The House Intelligence Committee is investigating whether lawyers tied to President Trump and his family helped obstruct the panel’s inquiry into Russian election interference by shaping false testimony, a series of previously undisclosed letters from its chairman show.
The line of inquiry stems from claims made by the president’s former personal lawyer and fixer, Michael D. Cohen, who told Congress earlier this year that the lawyers in question helped edit false testimony that he provided to Congress in 2017 about a Trump Tower project in Moscow. Mr. Cohen said they also dangled a potential pardon to try to ensure his loyalty.
In recent weeks, the committee sent lengthy document requests to four lawyers — Jay Sekulow, who represents the president; Alan S. Futerfas, who represents Donald Trump Jr.; Alan Garten, the top lawyer at the Trump Organization; and Abbe D. Lowell, who represents Ivanka Trump. The lawyers all took part in a joint defense agreement by the president’s allies to coordinate responses to inquiries by Congress and the Justice Department.
“Among other things, it appears that your clients may have reviewed, shaped and edited the false statement that Cohen submitted to the committee, including causing the omission of material facts,” the Intelligence Committee’s chairman, Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, wrote to lawyers representing the four men in a May 3 letter obtained by The New York Times.
He continued: “In addition, certain of your clients may have engaged in discussions about potential pardons in an effort to deter one or more witnesses from cooperating with authorized investigations.”
The lawyers have so far balked at the committee’s requests. Mr. Schiff is prepared to issue a subpoena to compel cooperation if necessary, according to a senior committee official.
Donald Trump Jr. and the Republican-controlled Senate Intelligence Committee reached a deal on Tuesday for the president’s eldest son to sit for a private interview with senators in the coming weeks that will be limited in time, an accord that should cool a heated intraparty standoff.
The deal came after an aggressive push by the younger Trump’s allies, who accused the Intelligence Committee’s chairman, Senator Richard M. Burr of North Carolina, of caving to Democrats by issuing a subpoena for the president’s son’s testimony. They called the effort a political hit job against the White House, using the president’s son as fodder.
Mr. Burr told fellow Republican senators last week that the president’s son had twice agreed to voluntary interviews but had not shown up, forcing the subpoena.
I hope C-Span covers this.
More than 20 House Democrats will stage a marathon public reading of the entire redacted Mueller report beginning Thursday at noon, and likely ending in the early morning hours of Friday.
“We’ve been saying for weeks that if you think there was no obstruction and no collusion, you haven’t read the Mueller report. So the ongoing quest has been, ‘How do we get that story out there while we are waiting for the witnesses to come in?’" said Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon (D-Pa.) who has been organizing the effort since Friday.
Scanlon is the vice chairwoman of the House Judiciary Committee, which has subpoenaed the Department of Justice for the full, unredacted report into Russian interference in the 2016 election and has invited special counsel Robert S. Mueller III to testify by May 23.
The committee has also scheduled a hearing with former White House counsel Donald McGahn for May 21, although his attendance has not been confirmed.
The reading of all 448 pages of the report will take an estimated 12 to 14 hours, Scanlon said. Shifts will be divided up among the readers, including Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), who will follow Scanlon as the second reader.
Thx @Pet_Proletariat. - you have excerpted and highlighted ALL the good breaking (and somewhat jarring developments) all afternoon. I watched Maddow on MSNBC tonight and she did some great reporting on this and a couple others you listed tonight.
Her first story was about whether Mueller had delved into any of the counter intelligence investigations that McCabe had initiated and FBI head Chris Wray is now overseeing. She thinks by the fact that very little intel is derived from the counter intelligence investigation within the Mueller Report that is is solely Wray’s deal. So therefore all the more reason for T to blast Wray a lot, not only because Wray refused to use the word ‘spying.’
You get a lot of and and high praise for all your coverage today and always! Thank you!
I’ll have to check it out tonight.
Thank you, missed this one…
Interview with Chairman Nadler.
John Harwood: Do you agree with Speaker Pelosi, who said the other day that he is self-impeaching by his conduct, making it impossible for you to avoid that?
