By MARY CLARE JALONICK , Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — Democrats launched a sweeping new probe of President Donald Trump on Monday, an aggressive investigation that threatens to shadow the president through the 2020 election season with inquiries into his White House, campaign and family businesses.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler said that his committee has begun the probe into possible obstruction of justice, corruption and abuse of power and that the panel is sending document requests to 81 people linked to the president and his associates.
The broad investigation could be setting the stage for an impeachment effort, although Democratic leaders have pledged to investigate all avenues and review special counsel Robert Mueller's report before trying any drastic action. Nadler said the document requests, with responses to most due by March 18, are a way to "begin building the public record."
"Over the last several years, President Trump has evaded accountability for his near-daily attacks on our basic legal, ethical, and constitutional rules and norms," Nadler said. "Investigating these threats to the rule of law is an obligation of Congress and a core function of the House Judiciary Committee."
Now that Democrats hold a majority in the House, the new probe is a sign that Trump's legal and political peril is nowhere near over, even as the special counsel's Russia investigation winds down. The move all but guarantees that potentially damaging allegations will follow Trump for months to come as Democrats try to keep them in the public eye.
It is also an indication of the Democrats' current strategy — to flood the administration with oversight requests, keeping Trump and his associates on trial publicly and also playing a long game when it comes to possible impeachment. While some more liberal members of the Democratic caucus would like to see Trump impeached now, Democratic leaders have been more cautious.
Trump told reporters after Nadler's probe was announced that "I cooperate all the time with everybody."
He added: "You know, the beautiful thing is — no collusion. It's all a hoax."
Mueller is investigating Russian intervention in the 2016 election and whether Trump's campaign conspired with Russia. But the House probes go far beyond collusion. The Democratic-majority House intelligence panel has announced a separate probe into Russian interference and also Trump's foreign financial interests. The House Oversight and Reform Committee has launched multiple investigations into all facets of the administration.
Several other committees are probing related matters, and while many might overlap, the leaders say they are working together on the investigations.
The list of 81 names and entities touches on all parts of Trump's life — the White House, his businesses, his campaign and the committee that oversaw the transition from campaign to presidency. There are also people connected to Russian interference in the 2016 campaign, including participants in a meeting at Trump Tower with a Russian lawyer before the election.
In a letter to the White House, the committee asks for information surrounding former FBI Director James Comey's termination, communications with Justice Department officials, the Trump Tower meeting and multiple other matters. White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said Monday the White House had received the letter and that "the counsel's office and relevant White House officials will review it and respond at the appropriate time."
The list includes two of the president's sons, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump, and many of his current and former close advisers, including Steve Bannon, longtime spokeswoman Hope Hicks, former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer and former White House Counsel Don McGahn.
The letters to Hicks and Spicer ask them to turn over any work diaries, journals or "a description of daily events related to your employment" by Trump. The committee asked McGahn for any documents related to any discussion involving President Trump regarding the possibility of firing Mueller around June of 2017 "or any conversation in which President Trump stated, in words or substance, that he wanted the Mueller investigation shut down, restrained or otherwise limited in or around December 2017."
The committee seeks from Michael Cohen, Trump's former personal lawyer who called Trump a "con man" and a "cheat" in congressional testimony last week, "any audio or video recordings" of conversations with Trump or conversations about his presidential campaign.
The list of document requests also includes the National Rifle Association, Trump's embattled charitable foundation, which he is shutting down after agreeing to a court-supervised process, and officials at the FBI and Justice Department.
The committee expects some people to produce right away, and others may eventually face subpoenas, according to a person familiar with the investigation. The person declined to be named to discuss the committee's internal process.
Now in a majority in the House, Nadler said Sunday on ABC's "This Week," the Democrats are simply doing "our job to protect the rule of law" after Republicans during the first two years of Trump's term were "shielding the president from any proper accountability."
"We're far from making decisions" about impeachment, he said.
The top Republican on the committee, Georgia Rep. Doug Collins, said Monday that Nadler was "recklessly prejudging the president for obstruction" and is now pursuing evidence to back up his conclusion.
"We don't even know what the Mueller report says, but Democrats are already hedging their bets," Collins said.