House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said Friday that she thinks President Trump and his family members may have violated campaign finance law, and potentially laws prohibiting cybercrime and espionage as well, through their meetings with Russian operatives during the 2016 presidential campaign.
“On the strength of what they have now there is very serious reason to believe that these people violated the law,” she said, listing the laws she thinks Donald Trump Jr., Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner and campaign manager Paul Manafort may have broken in meeting with a Russian lawyer with alleged ties to the Kremlin.
Though Pelosi said it was necessary to learn more about the meeting to determine whether Trump Jr., Kushner and Manafort’s actions may invite cybercrime and espionage charges, she seemed all but certain that the meeting already put Trump’s team in violation of campaign finance law.
“This is a campaign violation: soliciting, coordinating or accepting something of value, opposition research, documented information from a foreign government or foreign national. Plain and simple,” Pelosi said.
Pelosi called on the president to revoke Kushner’s security clearance Friday but was careful not to call for impeaching Trump, saying that “the laws are certainly clear — when the facts are clear, then this Congress will make a decision in that regard.”
Nonetheless, Pelosi seems convinced that Trump’s inner circle crossed a legal line in meeting with a Russian government lawyer they believed would provide opposition research on Hillary Clinton — a meeting Pelosi said is “cold, hard evidence” that the Trump campaign “eagerly intended to collude with Russia,” and pulls matters into “new territory.”
“[Trump] said ‘I could shoot somebody on Fifth Avenue and nobody would really do anything about it,’ ” she recalled the president saying during the campaign. “That is the attitude that he and his family have brought to the White House: an arrogance about being above the law, that they are not accountable.”
Pelosi launched her complaints during a news conference House Democrats held to introduce a half-dozen resolutions of inquiry pertaining to the president’s and administration members’ potential ties to Russian operatives. The resolutions, aimed at getting agencies to produce records for Congress, are in this case a tool House Democrats are using to force a series of debates on issues related to Trump that they say Republicans are trying to avoid.
House committees have 14 legislative days to debate and vote on a resolution of inquiry before it is automatically discharged to the full House, giving members the chance to force a floor vote.
The resolutions filed Friday address everything from Trump’s tax returns to his and his children’s business and financial records, conflicts of interest stemming from his D.C. hotel, and the Russian connections of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who, like others in Trump’s administration, omitted meetings from his security clearance forms.
House Democrats accused their Republican counterparts of conspiring with the president to avoid digging into such matters, pointing across the Capitol to the Senate, where Republican leaders of the Intelligence and Judiciary committees are demanding records and testimony from the Trump surrogates who took part in the meeting with the Russian lawyer. In the House, only the Intelligence Committee has been seriously probing Trump’s alleged Russia ties.
“House Democrats are not going to let the Republicans off the hook for their complicity in this,” Pelosi said. “They have become enablers of the violation of our Constitution.”
Even with the resolutions of inquiry, the odds are against Democrats procuring all the documents and evidence that they seek. But the votes could put some Republicans in a tight spot — especially when it comes to voting on procuring the president’s tax returns.
Ways & Means Committee member Bill Pascrell Jr. (D-N.J.) said he has counted more than 20 GOP members who have told their constituents that they think the president should release his tax returns — words that Pascrell argued mean nothing if they are not willing to vote to force the issue.
“It’s not enough for Republican congressmen to go to town meetings and say ‘yes, the president should give us his tax returns,’ ” Pascrell said.
House Democrats are also seeking records pertaining to any conversation the president or his surrogates had about modifying or revoking existing sanctions against Russia, as well as records about the reasons for the president’s use of Homeland Security resources to provide protection at the taxpayers’ expense.
In a separate effort to use congressional procedures to pressure the GOP, Democrats on the House Appropriations Committee offered amendments aimed at highlighting the Russia probe in a Thursday markup of the bill funding the Justice Department.
One, from Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), would have had the effect of denying a security clearance to Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser who recently amended federal reports to disclose previously unknown foreign contacts. Another, from Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), would have prevented the expenditure of federal funds to obstruct the investigation being led by Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III.
In both cases, Republicans dismissed the amendments as political posturing and defeated them largely on party lines.
Mike DeBonis contributed to this report.