The House Judiciary Committee is moving to authorize subpoenas for several people tied to special counsel Robert Mueller‘s report, including U.S. President Donald Trump‘s son in law, Jared Kushner, and former Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
The resolution coming up for a vote Thursday would authorize subpoenas for documents and testimony from 12 people in all, also including former national security adviser Michael Flynn, former White House chief of staff John Kelly and former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
Lawmakers will also be voting on subpoenas for documents and testimony on the Trump administration’s handling of immigration, including the abandoned “zero tolerance” approach of separating migrant families at the southern border. The resolution authorizes an investigation into whether there have been any discussions of Trump offering pardons to Homeland Security officials who work on immigration issues.
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Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., will make the final decision about issuing the subpoenas. He said they can be avoided if the information is provided voluntarily.
The Judiciary panel is investigating whether Trump obstructed justice after Mueller’s report detailed several episodes in which Trump tried to influence his investigation. Mueller said he could not exonerate Trump on obstruction and indicated in a May news conference that it was up to Congress to decide what to do with his findings. Mueller is scheduled to testify to Congress next week.
Democrats have had little success so far in their attempts to investigate beyond what Mueller detailed in his 448-page report, as the White House has blocked several witnesses from answering questions. It’s unclear if they would have better luck with the latest group of witnesses, as most worked for the White House or the administration.
Still, Democrats say they will call in the witnesses as they attempt to keep public attention on Mueller’s report. And Nadler has said the panel is preparing a lawsuit to challenge the efforts to block testimony.
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Among the other subpoena targets are Corey Lewandowski, Trump’s former campaign manager; Jody Hunt, Sessions’ former chief of staff, and former White House aides Rob Porter and Rick Dearborn.
Three other names on the list are related to the National Enquirer’s efforts to help kill potentially embarrassing stories about Trump over the years by paying hush money in a practice known as “catch-and-kill.” Former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen discussed the practice in testimony before the House Oversight and Reform Committee earlier this year.
They include David Pecker, the chief executive of the National Enquirer’s parent company and a longtime Trump ally; Dylan Howard, who Cohen said was personally involved in co-ordinating payments to two women who said they had affairs with Trump; and Keith Davidson, an attorney who initially represented the women and negotiated their payments.
Republicans have fought the Democratic efforts to investigate obstruction, saying the issue should be laid to rest after the Mueller report.
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“Even if Chairman Nadler still believes subpoenas are conversation starters, it’s hard to imagine this handful of subpoenas will do anything but reinforce the principal conclusions we’ve been able to read about for months,” said Georgia Rep. Doug Collins, the top Republican on the Judiciary panel.
On immigration, Democratic lawmakers have sought answers from the administration since more than 2,700 children were separated from their parents at the border last year as the result of the zero tolerance immigration policy pursued by Sessions. There was renewed outrage in recent weeks after squalid conditions were reported at border facilities where scores of children are detained well beyond the 72-hour limit by which they are to be transferred to more suitable facilities.
A Justice Department official says the agency has turned over more than 1,200 pages of documents in six separate productions to the House Judiciary Committee related to the zero tolerance policy. The department is also working to produce additional batches of documents soon, the official said. The official wasn’t authorized to speak publicly and spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The Democratic questions on pardons involve Kevin McAleenan, the acting Department of Homeland Security secretary. Shortly after McAleenan took over, Trump told him he’d pardon him if he were to find himself in trouble for blocking people legally seeking asylum, people familiar with the conversation told AP. The people spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss a private conversation. Trump has been trying to stop a surge in migration at the southern border.
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McAleenan has said he was not asked, directed or pressured to do anything illegal, but has also said his conversations with the president are privileged information.
Separately on Tuesday, Felix Sater, a Russia-born business executive who worked with Trump’s associates on an effort to build a skyscraper in Moscow, sat down for an interview with staff on the House intelligence committee as part of its probe into the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russia.
Sater worked with Cohen on the skyscraper deal before the 2016 election. The project was later abandoned, and Cohen is now in prison, partly on charges that he lied to Congress about the project.
During a break, Sater told reporters that the questions were “more of the same” from his previous interviews as Mueller and as several congressional committees have probed the Russian interference. When asked if he knew how much Trump knew of the project, he said he didn’t know.
“He knew what he knew,” Sater said.
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As Sater’s testimony wrapped up, a spokesman for California Rep. Adam Schiff, the committee chairman, issued a statement saying Sater had not fully co-operated and would remain under subpoena. Patrick Boland said the committee was still seeking unredacted telephone records and other documents and that Sater hadn’t fully answered questions about Cohen’s false statements.
The intelligence panel had also subpoenaed Flynn and former Trump campaign aide Rick Gates to appear by Wednesday. Schiff said Tuesday that neither would appear this week but the panel was still in negotiations with both of them.