US President-elect Donald Trump along with his son Donald, Jr., arrive for a press conference at Trump Tower in New York, as Allen Weisselberg (C), chief financial officer of The Trump, looks on January 11, 2017. As US President Donald Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen delivered hours of riveting testimony to a US House committee on February 27, 2019, one name came up again and again: Allen Weisselberg. Weisselberg, 71, is the publicity-shy chief financial officer of the Trump Organization and one of the real estate tycoon's oldest and closest advisors.
AFP/Timothy A. Clary
Trump Jr subpoenaed as Congress battles White House over Russia report
Michael Mathes (Agence France-Presse) - May 9, 2019 - 9:19am

WASHINGTON, United States — The Russia probe plunged Washington into turmoil Wednesday as Donald Trump's son reportedly was ordered to testify before a Senate panel and the White House refused to release material on investigations into the president.

A day after the top Republican in Congress called the Russia probe "case closed," Trump's conflict with his Democratic opponents escalated to new heights as a House panel voted to hold the nation's Attorney General Bill Barr in contempt for refusing to turn over key documents.

Following a day of drama that included Trump asserting his executive privilege for the first time in his presidency, the Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee took the surprise step of issuing a subpoena to Donald Trump Jr to testify as part of its investigation into Russian election interference, US media reported.

It was the first known legal summons issued to a member of the president's family to force testimony in the ongoing investigation, and comes after special counsel Robert Mueller declined to accuse Trump's 2016 campaign of criminal conspiracy to collude with the Russians.

Trump Jr, 41, has testified voluntarily in private once to the committee, and was peppered with questions about a June 9, 2016 meeting in Trump Tower in New York that he and other campaign officials had with a Russian lawyer who had offered them dirt on Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

Committee aides would not confirm the subpoena or what they want to discuss with the president's eldest son, who currently helps run the Trump Organization.

Citing a person close to Trump Jr, The Wall Street Journal reported he had offered to answer questions in writing from the committee, and planned to fight the subpoena, which demands he testify in person.

'Constitutional crisis'

The White House meanwhile has been seeking to shield a large swathe of material -- including redacted portions of Mueller's report -- subpoenaed by lawmakers seeking to exert their oversight responsibility.

The rare move to invoke executive privilege came as the House Judiciary Committee took its most substantive step yet against a member of the Trump administration by approving a contempt motion against Barr.

"This was a very grave and momentous step we were forced to take today," committee chairman Jerry Nadler said after the party-line vote.

Nadler said the contempt citation will proceed "rapidly" for a full House vote but did not offer a timeline.

Nadler accused Trump and the White House of stonewalling by preventing America's congressional representatives from conducting oversight of the executive branch.

"It's an attack on the essence of our democracy," Nadler said. "We are now in a constitutional crisis."

The Department of Justice swiftly shot back, branding the contempt vote "inappropriate political theatrics."

Hours earlier, Trump made clear he would assert his executive privilege to keep Mueller's full report under wraps.

"Neither the White House nor Attorney General Barr will comply with Chairman Nadler's unlawful and reckless demands," White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said.

Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd stressed that Trump had moved to keep "the entirety of the subpoenaed materials" from the eyes of Congress.

Nadler warned that such action "represents a clear escalation in the Trump administration's blanket defiance of Congress's constitutionally mandated duties."

Democrats have struggled with their battle plan in the wake of the Mueller report. Some have called for impeachment proceedings against Trump, while others stress the need to refocus on issues affecting everyday Americans ahead of the 2020 election.

The administration has been resolute in accusing Democrats of seeking to tear down the president.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Trump's nemesis in Congress, has refrained from calling for his impeachment. 

But on Wednesday she voiced support for the contempt move, and delivered a stinging message about the White House refusal to release the unredacted report, a document that Trump claimed exonerated him of wrongdoing.

"Is this what it looks like when you have nothing to hide?" Pelosi tweeted.

