Democrats picked up on their post-Mueller course on Friday, rapidly ramping up their probes into President Donald Trump’s finances and diving into the numerous cases of obstruction of justice that the special counsel documented.
For months, Democrats have launched their own investigations, but they’ve always kept an eye toward what the special counsel’s report might find. Now, with the report out, Democrats are putting one area largely unaddressed in Robert Mueller’s report – the President’s finances – front and center for their probes. Democratic House leaders are still trying to tamp down talk of impeachment, but they’re pointing to the findings of Mueller’s report as a green light to move ahead on their investigations of the President.
In the wake of the report’s release, there’s a sense in the caucus they “really are only at the beginning of this thing,” one Democratic leadership aide told CNN.
“From our perspective, now we have to get to the bottom of this thing. If you read it, Mueller left a whole lot of room,” the aide said.
The House Intelligence Committee plans to continue to look into Trump’s finances, probing into whether the President is compromised by any foreign interest, Democrats said.
The panel, along with House Financial Services Committee, has already issued subpoenas to financial institutions to learn about the extent of the Trump Organization’s business dealings. The House Ways and Means Committee has requested six years of the President’s personal and business tax returns, an effort that will move forward in the wake of Mueller, and is expected to go to court. On Monday, the House Oversight Committee issued a subpoena to Mazars, an accounting firm that compiled the President’s financial disclosure forms.
House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff said that an examination of the President’s finances may have been outside the scope of Mueller’s investigation, though he also noted Thursday that the counterintelligence findings from Mueller’s investigation were not included in the redacted version of the report. Schiff is demanding that the Justice Department inform his committee about the raw intelligence uncovered by the Mueller probe, saying he doesn’t want to “recreate the wheel” but build off the investigative work.
“This report only goes to what is criminal or not criminal,” Schiff said. “Other actions that may have compromised the President or others around him may or may not be even included in the report. In the interest of making sure that our policy is driven by the best interest of the country and not by the personal or financial interests of the President or anyone around him, we need to find out the answers to that.”
The oversight comes as Democrats are simultaneously mounting a full-court press for the entire unredacted Mueller report, with House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler issuing a subpoena Friday for the full report and Mueller’s underlying evidence.
The committee also had authorized subpoenas for five former White House officials who were mentioned in the Mueller report – including former White House counsel Don McGahn – that could shed light on allegations of obstruction of justice. Those subpoenas also could soon be served.
The House Judiciary Committee wants to hear from individuals who had “incriminating evidence” laid out in the report, according to a Democratic source. Several Democrats said there’s an interest in bringing McGahn in for a hearing, but no decisions have been made. Nadler on Friday promised “major hearings” with key players as part of his panel’s probe into obstruction of justice.
Democrats said the House Judiciary Committee inquiry is “much broader” in scope than the one launched by Mueller, who probed whether any criminal conduct occurred to thwart the Russia investigation. The Democrats’ investigation, they said, is not limited to campaign activities and criminal conduct.
Yet Republicans point to polls saying that the country is ready to move on, and warn that Democrats will face backlash for not focusing on issues that consume Americans’ daily lives.
“Frustration is not obstruction,” said Utah Rep. Chris Stewart, a Republican on the House Intelligence Committee. “I think for those who are pursuing this, I think the American people are exhausted by it.”
Still in recess for another week, Democrats will also have to balance the new political realities of their caucus when they return to Washington in the last week of April with some members, in the aftermath of the report, pushing to talk about impeachment and leadership balancing those expectations with the fact that their new majority is built on members who won in places Trump won in 2016.
“Based on what we have seen to date, going forward on impeachment is not worthwhile at this point,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, the No. 2 House Democrat, told CNN. “Very frankly, there is an election in 18 months and the American people will make a judgment.”
Nadler said it was too soon to rule out impeachment on Friday.
“The idea is not to debate articles of impeachment,” Nadler said on WNYC radio Friday, saying the idea is to get all the facts about “who did what” and “then decide what to do about it.”
“Then we’ll decide what route to go down,” Nadler said, when asked about impeachment.
With Mueller finished, there’s a new sense of urgency for Democrats. Without the special counsel as a watchdog, Democrats argue they must hold the President accountable whether that be on questions of his finances, how he’s dealt with national security or even what he’s asked immigration officials when it comes to implementing his policies. But they also are worried that if they go too far, they risk appearing as if they are overreaching.
“There’s so much dirt around this President, but I think we need to be a little bit judicious and focus on those things where there might have actually been serious wrong doing,” said Democratic Rep. Jim Himes, a member of both the financial services and intelligence committees.
Aides working on both panels have been, and continue to be, in regular contact about how to coordinate in the wake of the report.
Even as Democrats plan to move forward with their investigations now that the Mueller report has been released, they expect to face more stonewalling and opposition from the Trump administration in the coming months.
In the first three months of the new Democratic majority, the Trump administration has already established a strategy for keeping key documents and interviews from Democratic investigators.
Trump administration officials have refused to appear before House committees nine times, according to an analysis from a Democratic aide and on 35 separate occasions, the administration has refused to respond or slow-walked committee document requests, according to the analysis.