By David Morgan
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Democratic-led U.S. House Judiciary Committee on Thursday voted to authorise subpoenas for a dozen witnesses including President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, Jared Kushner.
The vote gives panel Chairman Jerrold Nadler discretion on whether to subpoena current and former Trump advisers such as former Attorney General Jeff Sessions and former White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, as part of a broad corruption and obstruction of justice probe of the Trump presidency.
“These include government officials who worked, or continue to work, in close proximity to the president,” Nadler said at a meeting to consider the subpoenas. “We will not rest until we obtain their testimony and documents.”
The committee also authorized subpoenas for documents and testimony connected with Trump’s immigration policies, including family separation and detention and “zero tolerance” for migrants.
The move comes as Democrats who control the House of Representatives prepare to escalate their scrutiny of the Trump presidency, with public testimony from former U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller on July 17 and a vote next week to hold Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in contempt of Congress for failing to comply with subpoenas.
Republicans dismissed the committee’s action as a partisan fishing expedition against Trump and a bid to heal political rifts within House Democratic ranks. “That’s all today’s episode is about. It sure isn’t about oversight. It’s simply about politics,” said Representative Doug Collins, the Judiciary Committee’s top Republican.
Nadler’s committee, which could launch an impeachment inquiry if it uncovered evidence of presidential misconduct, is pursuing actions and events described in Mueller’s 448-page report on Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
Mueller found insufficient evidence to show that the Trump campaign conspired with Russia despite numerous contacts between campaign officials and Moscow. He also did not find that the president obstructed justice, but said specifically that the evidence did not exonerate Trump.
In addition to Kushner, Sessions and Kelly, the committee authorized subpoenas for former national security adviser Michael Flynn, former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, former White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter and former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, and others.
The subpoena list also includes David Pecker, chief executive of American Media Inc [AMRCM.UL], which publishes the National Enquirer, for testimony about hush money payments made during the campaign to two women who said they had affairs with Trump.
Thursday’s proceedings drew fresh criticism from Trump in a pair of tweets.
“Now the Democrats have asked to see 12 more people who have already spent hours with Robert Mueller, and spent a fortune on lawyers in so doing. How many bites at the apple do they get before working on Border Loopholes and Asylum,” the president wrote on Twitter.
“Enough already, go back to work! I won, unanimously, the big Emoluments case yesterday!” Trump wrote, citing Wednesday’s U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals dismissal of a lawsuit by Maryland and the District of Columbia accusing him of violating anti-corruption provisions of the U.S. Constitution. The judicial panel found that the state and district lacked legal standing to bring the case.
Trump and his administration have sought to stymie committee investigators by directing former Trump aides, including former White House Counsel Don McGahn, not to cooperate with Congress.
The Judiciary Committee is expected soon to file a key lawsuit against McGahn as early as next week over his refusal to testify before the panel in May.
(Reporting by David Morgan; editing by Jonathan Oatis)