For several hours in the tense judiciary hearing, lawmakers traded barbs about Barr's brazen protection of the president and the calculated effort by Democrats to punish him and gain access to key material.

Trump took to Twitter to rail about Mueller's two-year investigation.

"TREASONOUS HOAX!" Trump boomed, a reference to a favorite complaint that the probe was an unwarranted political hit job by his opponents.

Barr defied a subpoena to turn over a complete copy of Mueller's report and the underlying evidence, and last week refused to testify before the House Judiciary Committee.

The panel approved the 27-page contempt citation in which Nadler wrote that even the redacted report "offers disturbing evidence and analysis that President Trump engaged in obstruction of justice at the highest levels."

DONALD TRUMP RUSSIA UNITED STATES
As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: May 25, 2019 - 12:05pm

The Justice Department says it has given House Republicans new classified information related to the Russia investigation after lawmakers had threatened to hold officials in contempt of Congress or even impeach them.

A spokeswoman for House Speaker Paul Ryan says Saturday that the department has partially complied with subpoenas from the House Intelligence and Judiciary committees after officials turned over more than a thousand new documents this week.

House Republicans had given the Justice Department and FBI a Friday deadline for all documents, most of which are related to the origins of the FBI's Russia investigation and the handling of its probe into Democrat Hillary Clinton's emails. — AP

May 25, 2019 - 12:05pm

President Donald Trump is defending his unprecedented decision to give his Justice Department chief unfettered access to the country's deepest foreign intelligence secrets amid an outcry from the spy community and a veiled warning from the US intelligence czar.

The president says Attorney General Bill Barr needed unilateral power to declassify any top secret material to get to the roots of the 2016-2018 investigation into whether his election campaign colluded with Russia. — AFP

May 24, 2019 - 4:07pm

US President Donald Trump has ordered the intelligence community to "fully cooperate" with an investigation into what he has termed "spying" on his 2016 election campaign.

The move comes with Trump under increasing pressure from probes led by Democratic lawmakers in Congress, some of whom are pushing for his impeachment.

According to Trump, court-approved surveillance of his campaign's links to Russians amounted to "spying." He has even called the probe treason and indicated he would like to see criminal charges brought against his investigators. — AFP

April 19, 2019 - 6:01pm

Senior Democrats say that Special Counsel Robert Mueller's long-awaited report revealed a two-year campaign of obstruction by President Donald Trump, and vow to hold him accountable. 

"Even in its incomplete form, the Mueller report outlines disturbing evidence that President Trump engaged in obstruction of justice and other misconduct," says Representative Jerrold Nadler, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.

"The responsibility now falls to Congress to hold the president accountable for his actions," he says in a statement.

Attorney General Bill Barr has released the redacted 400-page report after already announcing that it showed no proof that Trump colluded with Russian intelligence to tilt the 2016 presidential election. — AFP

April 19, 2019 - 8:22am

Russia did not manage to affect the outcome of the 2016 US election, President Donald Trump has insisted after an official investigation detailed how Moscow interfered in the contest.

Writing on Twitter, Trump stopped short of acknowledging Russia meddled in the election which saw him beat his Democrat opponent Hillary Clinton but said that blame for any interference lay with his predecessor Barack Obama. 

"Anything the Russians did concerning the 2016 Election was done while Obama was President," says Trump in reaction to the publication of a long-awaited report by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

"He was told about it and did nothing! Most importantly, the vote was not affected." — AFP

March 23, 2019 - 11:00am

Special counsel Robert Mueller has submitted his long-awaited report into an explosive two-year investigation of Russian meddling in Donald Trump's 2016 election -- a probe the president denounces as a "witch hunt" and opponents say could fuel impeachment.

What the report says is confidential, but Attorney General Bill Barr wrote in a letter to Congress that he might be able to summarize its "principal conclusions" for Congress as early as this weekend. — AFP

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