House Judiciary Launches Probe Of Allegations Of Obstruction By President Trump
MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
To another story now, and confirmation today, if you needed it, that the Democratic-controlled House is ramping up investigations of President Trump. The House Judiciary Committee sent requests for documents to 81 individuals, organizations and federal agencies. Committee chairman - that would be New York Democrat Jerry Nadler - told ABC's "This Week" he is focused on three areas of inquiry.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THIS WEEK")
JERRY NADLER: It's our job to protect the rule of law. That's our core function. And to do that, we are going through initiate investigations into abuses of power, into corruption and into obstruction of justice.
KELLY: OK. Let's bring in NPR political reporter Tim Mak. He is on Capitol Hill. Hey, Tim.
TIM MAK, BYLINE: Hey there.
KELLY: Who are these 81 individuals and groups and agencies that the committee wants documents from?
MAK: So it's 81. It's a very broad set of requests. It involves dozens of names and entities from across the Trump universe. Some will be pretty familiar. There were requests to the Justice Department, the White House and The Trump Organization. And then you get into some of these individuals who may not be household names, people that Michael Cohen named in that dramatic hearing last week before the House Oversight Committee, for example. So on that list are the president's son, Donald Trump Jr., various Trump executives...
KELLY: Both his sons, I think, right? Eric Trump's on the list, too.
MAK: Yes, and Eric Trump. You've got other Trump executives as well and Trump's longtime executive assistant. But there are also other names unrelated to the Trump business. There's a document request for WikiLeaks and Julian Assange, Cambridge Analytica and even the National Rifle Association.
KELLY: OK. That's the who, let me turn you to the what. We said the committee is asking for documents, what exact documents?
MAK: Well, this is supposed to be among the first round of document requests from the committee. And the specific documents differ depending, obviously, on the person that's asked. But the topics are generally familiar to the public, I think - for example, the committee is demanding The Trump Organization provide documents relating to any foreign government discussing, providing a present to Trump or his business interests after he became president, which has been a longtime concern of Democratic lawmakers.
The committee is also setting a tight deadline. They're signaling that if people don't respond by March 18 - that's two weeks from now - the committee may vote on subpoenas to compel them to produce those documents. Meanwhile, Republicans like ranking member Jim Jordan are arguing that this investigation is a, quote, "fishing expedition," end quote. Here's how Nadler responded to George Stephanopoulos on ABC.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THIS WEEK")
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you think the president obstructed justice?
NADLER: Yes, I do.
STEPHANOPOULOS: If that's...
NADLER: It's very clear that the president obstructed justice.
MAK: So because Nadler has already said he believes, based on what's available in the public, that the president has obstructed justice, Republicans are saying Nadler is trying to find facts to fit a conclusion he's already made.
KELLY: Right. Republicans have also alleged that this is laying the groundwork for impeachment proceedings against the president. When you asked members of the committee about that, what did they say?
MAK: Well, Democratic leaders are trying to tamp down expectations on impeachment at least for now. Nadler has said that they don't have the facts yet. But Nadler's committee would be the panel where impeachment proceedings begin. It just doesn't look like Democrats or Nadler are ready to go that far right now.
KELLY: Real quick before I let you go, Tim. Several other - three other House chairmen - and I should note they are all Democrats now - they are demanding that the White House hand over documents to do with the president's conversations with Vladimir Putin. What's going on there?
MAK: Yeah. The chairmen of these committees are saying that the president has, on multiple occasions, appeared to take steps to conceal the details of his communications with President Putin, and they're really concerned about this. They're demanding documents in short order from the White House on that.
KELLY: NPR's Tim Mak on Capitol Hill. Thank you, Tim.
MAK: Thank you.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.