Nadler said before the committee vote, “This is information we are legally entitled to receive and we are Constitutionally obligated to review .… The Trump administration has taken obstruction of Congress to new heights.”

The committee voted along partisan lines to hold Barr in contempt of Congress  (24 Democrats versus 16 Republicans). The contempt citation now will go before the full House chamber for a vote, where Democrats hold a 38-seat majority. The timing of that vote will be up to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California),

Research contact: @HouseJudiciary

Despite Trump’s tantrums, House Republicans want Mueller to testify

May 8, 2019

The U.S. president frantically flailed out on Twitter again on May 6—insisting that there is no “need” for Special Counsel Robert Mueller to testify publicly before the House Judiciary Committee.

Why would the Democrats in Congress now need Robert Mueller to testify,” Trump tweeted. “Are they looking for a redo because they hated seeing the strong NO COLLUSION conclusion?”

However, even House Republicans say they’re eager for Mueller to testify about the findings of his investigation into links between Trump’s campaign and Russia, Politico reported.

Although Republicans have largely sided with Trump’s claim that Mueller’s 448-page report absolved the president of wrongdoing, the political news outlet said, the president’s GOP House allies say they want to hear from the former FBI director.

“I think Mueller should testify,” Representative Doug Collins (Georgia), the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, said in an interview on Monday with Politico. “There was no collusion, no obstruction, and that’s what Bob Mueller will tell everyone.”

Representative Tom McClintock (R-California), another member of the same panel, said he has “a lot of questions” for Mueller. “So I hope that happens.”

Both House Republicans say their interest is less in Mueller’s report than in whether he has any insight into how the FBI launched an investigation of the Trump campaign in 2016. Trump has amplified those concerns, claiming he was targeted by Trump-hating FBI officials rather than the numerous contacts between Trump associates and Russia-linked figures.

“I think the president is just frustrated here, and I get that,” Collins added. “I’ve wanted Mueller to come before the committee all along. Then I can ask [Mueller] about how this investigation got started in the first place, what he was told about how it all began.”

Collins had previously urged Democrats to quickly call Mueller to the Capitol—even suggesting last month that they cut short a two-week recess to hear from the special counsel about his findings, Politico reports.

“I think we can agree this business is too important to wait, and Members of the Committee will surely return to Washington at such a critical moment in our country’s history,” Collins wrote at the time,—a plea that was rejected by the committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-New York) as premature.

In private, several top House Republicans believe it would be a mistake for Trump to prevent Mueller from appearing before the Judiciary Committee. To these GOP lawmakers and aides, that would allow Democrats to focus on the issue of Mueller’s non-appearance rather than the findings in his report.

“Then the issue becomes ‘Trump is stonewalling,’ rather than ‘Mueller didn’t find anything,'” an aide to one senior Republican told the news outlet. “This will be a bad move.”

Research contact: @politico

House Judiciary Committee says it has ‘no choice;” but to start contempt proceedings against Barr

May 7, 2019

On May 6, the House Judiciary Committee announced that, on Wednesday, May 8, the panel would create a markup of a contempt report, in response to Attorney General William Barr’s failure to comply with a duly issued subpoena to provide Congress with the full, unredacted version of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigative report along with underlying evidence.

During the markup procedure, members will debate and vote on a resolution; as well as on a supporting report. Should the committee vote to accept the report and hold the attorney general in contempt, the resolution and report will move to the floor for a full vote in the House to authorize legal proceedings.

“The contempt report provides an explanation of the committee’s urgent need for the Special Counsel’s report and underlying evidence, and the history of the committee’s efforts to negotiate with the Attorney General, among other details,” the committee’s formal statement said..

“Even in redacted form, the Special Counsel’s report offers disturbing evidence and analysis that President Trump engaged in obstruction of justice at the highest levels. Congress must see the full report and underlying evidence to determine how to best move forward with oversight, legislation, and other constitutional responsibilities,” commented House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler  (D-New York).

He added, “The Attorney General’s failure to comply with our subpoena, after extensive accommodation efforts, leaves us no choice but to initiate contempt proceedings in order to enforce the subpoena and access the full, unredacted report. If the Department presents us with a good faith offer for access to the full report and the underlying evidence, I reserve the right to postpone these proceedings.”