Jerry Nadler: He’s making it increasingly difficult. Our major goal has to be to vindicate the rule of law. No questions are being answered about any subject. And then, when subpoenas are being issued, there’s a blanket command, disobey all subpoenas. Nobody should testify, and nobody should give documents to Congress. Well, that’s a way of neutering Congress, of making sure that Congress can’t do its job, of turning the country into a dictatorship of a monarchical president. You can’t function if you don’t have information.
John Harwood: That’s why you call it a constitutional crisis?
Jerry Nadler: Yes.
John Harwood: I was reading over the weekend about the impeachment of Andrew Johnson in the 19th century. And the advocates of impeachment then struggled with the question of, do we articulate narrow, concrete, easily understandable grounds for going after him? Crimes that he might have committed, or clear violations of his oath of office, or do we articulate a broader argument, but namely that the impeachable violation is that he was thwarting the aims of the Civil War, or the outcomes of the Civil War by interfering with the creation of a new society. Do you think of it that way as you’re investigating President Trump? And if there’s a larger issue about him and his conduct, what is it?
Jerry Nadler: Certainly on many issues, you have to deal with the specifics. And the larger issue – well, you’ve got three issues, really.
It starts off with, this president and his campaign. If you read the Mueller report, there was tons of evidence that they knew the Russians were interfering with the election on their behalf. They welcomed it, they wanted it, and they coordinated with it. Colluded, in a word. There’s no question about that.
John Harwood: Despite Bill Barr saying over and over, “no collusion.”
Jerry Nadler: Bill Barr is just a liar. And, he’s just representing the president.
The second clear conclusion is, there are 12 episodes of obstruction of justice. Beyond all that is the basic question: They’re trying to say that Congress, representing the American people, can’t get information, and therefore, can’t function. The effect of that is to make the president a monarch, to make him a dictator. And that’s what we’ve got to fight.
John Harwood: Do you believe, in fact, that the president is compromised by Russia?
Jerry Nadler: Trump was saying throughout the campaign, “I have no dealings in Russia. I have no dealings of whatever kind.” We now know that in fact, they were negotiating for Trump Tower Moscow right to the end of the campaign. They were lying and lying about it.
Putin knew that they were having these negotiations. He knew that Trump was lying to the American people about it, and that gave him leverage, because he could have revealed that during the campaign. Whether there is leverage now, I don’t know. There are a lot of questions.
John Harwood: You actually think Bill Barr is just lying, as opposed to being a defender of the person who put him in the attorney general’s job?
Jerry Nadler: You could have two interpretations of Bill Barr’s motives. The less charitable interpretation is he’s doing whatever he has to do, to protect the president personally. And he’ll hide whatever he has to hide. Lied may be too strong a word, but he certainly misrepresented very strongly what was in the report.
The more charitable interpretation is that he simply believes in the so-called unitary theory of government, and this tyrannical theory that any president cannot obstruct justice, that as long as he believes that he didn’t do anything wrong, he can stop an investigation. Which is a terrible doctrine because it would mean that you can’t investigate any president for doing anything. And that he is acting now to protect that point of view.
They’re both dangerous. One would have him being very dishonest, the other would have him being honest but very dangerous to the republic.
The White House’s top lawyer told the House Judiciary Committee chairman Wednesday that Congress has no right to a “do-over” of the special counsel’s investigation of President Trump and refused a broad demand for records and testimony from dozens of current and former White House staff.
White House Counsel Pat A. Cipollone’s letter to committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler constitutes a sweeping rejection — not just of Nadler’s request for White House records, but of Congress’s standing to investigate Trump for possible obstruction of justice. In his letter, Cipollone repeated a claim the White House and Trump’s business have begun making: that Congress is not a law enforcement body and does not have a legitimate purpose to investigate the questions it is pursuing.
But Cipollone stopped short of asserting executive privilege. Instead, he told Nadler he would consider a narrowed request if the chairman spells out the legislative purpose and legal support for the information he is seeking.
“Congressional investigations are intended to obtain information to aid in evaluating potential legislation, not to harass political opponents or to pursue an unauthorized ‘do-over’ of exhaustive law enforcement investigations conducted by the Department of Justice,” Cipollone wrote.
