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House Democrats Launch Wide-Ranging Inquiry Into Potential Trump Corruption

Judiciary Committee's Focus Includes National Enquirer 'Catch and Kill' Arrangements

Donald Trump
Evan Vucci/AP/Shutterstock

WASHINGTON — The House Judiciary Committee served document requests to 81 individuals and entities on Monday as part of the launch of a wide-ranging investigation into obstruction of justice, corruption, and abuses of power by President Trump, administration officials, and others associated with him.

The document requests cover some of the most sensational controversies that have spilled into public view during Trump’s tenure, including the infamous June, 2016 Trump Tower meeting between Donald Trump Jr., senior campaign officials, and Russians connected to Vladimir Putin’s regime.

The Democrats are also seeking information from American Media Inc., the parent company of the National Enquirer, and AMI CEO David Pecker and chief content officer Dylan Howard. The focus is on efforts to buy up the story rights to Karen McDougal and Stormy Daniels and prevent them from publication.

AMI has admitted to making a $150,000 payment to McDougal to buy up her rights as a way to prevent her allegations of having an affair with Trump from going public. Trump’s former attorney, Michael Cohen, admitted to orchestrating a payoff to Daniels, but he said it was at the direction of Trump.

“We will act quickly to gather this information, assess the evidence, and follow the facts where they lead with full transparency with the American people,” Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said in a statement.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller is reportedly expected to deliver his report on his Russia investigation to the Justice Department soon, but Nadler said “we cannot rely on others to do the investigative work for us.”

“Our work is even more urgent after senior Justice Department officials have suggested that they may conceal the work of the Special Counsel’s investigation from the public.”

The committee is seeking information from some White House officials, including adviser Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, and to the White House generally. Areas of concern include Trump’s decision to fire FBI Director James Comey, and on any conversations in which the President said he “wanted the Mueller investigation shut down, restrained, or otherwise limited in or around December 2017.”

Democrats also are seeking information on the content of meetings between Trump and Putin, including those held on July 7, 2017; Nov. 11, 2017; July 16, 2018; and Nov. 30, 2018. Among the organizations being queried about Trump campaign connections to Russia is the National Rifle Association. A Russian gun rights activist, Maria Butina, pled guilty last year to acting as an unregistered agent and was accused of trying to infiltrate the organization.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the letter had been received by the White House.

“The Counsel’s Office and relevant White House officials will review it and respond at the appropriate time,” she said in a statement.

The requests also seek extensive information about Russian investments in Trump Organization or Kushner ventures, including the proposed Trump Tower Moscow.

Trump told reporters on Monday that the inquiry was a “political hoax.” Asked whether he would cooperate with the committee, he said, “I cooperate all the time with everybody.”

Nadler is requesting an initial production of documents by March 18.

Also sent a letter was music publicist Rob Goldstone, who helped arrange the Trump Tower meeting. The committee is seeking any communications about the June 9, 2016, meeting with Trump,  Donald Trump Jr., Natalia Veselnitskaya, Paul Manafort, Kushner, Emin Agalarov, Aras Agalarov, and Rinat Akhmetshin. In his book and interviews, Goldstone has described the meeting as a bust, and said while he billed it as offering incriminating information about Hillary Clinton, it ended up being about adoption.

The requests to American Media and its top executives seek “all documents relating to any payment, or discussions regarding any actual or potential payment, to any person or entity by Michael Cohen, Essential Consultants LLC, or American Media Inc. for the benefit of Donald Trump or the Trump Campaign.

“This includes, but is not limited to, any documents relating to the reimbursement of Cohen, Essential Consultants LLC, or AMI for any such payments, and any documents relating to the omission or inclusion of information about liabilities associated with such payments on Donald Trump’s Public Financial Disclosure Reports.”

House Democrats also are seeking on any other efforts to buy up rights to stories about Trump.

It seeks “all documents that relate to the purchase of rights for any narrative, personal account, documentation, recording, or photograph (including but not limited to materials colloquially referred to as ‘catch and kill’) concerning Donald Trump from June 2015 to the present.”

In his testimony to the House Oversight Committee last week, Cohen said when reports once surfaced that Pecker, a longtime friend of Trump’s, may leave the company, they worried about what would happen to a trove of “catch and kill” stories. He presented checks to the committee that he said were reimbursements for making the payment to Daniels.