House Democrats to reinvestigate 2016 Russia-Trump allegations
The House intelligence committee announced a wide-ranging probe into President Trump’s administration Wednesday, questioning whether he, his children or his businesses have been compromised by foreign agents who have “leverage” over him.
Chairman Adam Schiff’s move defies Mr. Trump, who just a day earlier warned Congress in his State of the Union address that hopes for bipartisan cooperation this year rest on forgoing “ridiculous partisan investigations.”
The California Democrat said not only will his panel restart the Russia electionmeddling investigation that Republicans conducted — and said they had concluded — in the last Congress, but he’ll go much broader, looking into whether anyone has managed to “compromise” the president.
“The committee must fulfill its responsibility to provide the American people with a comprehensive accounting of what happened, and what the United States must do to protect itself from future interference and malign influence operations,” the congressman said.
As a first step, he said the committee will release transcripts from the probes conducted in the last Congress, and he said the panel is committed to releasing investigative interview transcripts, though he signaled he will control the timetable.
Mr. Schiff’s five-part investigative plan includes reinvestigating “the scope and scale” of Russia’s election meddling; any “links” to the Trump campaign; whether any foreigner has “sought to compromise or holds leverage” over the president or his family; whether they are vulnerable to blackmail; and whether anyone is trying to interfere with congressional investigations into all of those issues.
Asked about the looming probe, Mr. Trump mocked Mr. Schiff to reporters at the White House.
“Never heard of him,” said Mr. Trump, who questioned the “basis” for the investigations. “He’s just a political hack who’s trying to build a name for himself. It’s called presidential harassment.”
Mr. Schiff released the plan as the intelligence committee met to organize for the new Congress, now under Democratic control.
Mr. Schiff’s decision to restart a Russia investigation is a rebuke to Republicans who controlled the chamber over the previous two years and who did their own investigation, clearing the president and his team of specific wrongdoing.
“It is now known that, from late 2015 through early 2017, individuals close to Donald Trump engaged in a significant number of contacts with an array of individuals connected to, or working on behalf of, the Russian government, and that several of these contacts involved efforts to acquire and disseminate damaging information about Hillary Clinton and her campaign, or related to Russia’s desired relief from U.S. sanctions,” Mr. Schiff said.
Republicans say Mr. Schiff’s announcement means the start of an open-ended investigation into Mr. Trump’s and his family’s lives.
“The parameters of the Democrats’ investigation are stunningly wide,” said Jack Langer, spokesman for committee Republicans. “They’re not confining the investigation to Russia or to collusion in election hacking. They’re saying they can investigate relations between any foreign nationals and any Trump associates, including those associated with Trump businesses. It’s a blueprint for a sprawling, endless investigation designed to dig and dig and dig until they finally find some misdeed somewhere they can pin on Trump.” At a closed committee meeting Wednesday, Democrats voted down a GOP motion to release all unclassified transcripts from the first Russia investigation led by Rep. Devin Nunes, California Republican. His report found no election collusion, saying no witness provided testimony of any Trump-Moscow conspiracy.
While Trump associates have pleaded guilty to charges such as money laundering and lying to Congress or the FBI, no Trump associate has been charge in a conspiracy with Russia.
The committee on Wednesday postponed the closed testimony of one of those associates, Mr. Trump’s former personal attorney and fixer Michael Cohen.
Jeff Mordock contributed to this report.
“The committee must fulfill its responsibility to provide the American people with a comprehensive accounting of what happened, and what the United States must do to protect itself from future interference and malign influence operations,” said House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, California Democrat.