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U.S. House committees launch sweeping Trump inquiries

Democrats in Congress have unleashed a slew of demands in their investigations of U.S. President Donald Trump, seeking information about his communications with Russian President Vladimir Putin and documents from 81 individuals and entities linked to the president and his associates in an obstruction probe.

81 people, including 2 of Trump's children, asked to produce documents

U.S. Democrats are living up to their promise to unleash wide-ranging investigations into the administration of President Donald Trump. (Jorge Silva/Reuters)

Democrats in Congress have unleashed a slew of demands in their investigations of U.S. President Donald Trump, seeking information about his communications with Russian President Vladimir Putin and documents from 81 individuals and entities linked to the president and his associates in an obstruction probe.

The chairmen of the House intelligence, foreign affairs and oversight committees wrote to the White House and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo seeking documents and interviews with personnel about Trump's conversations with Putin.

The lawmakers expressed concern about media reports that Trump seized notes on at least one meeting with the Russian leader and tried to destroy records about those talks.

"These allegations, if true, raise profound national security, counterintelligence, and foreign policy concerns, especially in light of Russia's ongoing active measures campaign to improperly influence American elections," chairmen Adam Schiff, Elliot Engel and Elijah Cummings wrote in their letter.

Three U.S. House committees are seeking documents and witness interviews concerning Trump's conversations with Russian President Vladimir Putin. (Mikhail Klimentyev/AFP/Getty Images)

The request followed the powerful House judiciary committee's demand for documents from a who's who of Trump's turbulent world.

Committee chairman Jerrold Nadler said Monday the investigation will focus on possible obstruction of justice, corruption and abuse of power. The aggressive, broad inquiry could set the stage for an impeachment effort, although Democratic leaders have pledged to investigate all avenues and review special counsel Robert Mueller's report before trying any drastic action. 

Nadler said that the document requests, with most responses due by March 18, are a way to "begin building the public record" and that the committee has the responsibility to investigate and hold public hearings.

"Over the last several years, President Trump has evaded accountability for his near-daily attacks on our basic legal, ethical and constitutional rules and norms," Nadler said in announcing the beginning of the probe.

"Investigating these threats to the rule of law is an obligation of Congress and a core function of the House judiciary committee."

White House response

Monday evening, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said, "Chairman Nadler and his fellow Democrats have embarked on this fishing expedition because they are terrified that their two-year false narrative of 'Russia collusion' is crumbling."

 "Their intimidation and abuse of American citizens is shameful."

Trump himself dismissed the House Democrats' probe and others on Twitter as futile efforts "in search of a crime."

Now that Democrats hold a majority in the House, the new inquiry is a sign that Trump's legal and political peril is nowhere near over, even as the special counsel's Russia investigation winds down. The move all but guarantees that potentially damaging allegations will shadow Trump for months to come as Democrats try to keep them in the public eye. 

Trump Jr., Eric Trump on list

Nadler's announcement comes after the House intelligence panel has already announced a separate probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election and Trump's foreign financial interests. The House oversight and reform committee has launched multiple investigations.

Several other committees are probing related matters, as well. And while many might overlap, the committee chairmen and chairwomen say they are working together on the investigations. 

The list of 81 names touches on all parts of Trump's life — his businesses, his campaign, the committee that oversaw the transition from campaign to the White House. There are also people connected to Russian interference in the 2016 campaign, including participants in a meeting at Trump Tower with a Russian lawyer before the election.  

In a letter to the White House, the committee asks for information surrounding former FBI director James Comey's termination, communications with Justice Department officials, the Trump Tower meeting and multiple other matters.

Sanders said Monday the White House had received the letter and that "the counsel's office and relevant White House officials will review it and respond at the appropriate time." 

The list includes two of the president's children, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump, and many of his current and former close advisers, including Steve Bannon. It also includes his embattled charitable foundation, which he is shutting down after agreeing to a court-supervised process, and officials at the FBI and Justice Department. 

Nadler previewed the announcement on ABC's This Week on Sunday, contending it's "very clear" that Trump obstructed justice. He said House Democrats, now in the majority, are simply doing "our job to protect the rule of law" after Republicans during the first two years of Trump's term were "shielding the president from any proper accountability."

"We're far from making decisions" about impeachment, he said. 

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has kept calls for impeachment at bay by insisting that Mueller first must be allowed to finish his work, and present his findings publicly — though it's unclear whether the White House will allow the full release.

With files from Reuters

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