The top Democrats who will be in charge of conducting oversight on the Trump administration have begun laying out a rigorous investigative plan, they said over the weekend.
Rep. Jerrold Nadler, the presumed next chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said the first official his committee will want to hear from is new acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker, whom the New York Democrat called a “political lackey” bent on undermining the Russia investigation.
“He’s totally unqualified, and his only qualification seems to be that the president wants him to be the hatchet man to destroy the Mueller investigation,” Nadler said of Whitaker on CNN Sunday.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, the next leader of the House Oversight Committee, said he and his colleagues will investigate the hush payments made by Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, to two pornographic actresses with whom the president had affairs in the 2000s.
Trump has repeatedly denied the affairs and any involvement in the payments, even though the Wall Street Journal reported last week that he was briefed every step of the way during the transactions.
Those payments could constitute an impeachable offense, Nadler said, although he said it’s unclear whether the Democrats would actually pursue impeachment.
“You’d have to see … how good the proof of that is, and secondly, what else there is, because the fact that an impeachable offense is committed, has been committed, does not mean necessarily there ought to be an impeachment,” Nadler said.
Nadler told Roll Call in a lengthy interview detailing his impeachment philosophy that he “certainly would not predict” an impeachment of the president.
Nadler and Cummings made clear over the weekend that their top priority is protecting special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election, including possible illegal dealings with members of Trump’s inner circle.
But Nadler and Cummings also want to conduct oversight over Trump’s immigration policies, voter suppression, and pharmaceutical pricing, among many other issues.
Cummings said Democrats’ midterm election victory was a mandate to bring “accountability” the the executive branch.
“Even in Trump country, they basically are saying that, ‘We want transparency, we want honesty and we want integrity,’” Cummings said on ABC on Sunday.
Watch: With the Midterms Over, Get Ready for Investigation Nation and Congressional Gridlock