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House Democrats press on with investigations after Mueller report release

They’re dissatisfied with how much information was redacted from special counsel’s report

Rep. Adam B. Schiff, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, still wants “comprehensive testimony from Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller’s Russia investigation. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Rep. Adam B. Schiff, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, still wants “comprehensive testimony from Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller’s Russia investigation. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

President Donald Trump might be claiming vindication with the release of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s Russia report, but House Democrats are moving forward with their investigations of him and people in his orbit.

Democrats quickly expressed their dissatisfaction with how much information Attorney General William Barr redacted from the report released Thursday.

House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler said after the report’s release that he plans to serve a subpoena to Barr for the full version.

And in a letter Thursday inviting the special counsel to testify before the House Intelligence Committee, Chairman Adam B. Schiff wrote that the panel must receive “comprehensive testimony” from Mueller “about the investigation’s full scope and areas of inquiry,” underlying evidence, and any completed and ongoing counterintelligence investigations stemming from his probe.

Watch: Judiciary and oversight subpoena power, explained

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Meanwhile, the ongoing investigations at least six House committees into the president, his inner circle and his finances will continue, the chairs of those panels have indicated.

Though Mueller wrote in his report that his investigation “did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities,” the probe has spawned a litany of offshoot probes that the special counsel referred to other federal and state jurisdictions. References to most of those offshoot investigations were redacted in the version of the Mueller report released Thursday by the Department of Justice.

And despite Mueller deciding not to prosecute anyone from Trump’s campaign team for coordinating with Russia, Democrats still want to expose non-criminal “misconduct” that his report highlights, including the “numerous links” the special counsel found between Trump campaign officials and people with ties or claiming to have ties to the Russian government.

At the House Judiciary Committee, Nadler has opened a wide-ranging probe into whether the president obstructed Mueller’s investigation and whether he or his associates have abused the office of the White House for personal gain.

Nadler has requested documents from 81 people and groups connected to Trump, including his adult children. Those include White House advisers, people who worked on Trump’s 2016 campaign, leaders on Trump’s inaugural committee, and others in the White House.

Mueller’s report states that it “does not conclude that the President committed a crime,” but it also “does not exonerate him.”

If Trump had been exonerated, Mueller would have said so.

“If we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state,” Mueller wrote. “Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, however, we are unable to reach that judgment.”

Mueller ultimately left the decision on whether to prosecute Trump for obstructing the investigation up to Barr, who decided in March, with input from his deputy, Rod Rosenstein, not to pursue the case.

Nadler said Wednesday that he was “deeply troubled” by reports that the Justice Department was briefing the White House on what was in the report, essentially doing an end run around House Democrats.

In many cases, the congressional investigations into Trump cover the same topics as ongoing criminal investigations.

The House Judiciary investigation into the Trump inauguration committee’s fundraising, for example, overlaps with two federal probes in New York, where prosecutors in both the Southern and Eastern districts have subpoenaed information and documents on the committee’s fundraising activities. Democrats have accused Trump inauguration officials of selling access to the president to foreign entities, a violation of federal law.

The House Oversight and Reform Committee will continue following up on claims by Michael Cohen, Trump’s former personal lawyer, that the president directed him to make illegal hush payments to his onetime paramours, pornographic actress Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal.

Federal prosecutors in Manhattan are working on the same case, which could ensnare the president’s two oldest sons, Donald Jr. and Eric, and the Trump Organization’s longtime chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, Cohen testified before the Oversight panel in February.

The redacted version of the Mueller report shed some new light on the alleged hush payment scheme detailing Trump’s support of Cohen as he was being investigated by prosecutors in the Southern District of New York and his withdrawal of that support once Cohen pleaded guilty.

Cohen originally issued press statements on Feb. 13, 2018, saying that the president and his campaign were not “party” to payments to Daniels and McDougal, and that he had used his own money and was not reimbursed for the payment.

And on Feb. 19, 2018, the day after The New York Times wrote a detailed story attributing the payment to Cohen and describing him as the president’s “fixer,” Cohen received a text message from Trump’s personal counsel that stated, “Client says thanks for what you do,” according to Mueller’s report.

But Cohen told the House Oversight Committee in February, nearly a year later, that his original statement claiming Trump never reimbursed him nor knew of the payment scheme was a lie. He said Trump had, in fact, “directed” him to say that the president had no knowledge of the payments after they discussed how Cohen should treat the developing controversy.

The redacted version of the Mueller report does not disclose whether the special counsel reviewed the president’s taxes for potential conflicts of interest or areas in which foreign entities might have leverage over him.

Congressional investigators and New York state authorities have stepped in to fill that void.

The New York State Department of Taxation and Finance is investigating Trump for alleged tax fraud outlined in a New York Times report last October. Meanwhile, House Ways and Means Chairman Richard E. Neal has demanded that the IRS provide his committee with six years of Trump’s tax returns to see whether any foreign or domestic entity has compromising information with which to blackmail him.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin wrote to the Massachusetts Democrat last week that his department could not immediately comply with the request for Trump’s taxes and that he would be discussing the matter further with DOJ counsel. Mnuchin also called the request politically motivated, without an underlying public policy objective.

The head-butting between the committee and Treasury could set up a long legal battle over the release of Trump’s returns.

The House Intelligence and Financial Services committees issued subpoenas earlier this week seeking documents and information about Trump’s deals with Deutsche Bank and other financial institutions that have lent him millions of dollars over the years for his real estate ventures. The congressional panels are probing whether any foreign entities, including Russia, have backed any of the loans Trump has received.

Deutsche Bank, which has faced accusations that it has helped facilitate Russian money laundering operations, plans to comply with the “friendly subpoena,” Schiff said in a statement Monday.

The redacted version of the Mueller report does not mention Deutsche Bank. Any information Mueller uncovered in the course of his investigation regarding such matters of Trump’s business and personal finances has been referred to federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York.

Top Republicans on the House committees investigating Trump have dismissed the slew of probes as partisan fishing expeditions into the president’s past to find dirt on him for the 2020 election.

Rep. Jim Jordan, the ranking member on House Oversight, characterized the recent spate of congressional subpoenas into Trump’s financial statements and banking records as “desperate attacks” on the president. And House Judiciary ranking member Doug Collins has argued that Democrats’ investigations are not appropriate because they do not have an underlying basis for creating legislation.

But Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said that oversight of Trump and his administration is Democrats’ “congressional responsibility” and that the Democrats regaining the majority after the 2018 elections represented a mandate from voters to hold Trump accountable.

Trump and his Republican allies in Congress have hammered Democrats for remaining hung up on the Mueller investigation even after the special counsel did not establish a prosecutable case for collusion.

Most Americans — 60 percent — said they believe Congress should have access to the full, unredacted Mueller report, according to a Monmouth University Poll released Wednesday.

But just 39 percent of respondents said Congress should continue looking into remaining concerns related to the Mueller investigation.

Sixty-five percent of Democrats want Congress to continue pursuing the Mueller investigation, while nearly four in five Republicans and three in five independents said it was time to move on.

Pollsters surveyed 801 U.S. adults by telephone April 11-15. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

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