congressional investigations
September 2, 2019

This fall, the House Judiciary Committee plans on holding hearings into President Trump's alleged role in silencing two women who said they had affairs with him, people familiar with the matter told The Washington Post.

Right before the 2016 presidential election, Trump's former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, set up hush-money payments in order to keep adult film star Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal quiet about their alleged extramarital affairs with Trump. Cohen told federal prosecutors he worked with American Media Inc. CEO David Pecker, publisher of the National Enquirer, to pay McDougal $150,000 in order to buy her story and then never publish it. Cohen also arranged a $130,000 payout to Daniels. Cohen testified that he did all of this in "coordination" with Trump and at his direction.

Cohen is now serving time in prison after pleading guilty to campaign finance charges in relation to the payments. Federal prosecutors in New York called Trump "Individual-1" in their summary of Cohen's crimes, but the investigation was closed over the summer, with no additional charges filed.

"It's inconceivable Michael Cohen acted alone ... what happened?" Duncan Levin, a former prosecutor for the Justice Department and Manhattan District Attorney's Office, told the Post. "When you have one of the most important, sensitive investigations into the president and his family and his company, and then when you unexpectedly drop it, it is going to raise a lot of questions."

House Democrats could start their inquiry as soon as October, people with knowledge of the matter told the Post, and are expected to bring attention to Trump's statements on the subject, which are at odds with each other. They will also call witnesses, and Pecker might be on the list. Trump's attorneys have said he did nothing wrong; in other House investigations, the administration has refused to hand over requested information and is challenging multiple subpoenas in court. Catherine Garcia

July 1, 2019

The House Oversight and Reform Committee is reviewing why Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner, and other White House aides used personal email accounts to conduct official business, the panel's chair, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), said Monday.

Lawmakers began looking at the use of personal accounts for work matters in 2017, and in a letter sent Monday, Cummings notified White House Counsel Pat Cipollone of the probe's expansion, sharing that the "purpose of this investigation is to determine why White House officials used non-official email accounts, texting services, and encrypted applications for official business." He also requested all pertinent communications sent by senior officials.

Last fall, The Washington Post reported that Trump sent almost 100 emails regarding government policies and White House business from her personal account, and Kushner's lawyer said his client used WhatsApp to discuss official duties.

Under the law, anything sent or received by a non-official email account must be forwarded to an official account within 20 days. The committee will investigate why this didn't happen, and whether White House officials wanted to keep any of the topics discussed hidden, Cummings said. In 2016, President Trump berated Hillary Clinton for using a private server while secretary of state, and continues to bring it up at his rallies. Catherine Garcia

March 20, 2019

Hope Hicks, a former Trump Organization employee and White House communications director, will give the House Judiciary Committee documents as part of its inquiry into potential obstruction of justice, CNN reports.

Earlier this month, Hicks received a letter from House Judiciary Chair Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), requesting documents on the firing of former FBI Director James Comey; false statements former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn made to the FBI; hush-money payments made to women who said they had affairs with President Trump; and the drafting of a statement regarding a meeting Donald Trump Jr. had with Russians at Trump Tower in 2016.

Hicks, a longtime Trump confidante, has been asked to turn over "any personal or work diary, journal, or other book containing notes, a record, or a description of daily events" having to do with Trump, his campaign, the Trump Organization, and the executive office of the president. In 2018, Hicks testified privately before the House Intelligence Committee, and while she agreed at the time to answer questions about the Trump campaign and transition, she would not discuss her time in the White House. Catherine Garcia

May 25, 2017

After the FBI rejected a request by Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), the chairman of the House Oversight Committee, for documents having to do with former FBI Director James Comey and his dealings with the White House, Chaffetz is giving the bureau a new deadline to get him the material.

"Congress does not conduct criminal or counterintelligence investigations; rather Congress' power of inquiry is rooted in part in its duty to oversee the executive branch's faithful enforcement of the laws that Congress enacted," Chaffetz wrote in a letter to acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe. "In this case, the focus of the committee's investigation is the independence of the FBI, including conversations between the president and Comey and the process by which Comey was removed from his role as director." Chaffetz and the committee's top Democrat, Rep. Elijah Cummings (Md.), asked for the records last week, setting a May 24 deadline.

That deadline came and went, and on Thursday, the assistant director for the FBI's Office of Congressional Affairs, Gregory Brower, wrote Chaffetz that the bureau would not be handing over the documents due to the appointment last week of former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel. In his letter to McCabe, Chaffetz said that the appointment of a special counsel does not interfere with congressional investigations into Russia meddling in the 2016 presidential election, The Hill reports. In this second request, Chaffetz is asking for "documents that are outside the scope of the special counsel's investigation," going back to Sept. 4, 2013. Catherine Garcia

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