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Russia investigation: Trump complains of ‘presidential harassment’ as Schiff and Democrats launch new probe

President’s opponents could explore his personal and professional life in a way unseen in past two years

Clark Mindock
New York
Thursday 07 February 2019 23:37 GMT
The president in the Oval Office on Thursday evening
The president in the Oval Office on Thursday evening (AP)

Just days after Donald Trump criticised congressional Democrats for “ridiculous partisan investigations”, the president is facing a renewed Russia inquiry from Congress that has left him complaining about presidential harassment.

Mr Trump said as much in response to the announcement that Democrats in the House Intelligence Committee have re-opened their probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, marking yet another official investigation into the issue that has dogged the White House for more than two years.

“So now Congressman Adam Schiff announces, after having found zero Russian Collusion, that he is going to be looking at every aspect of my life, both financial and personal, even though there is no reason to be doing so,” Mr Trump tweeted on Thursday morning.

He continued: “Never happened before! Unlimited Presidential Harassment … The Dems and their committees are going ‘nuts.’ The Republicans never did this to President Obama, there would be no time left to run government. I hear other committee heads will do the same thing. Even stealing people who work at White House! A continuation of Witch Hunt!”

Democrats have indicated they plan on using their newly acquired congressional subpoena power to delve into Mr Trump’s political and personal world in a way that Republicans who previously controlled the committee before losing control of the chamber in the 2018 midterms shied away from.

The investigation will “allow us to investigate any credible allegation that financial interests or other interests are driving decision-making of the president or anyone in the administration”, Mr Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said, announcing the new probe.

Representative Jerry Nadler, the House Judiciary Committee chairman, meanwhile warned that his committee is considering forcing acting attorney general Matthew Whitaker to answer questions during testimony, and not just cite executive privilege.

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Anticipating the potential for Mr Whitaker to cite that privilege, Mr Nadler said he had already written up a subpoena to keep in his back pocket.

“To be clear, I hope never to use this subpoena,” Mr Nadler said in a statement.

He continued: “Weeks ago, we gave Mr Whitaker a list of questions we hope to ask him about his communications with the White House and his refusal to recuse himself from oversight of the special counsel’s investigation. If he appears on time and ready to answer those questions, the subpoena will be entirely unnecessary.”

On Thursday, the man set to replace Mr Whitaker in the Justice Department, William Barr, cleared a major hurdle in the Senate on his way to confirmation, with the Senate Judiciary Committee voting in favor of advancing his nomination to the full Senate.

Mr Barr, a Justice Department veteran and highly respected lawyer in Washington, previously served as attorney general during the administration of President George HW Bush.

When asked during his Senate confirmation hearing, Mr Barr indicated that he would strive to be transparent with his oversight of the special counsel investigation run by Robert Muller. Mr Mueller’s probe, which has run for nearly two years, is reportedly nearing conclusion.

“I believe it is in the best interest of everyone – the president, Congress, and most importantly, the American people – that this matter be resolved by allowing the special counsel to complete his work,” Mr Barr said during his hearing last month. “The country needs a credible resolution of these issues. If confirmed, I will not permit partisan politics, personal interests, or any other improper consideration to interfere with this or any other investigation.”

Mr Trump has repeatedly denied any collusion between his campaign and Russian forces, even as the special counsel’s office has charged several individuals involved in the campaign.

That has included the recent charges filed against former Trump campaign aide and Republican political operative Roger Stone, who pleaded not guilty to charges of obstruction, witness tampering, and making false statements.

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