House Panel Votes to Subpoena Kushner, Other Mueller Witnesses

WASHINGTON (CN) – Ramping up its investigation into whether President Donald Trump obstructed justice, the House Judiciary Committee voted Thursday to issue subpoenas to a litany of current and former Trump administration officials, including the president’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., arrives for a caucus meeting on Wednesday. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

In addition to Kushner, those subpoenaed include ex-Attorney General Jeff Sessions and his former Chief of Staff Jody Hunt, former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, former White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, and former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, who cooperated with special counsel Robert Mueller after pleading guilty to lying to the FBI about his communication with Russians during the 2016 election.

Others subpoenaed include former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, American Media Inc. CEO David Pecker and Dylan Howard, another AMI executive. AMI publishes the National Enquirer.

The subpoenas to Pecker and Howard signal the committee is preparing to probe deeper into hush money payments arranged by the president’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen to keep quiet Trump’s alleged affairs with adult film actress Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal.

Democrats and prosecutors alike have argued the payments amounted to campaign finance violations. Cohen is currently serving a three-year prison sentence for his role in the scheme.

Keith Davidson, an attorney who once represented Stormy Daniels, has also been subpoenaed, in addition to former White House aides Rob Porter and Rick Dearborn.

Porter’s testimony, according to House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., could shed light about possible attempts by Trump to end or intervene in the Mueller investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

During the special counsel’s probe, Porter revealed in a series of notes shared with prosecutors that the president often considered replacing Mueller with Justice Department officials he deemed friendlier to the administration.

Dearborn’s testimony, meanwhile, could give insight into the firing of former White House counsel Don McGahn.

According to Mueller’s report, after McGahn refused to fire Sessions, Trump asked Lewandowski to tell Sessions to unrecuse himself from the probe and order Mueller to shift focus of the investigation to preventing election interference by foreign powers in the future. Trump also reportedly wanted Sessions to issue a public statement clearing his name and saying an investigation was unnecessary.

Those requests, according to prosecutors, were sometimes delegated from Lewandowski to Dearborn, though the report stated Dearborn did not follow through with the directives.

The White House has stonewalled congressional attempts to investigate the Mueller report’s findings further for months, so it is unclear whether the subpoenas will be complied with.

A transcript of an interview between the House Judiciary Committee and McGahn’s former aide Annie Donaldson revealed White House attorneys blocked over 200 questions about potential obstruction of justice. Former White House communications director Hope Hicks was also repeatedly told not to answer questions during her hearing with the committee.

Republicans argue the subpoenas are merely a ploy by Democrats to re-litigate findings of the Mueller probe, which declined to determine whether Trump committed the crime of obstruction.

Mueller said during a press conference in May that the report did not exonerate the president and suggested it was the job of Congress to hold the president accountable since federal rules prohibit indictment of a sitting president. He will testify in an open joint hearing hosted by the House Judiciary and House Intelligence Committees next week.

Ranking House Judiciary Committee member Representative Doug Collins, R-Ga., slammed Democrats Thursday, saying their efforts were political theater.

“Here we go again, premature authorization of subpoenas. Health and Human Services has provided 7,500 pages to Congress, the Department of Homeland Security gave 3,300 pages. The Department of Justice turned over 1,200 pages, yet the chairman wants to issue more subpoenas,” Collins said.

As for scrutiny on the administration’s immigration policies and detention of families at the U.S.-Mexico border, Nadler said Thursday that while the Departments of Homeland Security and Health and Human Services have supplied some requested documents, the Justice Department has mostly ignored the committee’s requests.

In April, Nadler asked for records which may reveal possible retaliatory actions against members of Congress that Trump thinks are against his policies. The next month, Nadler asked Homeland Security to open an investigation into the deaths of five immigrant children. He also requested a briefing on short-term holding facilities.

“The department has provided no briefing or any response to the letter,” Nadler said. “The committee cannot sit idly by.”

Thursday’s resolution, passed in a 21-12 vote, also seeks information about discussions or offers of presidential pardons to Homeland Security officials like Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan.

Nadler had sent a letter to the department after widespread reports indicated Trump may have suggested pardoning McAleenan if he illegally closed the southern border. A follow-up letter was sent in May, with no response.

“For a president to order an administration official to violate the law and say don’t worry, I’ll pardon you… That would be a terrible dereliction of duty,” Nadler said.

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