The House Judiciary Committee voted Tuesday to kill a resolution that sought to force full disclosure of President Donald Trump’s business conflicts of interest and his administration’s alleged backchannel dealings with the Russian government. All 18 Republican members of the committee voted to report the resolution “unfavorably” to the House.
The author of the resolution, Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY), told TPM that he and other Democrats will continue to press this issue with subsequent resolutions.
“Even if you’re a dyed-in-the-wool supporter of the Trump administration and you think they’ve done nothing wrong, get this out of the way early and don’t let it fester,” he said. “And if they have done something wrong, we need to know it. It’s better for the country either way. Most of the American people want these questions answered.”
The House voted Monday night to kill another resolution that would have forced the IRS to turn over President Trump’s tax returns, which the president has refused to release and which may shed light on whether the president has financial ties to Russia and whether he is continuing to profit from his business empire.
Every single Republican voted down the bill, save for two who voted “present.” Every single Democrat voted in favor of obtaining the documents.
Nadler’s resolution (see below) would have directed the Justice Department to obtain all relevant documents related to Trump’s ties to his business empire and communications with Russia and turn them over to Congress for review. While U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that Russia released hacked information in order to tip the 2016 presidential election in Trump’s favor, many questions remain unanswered.
“Was the Trump campaign colluding with the Russians to illegally intervene in our elections?” asked Nadler. “Did the candidate know of or approve of working with the Russians to rig an American election?”
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX)—one of 130 members co-sponsoring the resolution—told reporters Tuesday that she doesn’t trust Attorney General Jeff Sessions to lead a fair investigation into these questions on his own because he is a “close confidante of the president of the United States.”
Similar questions have been raised about an ongoing FBI inquiry into ties between Trump’s top aides and Russia, amid allegations that the White House is inappropriately pressuring the bureau and selectively leaking information to the public.
Some Republicans have voiced a desire for a special prosecutor to take on the investigation, while others have dismissed the idea as unnecessary. Republicans on the Judiciary Committee who voted against the resolution called it “premature,” and said the existing investigations into Trump’s dealings are sufficient. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) joked that Democrats are not serious about an investigation and are merely “moving through the stages of grief.” Rep. Steve King (R-IA) called the effort a “political game” that was based on “rumors” instead of facts. The Chairman, Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), accused Democrats of “trying to delegitimize” the president.
The committee vote Tuesday against Nadler’s resolution means it is unlikely to see the light of day on the House floor.
Still, Nadler told TPM that forcing his colleagues to take a committee vote was a victory in itself. “Today we learned who wants to know the truth and who wants a cover-up,” he said. “That’s why this was so important: we put members of the House Judiciary Committee on the record.”
Alice Ollstein is a reporter at Talking Points Memo, covering national politics. She graduated from Oberlin College in 2010 and has been reporting in DC ever since, covering the Supreme Court, Congress and national elections for TV, radio, print, and online outlets. Her work has aired on Free Speech Radio News, All Things Considered, Channel News Asia, and Telesur, and her writing has been published by The Atlantic, La Opinión, and The Hill Rag. She was elected in 2016 as an at-large board member of the DC Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Alice grew up in Santa Monica, California and began working for local newspapers in her early teens.