The proceedings come after Nadler, in his most recent attempt, sent a letter on May 3 to Attorney General William Barr with a counter-offer to immediately gain access to the redacted portions of Special Counsel Mueller’s report and underlying materials. Nadler requested that the Department reconsider its refusal to allow all members of Congress and appropriate staff to view redacted portions of the report in a secure location, not including the grand jury material. Nadler asked that the department work jointly with Congress to seek a court order to provide grand jury material. For the production of underlying documents, Nadler offered to prioritize those materials specifically cited in the report.

A copy of the contempt resolution and report is available here.

Research contact: @HouseJudiciary

Nadler pulls rank on Barr on terms of testimony

April 30, 2019

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-New York) has cautioned Attorney General William Barr—who has more than proven himself to be a Trump acolyte during his first six weeks in office—not to try to dictate the terms of his testimony on the Russia investigation on May 2.

“The witness is not going to tell the committee how to conduct its hearing, period,” Nadler told CNN on Sunday.

Barr is scheduled to testify to the committee on Thursday about Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s 448-page report on the probe—which he had thoroughly redacted before releasing it to a limited number of Congressional leaders earlier this month.

He also is expected to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee on May 1, according to a report by Politico.

Nadler wants to allow each committee member a five-minute round of questioning. A key point of contention has arisen over Nadler’s wanting to allow for another round of questioning of 30 minutes for each party’s committee counsels, the political news outlet said. The chairman also proposed that the panel go into closed session to discuss the redacted sections of the report.

Barr has rejected both proposals, according to CNN, which cited an unidentified committee source.

Representative Madeleine Dean (D-Pennsylvania), a member of the Judiciary Committee, told Politico that Nadler’s proposed structure for the hearing was “not unprecedented.”

“It is not up to Attorney General Barr to tell our committee how to operate, and will I be puzzled if he actually decides not to show,” Dean said Sunday on CNN Newsroom With Fredricka Whitfield.

If Barr doesn’t appear on Thursday, Dean said, the committee is ready to “fully use our subpoena power.”

“The chairman has subpoena power, and we’ll have to go to a court of law and either hold him in contempt or have him come in, but I hope that cooler heads prevail,” Dean said.

Nadler has subpoenaed the Justice Department to provide an unredacted version of Mueller’s report, along with its underlying grand jury evidence and testimony, by May 1. He also sent a letter to Mueller asking the special counsel to testify before the Judiciary Committee by May 23.

Research contact: @politico

Fears confirmed: Leaks from Mueller’s team attest that report was more damaging than Barr revealed

April 5, 2019

We suspected it all along, but now, some of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigators have asserted that Attorney General William Barr’s four-page letter on the conclusions of the Russia investigation failed to adequately lay out the most damaging findings of the report, The New York Times posted on April 3.

At stake in the dispute — the first evidence of tension between Barr and the Special Counsel’s Office—is who will shape the American electorate’s opinion of one of the most consequential government investigations in American history,k the Times said.

Some members of  Mueller’s team are concerned that, because Barr created the first narrative of the special counsel’s findings, Americans’ views will have hardened before the investigation’s conclusions become public.

Barr has said he will move quickly to release the nearly 400-page report, but needs time to scrub out confidential information. However, House Democrats say that nothing needs to be redacted before they review the report.

What’s more, the special counsel’s investigators have told associates that they already had prepared multiple summaries of the report, and some team members believe that Barr should have included more of their material in his  letter of  March 24 laying out their main conclusions.

However, the special counsel’s office never asked Barr to release the summaries, a person familiar with the investigation told the news outlet. And the Justice Department quickly determined that the summaries contain sensitive information—including classified material,  grand-jury testimony, and information related to ongoing federal investigations.

Barr also was wary, the Times reported, of departing from Justice Department practice not to disclose derogatory details in closing an investigation, according to two government officials familiar with the AG’s thinking. They pointed to the much-derided decision by James Comey, the former F.B.I. director, to harshly criticize Hillary Clinton in 2016 while announcing that he was recommending no charges in the inquiry into her email practices.

