House panel approves subpoenas for 12 Trump aides and associates
WASHINGTON – A House panel approved subpoenas for a dozen aides and associates of President Donald Trump on Thursday, seeking information about everything from Russian interference to hush-money payments Trump made in the months leading up to the 2016 election.
The House Judiciary Committee voted 21-12 to authorize subpoenas to Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner; former chief of staff John Kelly; and David Pecker, the CEO of the company that owned the National Enquirer. Lawmakers are seeking information about what they described as possible corruption and obstruction by Trump and his administration.
“We will not rest until we obtain their testimony and documents,” said Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y.
The top Republican on the panel, Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia, called the “subpoena binge” haphazard and premature.
“This is another trip down an empty road,” Collins said.
Previous efforts by the panel to subpoena information from the Trump administration have met with stiff resistance and produced little new information.
Trump has called the continued investigation by House Democrats, after the conclusion of special counsel Robert Mueller’s inquiry, presidential harassment and a partisan witch hunt.
The subpoenas would apply to top aides who worked in Trump’s White House or campaign, the Justice Department and from a magazine company that before the 2016 election helped pay off women who claimed to have had sex with Trump.
The subpoenas targeting former White House and campaign officials include Kushner, Kelly, Former national security adviser Michael Flynn, former deputy chief of staff Rick Dearborn, former staff secretary Robert Porter and former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski.
Flynn awaits sentencing after pleading guilty to lying to investigations about interactions with Russians. The committee asked Kushner in March for documents about Flynn, former Attorney General Jeff Sessions and a Trump Tower meeting of campaign officials with Russians in June 2016. The committee asked Lewandowski about Flynn, Sessions and campaign contacts with Russians.
The subpoenas for current and former Justice Department officials cover Sessions; former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who appointed Mueller; and Joseph Hunt, assistant attorney general for the civil division. Trump ousted Sessions in November 2018 after repeatedly complaining about him recusing himself from the Russia probe.
The subpoenas dealing with the hush-money payments include lawyer Keith Davidson, who represented Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal in their claims against Trump; Pecker, CEO of the company American Media Inc. that owned the National Enquirer; and Dylan Howard, chief content officer at the company. The committee asked the AMI executives in March about “catch-and-kill” payments to the women to prevent stories from being written.
AMI said this year that it was selling the Enquirer for $100 million.
The White House urged former administration officials to defy subpoenas for their work in the White House, either because of executive privilege or immunity from testifying about their work.
Former White House counsel Don McGahn defied his subpoena and didn’t appear. His deputy Annie Donaldson and former White House communication director Hope Hicks testified separately behind closed doors but declined to answer hundreds of questions.
“These are the key players, both in our ongoing investigation and in the Mueller report,” said Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Fla.
Republicans derided the subpoenas.
“It’s really a faux impeachment, a fake impeachment,” said Rep. Steve Chabot, R-Ohio. “Rather than wasting more time on this fishing expedition, we could spend more time on things that really matter.”
More on subpoenas from Congress for the Trump administration:
‘Slow-motion constitutional car crash’: Trump, Congress battle over investigations with no end in sight
President Trump still facing swirl of investigations even after Robert Mueller’s probe has ended
White House tells Don McGahn, former counsel, not to testify to House panel