Cipollone said the release of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s report now makes Congress’s questions moot. He stressed that probe was “exhaustive” — the product of 2,800 subpoenas, 500 executed search warrants and 500 witness interviews — and that the president supported the report’s full release “in the interest of transparency.”
“The appropriate course is for the Committee to discontinue the inquiry,” he wrote. “Unfortunately, it appears that you have already decided to press ahead with a duplicative investigation, including by issuing subpoenas, to replow the same ground the Special Counsel has already covered.”
Full text of Cipollone letter
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin hinted on Wednesday that his department would not comply with a subpoena for President Donald Trump’s tax returns, a sign that Democrats will likely have to go to court if they want to continue in their fight for the President’s tax records.
House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal subpoenaed six years of the President’s personal and business tax returns last week. He gave Mnuchin a Friday deadline to comply with the subpoena.
Mnuchin officially said he had not made up his mind on how his department would respond, but he signaled during comments at a hearing on Capitol Hill, as well as while speaking to reporters directly following that appearance, that the response to Neal would likely fit a pattern.
“We haven’t had an official response yet, I think we have a few more days,” Mnuchin told reporters. “We will comply with the timing of it, I think you can pretty much guess how we’re going to, but we haven’t made a decision.”
Where that investigation stands now, though, is a mystery — even to congressional leaders. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) spoke with The Washington Post by phone Tuesday and explained how he and his colleagues have been stymied in their efforts to learn how and if the probe is moving forward. The interview has been edited for clarity.
The Post: What, as you understand it, is the current status of that investigation into the president?
Schiff: The short answer is: We don’t know. Just as a reminder, this all began as an FBI counterintelligence investigation into whether people around then-candidate Trump were acting as witting or unwitting agents of a foreign power. So it began as a counterintelligence investigation, not as a criminal investigation. Now obviously a criminal case — many criminal cases — were spun off of this but we don’t know what happened to the counterintelligence investigation that James Comey opened.
We would get briefed, predominantly at a Gang of Eight level, up until Comey was fired. And, after that point, while we continued to get quarterly — although often they missed the quarterly nature of it — counterintelligence briefings, they excluded the most important counterintelligence investigation then going on, that involving Donald Trump.
The Post: Is there any reason to believe that the counterintelligence investigation has been closed?
Schiff: You know, I have not been able to get clarity on that. We have been seeking to get it, to get an answer from the Justice Department, from the counterintelligence division at the FBI, and we don’t have clarity, which is concerning.
There is a reference in the Mueller report to counterintelligence FBI personnel who were embedded in Mueller’s team [Volume One, p. 13] which then reports back to headquarters, although those reports may have dealt with counterintelligence issues that the special counsel felt were beyond his scope. But we don’t know whether the Mueller team itself or others in the Mueller team or others outside the Mueller team continued the counterintelligence investigation after the criminal probe was opened or whether at some point it was closed.
The Post: NBC News reported that there was supposed to have been an update on this shortly after the Mueller report came out. That just didn’t happen?
Schiff: We have had a number of discussions now with the Department of Justice and the FBI, but on this point, we still have not gotten clarity, and that does concern us. There is a statutory obligation by the department to keep us currently and presently informed of significant counterintelligence matters, and it’s hard to imagine one more significant than this. So I’m confident we will get an answer, but they’ve yet to be forthcoming on that point.
The Post: As you noted, there is some overlap between what the special counsel was looking at and some elements of the original counterintelligence investigation. What do you see as the important distinctions? What are the things that really stand out from the counterintelligence probe that wouldn’t have been covered under what Mueller was actually looking at?
Schiff: Well, that’s a very good question and really at the heart of why we want to get a briefing and the counterintelligence materials and findings, because we don’t know. Now, certainly some of what Bob Muller wrote about in this report, a great deal of Volume One is counterintelligence information.
