House Intel to probe whether lawyers for Trump family interfered in investigation
The House Intelligence Committee is investigating whether attorneys representing both President TrumpDonald John TrumpLawsuit alleges Trump campaign paid women less than men Graham encourages Donald Trump Jr. to plead the 5th Crunch time for Senate disaster aid talks MORE and his family obstructed the panel’s investigation into Russian interference by shaping or editing false testimony.
Documents show that the panel, led by Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffDems warn of ‘constitutional crisis’ but wary of impeachment Schiff: Trump ‘has to be defeated’ in 2020 Schiff dismisses Trump’s threat to investigate Biden MORE (D-Calif.), sent requests for documents and testimony from the president’s personal attorney Jay SekulowJay Alan SekulowFox News’ Napolitano: Trump is finally realizing how serious Mueller probe is Trump lawyer: Collusion is not a crime Trump lawyer on Papadopoulos: ‘There was no crime of collusion’ MORE and three others earlier this year in connection with the investigation into whether they edited or shaped former Trump attorney Michael CohenMichael Dean Cohen Graham encourages Donald Trump Jr. to plead the 5th Feds ask judge to postpone ex-Trump campaign aide’s sentencing Rand Paul: Trump Jr. subpoena a ‘real travesty of justice’ MORE’s 2017 false statements to Congress about the Trump Tower Moscow proposal.
The committee is particularly interested in hearing from Sekulow; Alan Futerfas, Donald Trump Jr.Donald (Don) John Trump Graham encourages Donald Trump Jr. to plead the 5th The Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by Pass USMCA Coalition – Deadline approaches for 2020 Dems Trump weighs in on blowback to Trump Jr. subpoena: ‘Really sad’ MORE‘s attorney; Alan Garten, the Trump Organization’s top lawyer; and Abbe Lowell, Ivanka TrumpIvana (Ivanka) Marie Trump Graham encourages Donald Trump Jr. to plead the 5th Trump Jr. unlikely to comply with Senate Intel subpoena: report Key GOP senator after Trump Jr. intel subpoena says ‘at some point this smacks of politics’ MORE‘s attorney.
“Among other things, it appears that your clients may have reviewed, shaped and edited the false statement that Cohen submitted to the Committee, including causing the omission of material facts,” Schiff wrote in a May 3 letter to attorneys for the lawyers, which was obtained from a committee source. “In addition, certain of your clients may have engaged in discussions about potential pardons in an effort to deter one or more witnesses from cooperating with authorized investigations.”
The inquiry was first reported by The New York Times.
Last November, Cohen pleaded guilty to lying to the House and Senate Intelligence committees about discussions within the Trump Organization to build a Trump property in Moscow as part of a deal to cooperate with special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE’s probe. Cohen admitted to lying about the duration of the discussions, saying they extended into June 2016 — six months later than he originally testified — among other things.
Cohen testified publicly before the House Oversight and Reform Committee in February that changes were made to his statement after Trump’s lawyers reviewed it. He also provided closed-door testimony to the House Intelligence Committee as part of its revived and expanded investigation into foreign interference and Trump’s dealings with Russia.
Sekulow vehemently denied that attorneys for the president edited or changed Cohen’s statement to Congress to alter the duration of the Trump Tower discussions.
Patrick Strawbridge, a lawyer for Sekulow, accused Schiff of pursuing a “needless dispute” in a statement on behalf of the group of attorneys.
“Instead of addressing important intelligence needs, the House Intelligence Committee appears to seek a truly needless dispute — this one with private attorneys — that would force them to violate privileges and ethical rules,” Strawbridge said. “As committed defense lawyers, we will respect the constitution and defend the attorney-client privilege — one of the oldest and most sacred privileges in the law.”
The committee first sent a document request to Sekulow and other lawyers on March 14, asking for a slew of documents, including those related to the drafting of Cohen’s statement on the Trump Tower Moscow project, false statements he made to Congress in relation to that statement, discussions for a possible pardon of Cohen and other matters.
Schiff also asked the lawyers to submit to voluntarily transcribed interviews with the committee. He set a March 22 deadline for them to comply with the requests.
The lawyers through their own counsels declined to comply with the document request or submit to interviews on April 5, describing the requests as “unprecedented” and outside the scope of the panel’s oversight authorities in a letter to the committee. They also claimed the information requested would fall under attorney-client privilege.
“Although the Committee has important responsibilities over this country’s intelligence agencies, we are at a loss to see how that charge justifies your sweeping and unprecedented requests to our clients,” the letter states.
“Absent a sufficient justification for these requests, our clients cannot agree to provide the requested documents or submit to an interview,” it adds. “That is particularly true since your requests plainly target information that would fall within the attorney-client privilege and work-product privileges.”
Schiff pushed back on their arguments in the latest letter, arguing that the objections to the request “lack merit and establish no valid basis to withhold the requested documents and testimony from the committee.”
The chairman also set a new deadline of May 10 for the lawyers to comply with the requests.
A senior committee official told The Hill on Tuesday that the lawyers had not yet responded to the second letter but that Schiff was prepared to issue a subpoena to compel their cooperation if needed.
“Material in the Committee’s possession, as well as Michael Cohen’s Committee testimony and admissions to the Special Counsel’s Office, raise serious, unresolved concerns about the obstruction of our Committee’s investigation that we would be negligent not to pursue,” Schiff said in a statement Tuesday.
“If any individual is allowed to lie to our committee or encourage others to do so, hide behind inapplicable privileges, or otherwise fail to provide anything less than full cooperation, other witnesses will be emboldened to similarly obstruct, both now and in the future. We must not allow that to happen,” Schiff continued.
Updated at 6:11 p.m.
CORRECTION: The House Intelligence Committee is investigating whether lawyers working for both Trump and members of his family interfered in panel’s Russia investigation. An earlier headline included incorrect information.
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