Holding the Trump Administration Accountable
Last November, the American people elected a new House Majority to clean up corruption in Washington, lower the cost of health care and prescription drugs, increase paychecks for hardworking families and, importantly, to hold the Trump Administration accountable.
For the last several months, the House Democratic Majority has channeled its commitment on these issues into an aggressive legislative agenda and I will continue to update you on that important work. But today, I wanted to report to you on how Democrats have been leveraging the full force of our investigative committees to uncover evidence of wrongdoing by President Trump and other members of his Administration.
Recently, Democrats were successful in bringing the Special Counsel, Robert Mueller, into a public forum to present the findings detailed in his previously released report to Congress. The Intelligence Committee, led by Chairman Adam Schiff, and the Judiciary Committee, led by Chairman Jerry Nadler, received over six hours of testimony from the Special Counsel relating to Russian interference in the 2016 election and President Trump’s obstruction of efforts to investigate the Russian attack.
In his appearance, the Special Counsel stated unequivocally, “Over the course of my career, I’ve seen a number of challenges to our democracy. The Russian government’s effort to interfere in our election is among the most serious.” He also affirmed, “Many more countries are developing capabilities to replicate what the Russians have done… They’re doing it as we sit here, and they expect to do it during the next campaign.”
In addition, Mueller underscored – in stark terms – the efforts undertaken by President Trump, members of his campaign and officials within his Administration to obstruct the Special Counsel’s investigation by repeatedly lying to the FBI, tampering with witnesses, falsifying and destroying documents and engaging in a coordinated cover-up to hide the truth from the American people.
Based on the facts presented in the public version of the Mueller Report, there are those who feel strongly we should press forward with impeachment of the President. Others believe – given the reality that the Republican-led Senate is hopelessly protective of the President and unlikely to convict him – that impeachment is a futile exercise.
I am convinced that our current approach – aggressive investigation and oversight from several different committees in the House of Representatives – will lead us to the right result. As new evidence is uncovered, it could change the dynamic, force McConnell and the Senate Republicans to recalculate and make an impeachment push more productive. Alternatively, by assembling this evidence and presenting it to the American public, the House of Representatives will empower voters to deliver the ultimate judgment on the Trump Presidency in November 2020.
The Judiciary Committee is the tip of the spear in the broad Democratic effort to hold President Trump accountable. To that end, Chairman Nadler has now asked federal judge Beryl Howell to unseal grand jury secrets relating to the Special Counsel’s investigation. The Chairman is using authority granted to him by a vote of the full House of Representatives on June 11, 2019 and has argued to the court that the information he seeks is needed to consider whether the Judiciary Committee should move beyond an impeachment inquiry and toward a recommendation of impeachment itself. Chairman Nadler’s court filing is a critical part of the Democrats’ multi-committee investigative effort – an effort I am committed to advancing in my role as a member of the Oversight and Reform Committee.
Here is an overview of the robust and comprehensive investigations currently being conducted by our committees of jurisdiction.
Oversight and Reform
The Oversight and Reform Committee, led by Chairman Elijah Cummings, has aggressively investigated a number of activities and policies of the Trump Administration, including the family separation policy; the attempt to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census; Ivanka Trump’s and Jared Kushner’s use of personal email addresses for official government business; Kellyanne Conway’s repeated violations of the federal Hatch Act; the White House’s abuse of the security clearance process; and the hush-money payments made by President Trump and the Trump Organization to cover up multiple affairs. In a dramatic hearing held on February 27, 2019, the Committee elicited key testimony from the President’s former lawyer Michael Cohen, which included Cohen’s identification of other witnesses who can speak to Trump’s conduct and motives.
In addition to these important inquiries, the Committee is examining the Trump Organization’s finances – an investigation that has been bolstered by the courts. When President Trump sought to block his accounting firm, Mazars, LLC, from providing subpoenaed information to the Committee, a federal judge ruled against the President, forcefully arguing that the subpoena was a legitimate exercise of Congress’ oversight authority. That decision was appealed to the D.C. District Court of Appeals, which heard the case on July 12. While that court has not yet issued a ruling, two of the three judges hearing the case were extremely skeptical of President Trump’s arguments.
Intelligence and Financial Services
As part of their respective investigations into foreign influence over President Trump and possible financial crimes committed by the Trump Organization, the Intelligence Committee, led by Adam Schiff, and the Financial Services Committee, led by Maxine Waters, have subpoenaed President Trump’s personal and business records from Deutsche Bank and Capital One, both of which have significant business with the Trump Organization. Once again, President Trump sued to prevent the release of that information and again the federal court has ruled against him. That decision has been appealed and a hearing on the case is pending.
The Intelligence Committee also continues to investigate the Russian government’s interference in the 2016 election, as detailed by Volume I of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report. The Committee recently heard testimony from Special Counsel Mueller, who reiterated the key findings of his report: that the Trump Campaign welcomed illegal foreign assistance in the election and sought to cover its tracks. The Intelligence Committee has also interviewed other key individuals, including Michael Cohen and Trump’s former business partner, Felix Sater.
In addition to its pursuit of grand jury evidence underlying the Mueller investigation, the Judiciary Committee has authorized subpoenas to a number of key witnesses, including former White House Counsel Don McGahn, his former deputy Annie Donaldson, former Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, former advisor Steve Bannon, former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, former Chief of Staff John Kelly, Senior Advisor Jared Kushner, former Campaign Manager Corey Lewandowski, former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and American Media CEO David Pecker. The Committee has already conducted a closed interview with former White House Communications Director, Hope Hicks.
Ways and Means
Under the leadership of Chairman Richard Neal, the Ways and Means Committee is seeking the release of President Trump’s business and personal federal tax returns, including bringing suit in federal court. In addition to this federal effort, the state of New York recently passed a law allowing Congress to access the President’s state tax returns. President Trump has sued to block the federal action as well as implementation of the New York State law. Both cases are pending in the courts.
In the Days and Months Ahead
Our House investigative committees – together with the courts – will continue following the facts wherever they lead. We have a Constitutional obligation to hold President Trump and his Administration accountable to the American people.
Congressman John Sarbanes
Maryland’s Third Congressional District