Indeed, according to officials familiar with the attorney general’s thinking, he and his aides limited the details they revealed because they were worried about wading into political territory. Mr. Barr and his advisers expressed concern that if they included derogatory information about Mr. Trump while clearing him, they would face a storm of criticism the one that. Comey endured after the Clinton investigation.

Although it still is not clear what findings the special counsel’s investigators viewed as troubling for the president, Barr has suggested that Mueller may have found evidence of malfeasance in investigating possible obstruction of justice. “

Meanwhile, the House Judiciary Committee voted on Wednesday to let its chairman use a subpoena to try to compel Barr to hand over a full copy of the Mueller report and its underlying evidence to Congress. The chairman, Representative Jerrold Nadler (D-New York), clear on Wednesday that he did not trust Barr’s characterization of what Mueller’s team had found.

Republicans, who have embraced Barr’s letter clearing Mr. Trump, have accused the Democrats of trying to prolong the cloud over his presidency and urged them to move on, the Times said.

Research contact: @nytimes

Trump lashes out, refusing to reply or comply with Democratic probes

March 6, 2019

President Donald Trump lashed out on March 5, indicating that the White House would not comply with a deluge of document requests sent out this week by the House Judiciary Committee—and last week, by the House Oversight Committee, The Hill reported.

The president accused Democrats in the House of launching the probes to hurt his chances of winning reelection in 2020.

“It’s a disgrace to our country. I’m not surprised that it’s happening. Basically, they’ve started the campaign. So the campaign begins,” Trump told the media at a White House event, adding, “Instead of doing infrastructure, instead of doing healthcare, instead of doing so many things that they should be doing, they want to play games.”

Trump suggested that his predecessor, President Barack Obama, would have done the same. However, Obama did turn over more than 1,000 documents in April 2016 related to a controversial federal gun trafficking investigation.

“They didn’t give one letter. They didn’t do anything,” Trump said, adding, “ They didn’t give one letter of the requests.”

The president’s remarks suggest the White House could invoke executive privilege or take other measures to shield internal documents or discussions from Democratic-led panels investigating Trump’s administration, campaign, and businesses, The Hill reported.

In a letter released earlier on March 5, White House Counsel Pat Cipollone rejected House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings’s (D-Maryland) March 1 request for documents related to security clearances for White House personnel.

Cipollone called Cummings’s demands “unprecedented and extraordinarily intrusive demands” and said the chairman “failed to point to any authority establishing a legitimate legislative purpose” for the request.

In return, Cummings issued the following statement: “The White House appears to be arguing that Congress has no authority to examine decisions by the Executive Branch that impact our national security—even when the President’s former National Security Adviser has pleaded guilty to lying about his contacts with foreign government officials.  There is a key difference between a president who exercises his authority under the Constitution and a president who overrules career experts and his top advisers to benefit his family members and then conceals his actions from the American people.  The White House’s argument defies the Constitutional separation of powers, decades of precedent before this Committee, and just plain common-sense.”

While the White House has yet to formally respond to Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler’s (D-New York) sweeping demands, the letter and Trump’s remark signal the White House could take a similarly adversarial approach.

Trump on March 4 used a more conciliatory tone in his first response to Nadler’s investigation, telling reporters that “I cooperate all the time with everybody.”

But by March 5, The Hill reported, his tone had changed. In a tweet, he accused Nadler and other Democratic chairmen of having “gone stone cold CRAZY” and attempting to “harass” dozens of “innocent people” who have worked in the White House and the Trump Organization with their document requests.

Research contact: @Jordanfabian

Whodunnit? House Judiciary Committee intends to find out

March 5, 2019

It reads like a whodunnit. On March 4, House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) announced that he and his colleagues would investigate alleged obstruction of justice, public corruption, and other abuses of power by President Donald Trump, his associates, and members of his Administration—among them, Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg, David Pecker of American Media, former White House Counsel Don McGahn, Trump son-in-law and Senior Adviser Jared Kushner, Trump buddy Roger Stone; and the president’s sons, Eric and Donald, Jr.

As a first step, the committee has served document requests to 81 agencies, entities, and individuals believed to have information relevant to the investigation (see full list). 

“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,” said Nadler.

