Trump ‘being harassed by Democrats’ in new inquiry, White House says

Media captionTrump attacks his opponents in Maryland speech

The White House has accused Democrats of launching a “disgraceful” inquiry into alleged obstruction of justice and abuse of power.

On Monday, documents were requested from 81 people and groups, including some of the president’s closest allies.

Among them were aides to President Donald Trump and his campaign, members of his family, business associates and others.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said Democrats were harassing Mr Trump.

The House of Representatives Judiciary Committee oversees the US justice system including federal law enforcement agencies.

Its Democratic Chairman, Jerry Nadler, said it was the “obligation” of Congress to “provide a check on abuses of power” by the White House.

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President Trump dismissed Mr Nadler’s probe as a “political hoax”, but added: “I co-operate all the time with everybody.”

What is this latest round of investigations about?

Democrats, who took control of the House of Representatives in January, have vowed to open investigations into the president and the White House.

More than five House committees are investigating alleged attempts by Russia to meddle in the 2016 election campaign, the president’s tax returns and potential conflicts of interest involving Mr Trump’s family.

Those inquiries are in addition to the investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is expected to file his report soon.

Mr Nadler’s committee has the power to conduct impeachment hearings, which can ultimately lead to a president’s removal.

He said it was “very clear” that the president had obstructed justice but told ABC News it was too early to discuss removing the president from office.

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What did the White House say?

In a statement, Ms Sanders said: “Today, Chairman Nadler opened up a disgraceful and abusive investigation into tired, false allegations already investigated by the special counsel and committees in both chambers of Congress.

“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.

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Sarah Sanders: ” The Democrats are not after the truth, they are after the president”

“Their intimidation and abuse of American citizens is shameful. Democrats are harassing the president to distract from their radical agenda of making America a socialist country, killing babies after they’re born, and pushing a ‘green new deal’ that would destroy jobs and bankrupt America.

“The American people deserve a Congress that works with the president to address serious issues like immigration, healthcare, and infrastructure.”

Who received requests?

Trump Organization chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg, long-time Trump personal assistant Rhona Graff and ex-White House counsel Don McGahn are on the list of names released by the House Judiciary Committee.

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Both of Mr Trump’s sons are on the list of requests

Donald Trump Jr has previously been forced by members of Congress to answer questions about a June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower, in which he sat down with a Kremlin-linked lawyer who had offered dirt on Mr Trump’s opponent Hillary Clinton.

Wikileaks and its founder Julian Assange have also been sent documents requests by the committee.

The organisation, which publishes secret information and news leaks provided by anonymous sources, published emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee and released them during the 2016 campaign, causing political embarrassment to Mrs Clinton and her campaign team.

Roger Stone, Mr Trump’s confidant, who is currently under investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller for allegedly lying to prosecutors about his communications with Wikileaks during the presidential campaign, is also receiving a request from the committee.

After Mr Stone’s arrest in January, he denied that he played a role as an intermediary between the campaign and Wikileaks.

The documents would be used by the committee to determine which witnesses to call to testify in the coming months, a counsel for the House Judiciary Committee said.

If they do not comply within the next few weeks, subpoenas will be issued, which order someone to attend court.

‘Shotgun approach’

With his announcement, Mr Nadler is taking a shotgun approach to his investigations of the president, the BBC North America reporter Anthony Zurcher says.

He says the press release announcing the investigations doesn’t mention Russia or its election-meddling by name.

But the key components of the collusion allegations – the 2016 Trump Tower meeting, the WikiLeaks email dumps, changes to Ukraine policy in the Republican Party platform and the Trump-Russia business dealings – are all over the document requests.