The fact that the president, while concealing it from the country, was seeking to make money in Russia, building a massive tower in Moscow and was seeking the Kremlin’s help and then misleading the country and ultimately, through Michael Cohen, the Congress is a counterintelligence nightmare of the first order. Because the Russians, of course, were on the other end of that transaction and knew that when the president was denying any business dealings he was lying. And, interestingly, when, the year after Michael Cohen’s testimony, it became known that he had lied to our committee and that the transaction had gone on much longer than he had said, and, in fact, they had reached out directly to [spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin] Dmitry Peskov for help from the Kremlin. Someone very close to Putin, Peskov issued a statement denying that they had ever followed up on the inquiry. And Peskov was lying. So here you have the prospect of the Kremlin issuing its own false statements to help cover up for the president of the United States.
And so those are quintessential counterintelligence issues. It may not be a crime for a candidate for a president to seek to make money from a hostile foreign power during an election and mislead the country about it. Maybe it should be, and given [Trump attorney] Rudy Giuliani’s aborted trip to Ukraine, they clearly haven’t learned the lesson from 2016. But the counterintelligence concerns go beyond mere violation of criminal law. They’re at one time not necessarily a criminal activity and at the same time potentially far more serious than criminal activity because you have the capacity to warp U.S. policy owing to some form of compromise.
The Post: There has been a subpoena that’s been issued. I saw your interview with Axios on Friday in which you suggested that you might use inherent contempt power to try to fine people who weren’t being responsive to subpoenas broadly. How confident do you feel that you will get a response to the subpoena? How confident do you feel that you will be able to be effective in, if you choose to use the inherent contempt power, how confident you feel that that will actually be an effective tool?
Schiff: Well, I certainly think the president and his lawyer [Attorney General] Bill Barr are being fully obstructive and have adopted a maximalist position of no documents, no way, no how.
But, you know, we are having negotiations over the counterintelligence information that we hope will nonetheless bear fruit. I think the FBI and the intelligence community understand their statutory obligations but they’re caught between a rock and a hard place. While they have a good relationship with our committee and continue to work with us on a whole range of issues, I think that the position the president and Bill Barr have taken makes it very difficult for them to produce the materials they know they’re obligated to. We’re making every effort to achieve compliance without having to litigate the matter. But if necessary, we will.
The Post: The natural follow-up question, particularly given not only your having used the word “obstructive” there but given the recent developments is: How confident do you feel that if there is an ongoing counterintelligence investigation that it will be protected, that it will actually be able to carry to fruition?
Schiff: I think all of us have deep concerns with the attorney general’s conduct and, now, opening some form of investigation of the president’s rivals. The whole adoption of the “Deep State coup” theory, the “spying on the campaign” theory, promulgated by the president through his Twitter account, that is now apparently the policy of the attorney general of the United States, who sees nothing wrong with opening up investigations of rivals that are requested by the president.
And if that’s the case then, yes, it certainly ought to concern us that an attorney general who believes that the president at any time could shut down the special counsel’s investigation because he deemed it unfair could also shut down any counterintelligence investigation for the same reason.
The Post: Do you plan on subpoenaing anyone for testimony in regards to the investigation?
Schiff: That very well may be necessary. We’re talking to a number of witnesses that we’d like to come before our committee. We certainly have every expectation that Bob Mueller will come and testify and we hope that we can organize that without necessity of using any subpoena. I think Bob Mueller’s probably more than willing to testify. I think he understands the importance of it. May or may not look forward to it. I can certainly understand it’s going to be an arduous experience under the best of circumstances, but I think he understands just how important it is for the country to hear directly from him, particularly when the attorney general has so badly misled the public about his report and its conclusions.
There is a lot more at stake here than oversight of the Russia investigation or even oversight of Donald Trump. If Donald Trump, through release obstructionist tactics, can thwart congressional oversight, it means that every president who follows him can do the same. And that will fundamentally alter the balance of power in a way that will make it far more difficult to ferret out corruption and malfeasance of any future president.
Little history lesson from the Architect of the Capitol, the House may not actually have a jail for folks found in Contempt of Congress but that didn’t stop anyone before.