“Investigating these threats to the rule of law is an obligation of Congress and a core function of the House Judiciary Committee,” he noted. “We have seen the damage done to our democratic institutions in the two years that the Congress refused to conduct responsible oversight.

“Congress must provide a check on abuses of power,” said the committee chairman. “Equally, we must protect and respect the work of Special Counsel [Robert] Mueller, but we cannot rely on others to do the investigative work for us.  Our work is even more urgent after senior Justice Department officials have suggested that they may conceal the work of the Special Counsel’s investigation from the public.

Nadler explained,“We have sent these document requests in order to begin building the public record.  The Special Counsel’s office and the Southern District of New York are aware that we are taking these steps.  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.  That is exactly what we intend to do.”

The Committee’s investigation will cover three main areas:

  • Obstruction of Justice, including the possibility of interference by the president and others in a number of criminal investigations and other official proceedings, as well as the alleged cover-up of violations of the law;
  • Public Corruption, including potential violations of the emoluments clauses of the U.S. Constitution, conspiracy to violate federal campaign and financial reporting laws, and other criminal misuses of official positions for personal gain; and
  • Abuses of Power, including attacks on the press, the judiciary, and law enforcement agencies; misuse of the pardon power and other presidential authorities; and attempts to misuse the power of the Office of the Presidency.

For the two years that the Trump administration has been in power, “in the absence of responsible oversight by the Republican Majority,” the House Judiciary Committee Democrats say that they have written—but received no response to—over 100 letters to the White House, the Administration, and House Republican Leadership documenting the failings of the Trump Administration and demanding accountability. With this investigation, they intend to finally get their questions answered.

Research contact: @RepJerryNadler

Dems vow to ‘get to the bottom’ of allegations that Trump directed Cohen to lie to Congress

January 21, 2019

President Donald Trump directed his longtime former personal  attorney and “fixer” Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, according to two federal law enforcement officials involved in an investigation of the matter, BuzzFeed reported late on January 17.

The story, which invalidates Trump’s ongoing claim that he had no business deals with Russia—and apprehends him in a maneuver to mislead federal legislators—exposes the president to criminal culpability, like he has never been before.

Indeed, according to The Washington Post, Democrats in Congress vowed on January 18 to thoroughly investigate the new report—with Representative Jerry Nadler (D-New York), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee,  vowing that his panel would “get to the bottom” of the allegations.

Early on Friday, Nadler tweeted, “We know that the President has engaged in a long pattern of obstruction. Directing a subordinate to lie to Congress is a federal crime. The @HouseJudiciary Committee’s job is to get to the bottom of it, and we will do that work.”

Representative Adam B. Schiff (D-California), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, released a formal statement, asserting, ““It is now alleged that the president … directed Michael Cohen to lie under oath to Congress about these matters in an effort to impede the investigation and to cover up his business dealings with Russia. These allegations may prove unfounded, but, if true, they would constitute both the subornation of perjury as well as obstruction of justice.

“Our committee,” said Schiff, “is already working to secure additional witness testimony and documents related to the Trump Tower Moscow deal and other investigative matters. As a counterintelligence concern of the greatest magnitude, and given that these alleged efforts were intended to interfere with our investigation, our Committee is determined to get to the bottom of this and follow the evidence wherever it may lead.”

In his first public comments on the report, Trump went on Twitter on Friday morning to quote a Fox News reporter, Kevin Corke, as saying, “Don’t forget, Michael Cohen has already been convicted of perjury and fraud, and as recently as this week, the Wall Street Journal has suggested that he may have stolen tens of thousands of dollars….”

“Lying to reduce his jail time!” Trump added in his own words.

According to the BuzzFeed report, the special counsel’s office learned about Trump’s directive for Cohen to lie through interviews with multiple witnesses from the Trump Organization and internal company emails, text messages, and what BuzzFeed described as “a cache of other documents.”

Cohen then acknowledged those instructions during his interviews with the special counsel’s office, BuzzFeed reported.

In a statement, Lanny J. Davis, a legal communications adviser to Cohen, said that both he and Cohen are declining to respond to reporters’ questions “out of respect for Mr. Mueller’s and the Office of Special Counsel’s investigation.”

Research contact: jason.leopold@buzzfeed.com