World

Trump Jr., Kushner transcripts among dozens House panel will send to Robert Mueller

The House intelligence committee will launch a broad new investigation looking at Russian interference in the 2016 election and President Donald Trump's foreign financial interests, Chairman Adam Schiff announced Wednesday, moving ahead with the aggressive oversight that Democrats have promised now that they are in the majority.

Republicans in previous session of Congress closed their inquiry of Russian contacts with Trump team

The U.S. House intelligence committee voted Wednesday to send more than 50 interview transcripts from its now-closed Russia investigation to special counsel Robert Mueller. Among the transcripts would be interviews with U.S. President Donald Trump's eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., left, and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, right. (Brian Snyder/Carlo Allegri/Reuters)

The U.S. House intelligence committee will launch a broad new investigation looking at Russian interference in the 2016 election and President Donald Trump's foreign financial interests, Adam Schiff announced Wednesday, moving ahead with the aggressive oversight that Democrats have promised now that they are in the majority.

Schiff, the committee chair, said the investigation will include "the scope and scale" of Russian intervention in the 2016 presidential election, the "extent of any links and/or co-ordination" between Russians and Trump's associates, whether foreign actors have sought to hold leverage over Trump or his family and associates, and whether anyone has sought to obstruct any of the relevant investigations.

The vote came the morning after U.S. President Donald Trump criticized "ridiculous partisan investigations" in his state of the union speech.

"We're going to do our jobs, and the president needs to do his," Schiff said. "Our job involves making sure that the policy of the United States is being driven by the national interest, not by any financial entanglement, financial leverage or other form of compromise."

The Republican-led committee during Trump's first two years in office closed its inquiry in March 2018, concluding there was no evidence of conspiracy or collusion between Russia and Trump's presidential campaign. Democrats strongly objected at the time, saying that the Republicans prematurely closed the investigation.

Trump's former fixer and personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, and a longtime adviser, Roger Stone, have been charged with lying to the panel. Cohen pleaded guilty in November to lying to the House and Senate intelligence committees in a statement about his role in a Trump business proposal in Moscow, acknowledging that he misled lawmakers by saying he had abandoned the project in January 2016 when he actually continued pursuing it for months after that.

Mueller may already be privy to some info

Cohen, who is scheduled to begin serving a three-year prison sentence in March, was scheduled to return to the House panel on Friday for another closed-door interview, this time with Democrats leading the questioning. But Schiff said Wednesday morning that the interview had been postponed to Feb. 28 "in the interests of the investigation."

Schiff said he could not speak about the reason for the delay.

Hours after the meeting was pushed back, a document was filed under seal in the criminal case against Cohen brought by special counsel Robert Mueller's office. The court's docket did not contain any details about the nature of the document. 

Special counsel spokesperson Peter Carr declined comment, as did Lanny Davis, an attorney for Cohen.

Since he testified in 2017, Cohen has turned on the president, co-operating with Mueller's probe and a separate investigation in New York. He was charged with crimes that included arranging the payment of hush money to conceal his boss's alleged sexual affairs and told a judge that he agreed to cover up Trump's "dirty deeds" out of "blind loyalty."

Stone pleaded not guilty to charges last month that he lied to the House panel about his discussions during the 2016 election about WikiLeaks, the anti-secrecy group that released thousands of emails stolen from Democrats. Stone is also charged with obstructing the House probe by encouraging one of his associates, New York radio host Randy Credico, to refuse to testify before the House panel in an effort to conceal Stone's false statements.

Trump administration members have claimed that Mueller's investigation is winding down, but there's no confirmation of that assertion from the special counsel's office. (J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press)

Mueller requested Stone's interview transcript last year, and the panel voted to release it in December ahead of the January charges. Democrats had previously pushed the GOP-led committee to release all the transcripts to Mueller, but Republicans said Mueller hadn't requested them. The committee did vote to release most of the transcripts to the public, but they are still being reviewed by the intelligence community for classified information.

It is unclear if Mueller has since requested any other transcripts, or if he has already seen any of them. It is possible that Mueller could have gained access to the documents through the intelligence agencies that are reviewing them.

Republicans on the panel issued a joint statement just before the meeting saying that the intelligence agencies' ongoing review is "an unacceptable delay," and Democrats should vote to publish all of the unclassified transcripts immediately. It was not immediately clear if Democrats would be willing to do that.

Among the transcripts that would be released would be interviews with Trump's eldest son, Donald Trump Jr.; his son-in-law, Jared Kushner; his longtime spokesperson, Hope Hicks; and his former bodyguard, Keith Schiller. There are dozens of other transcripts of interviews with former Obama administration officials and Trump associates.

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.