In 1877, a description in the Congressional Record indicates that a different space was used for the confinement of two Louisiana election officials: “It is a little room in the basement of the Capitol, with but two windows, opening upon no sunlight, but upon a narrow confined court into which no gleam of sunshine can ever enter.” Floor plans from that year show that the room was likely H-159; if so, the accounts in the Record make it clear that conditions in the room had not markedly improved since its similar use in 1868: it is described as “a room so dark that it is necessary to keep the gas burning all day; a room that stinks, that smells like the den of some foul reptile, a room where thieves arrested around the Capitol are kept . . . ." Although the room was listed as the House Document Room, the reference to the apparently routine keeping of thieves suggests that it continued to serve as a guard room as well, at least when multiple inmates were to be confined. In 1889 a recusant witness before a Senate committee was taken into custody by the Senate Sergeant at Arms, but the area of his detention is not identified.
Sounds perfect to me.
Yes…i caught a tweet about this yesterday…
House Democrats will not hold floor votes on contempt resolutions against Attorney General William Barr or any other Trump administration officials until at least June, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said on Wednesday.
Attorney General William Barr denied he is standing in the way of special counsel Robert Mueller’s testimony before Congress, after the chairman of the House panel seeking his appearance accused the Justice Department of being unwilling to set a date.
“It’s Bob’s call whether he wants to testify,” Mr. Barr told The Wall Street Journal Wednesday, en route to El Salvador, a trip focused on increasing international cooperation against the violent street gang MS-13, which has roots in both Central America and the U.S.
Watch or just have on in the background…
House Democrats News Conference & Reading of Mueller Report
House Democrats hold a news conference on the special counsel investigation into Russia’s interference into the 2016 campaign. Following the news conference, the lawmakers read the Mueller report.
Schiff is expected to comment later on today.
NBC is saying Michael Flynn’s testimony was subjected to input from the Administration…and perhaps he was coerced.
The blanket refusal to comply with subpoenas continues…
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff announced on Thursday that the panel will consider an “enforcement action” against Attorney General William Barr for defying the chairman’s subpoena for special counsel Robert Mueller’s unredacted report and its supporting intelligence materials.
Schiff’s announcement came a day after the Justice Department put a counter-offer on the table as it negotiates with the panel for lawmakers’ access to the full report, according to a letter obtained by POLITICO.
Democrats have all but committed to opening an official impeachment inquiry in the House.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi, eager to find any new leverage to fight back against the White House, suggested on Thursday that House Democrats could always open an impeachment inquiry to obtain documents and testimony from stonewalling Trump administration officials — a sharp response to the White House’s blanket claim that House requests served no “legitimate” legislative purpose.
“The courts would respect it if you said we need this information to carry out our oversight responsibilities — and among them is impeachment,” Ms. Pelosi said during her weekly news conference at the Capitol.
“It doesn’t mean you’re going on an impeachment path, but it means if you had the information you might,” Ms. Pelosi said. “It’s about impeachment as a purpose.”
Her threat was the first time Ms. Pelosi publicly suggested using impeachment as an information-gathering tool.
But many of the speaker’s allies in the House favor using impeachment as a pry bar for compliance — in the belief that formally convening an impeachment inquiry would effectively turn the House into a grand jury. That would compel the administration to be more cooperative.
This is a norm that should be a law. Everyone running for President should be able to pass a FBI background check and that should include submitting tax returns as well as other financial statements. Don’t the people deserve to know if their president is a crook?
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Friday refused to comply with a congressional subpoena to hand over President Trump’s tax returns, a move that is likely to be the final step before the matter heads to the courts.
For more than a month, the Treasury Department and House Democrats have exchanged letters about the request, which was initiated in April by Representative Richard E. Neal, Democrat of Massachusetts and the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.
Mr. Mnuchin said that lawyers in the department concluded that the original request, made using an obscure provision of the tax code, was not legitimate. Mr. Neal changed course last week and issued a subpoena to try to gain access to six years of Mr. Trump’s personal and business tax returns.
On Friday, Mr. Mnuchin wrote a one-page letter to Mr. Neal, in which he reiterated his previous position that the request lacked “legitimate legislative purpose” and said he could not comply with the subpoena.