A senior member of the House Judiciary Committee pursued a procedural tactic on Thursday that could force his colleagues to debate their role as a check on the executive branch.
Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), the second-ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, filed a resolution of inquiry requesting information from the Department of Justice on any ongoing investigations of President Donald Trump or certain members of his administration and campaign staff.
Nadler’s aim, he said in a statement Thursday afternoon, was to direct the DOJ “to provide Congress with the basic information required to conduct an inquiry into President Trump and his associates’ conflicts of interest, ethical violations — including the Emoluments Clause — and connections to the Russian government.”
A resolution of inquiry, according to the Congressional Research Service (CRS), is “is a simple resolution making a direct request or demand of the President or the head of an executive department to furnish the House with specific factual information in the Administration’s possession.” Unlike other congressional maneuvers, the resolution can be brought up on the House floor even if it has not been reported by the relevant committee — a useful feature for Democrats facing a Republican House.
Nadler’s resolution requests material in the Department of Justice or Office of Legal Counsel’s possession that refers or relates to “any criminal or counterintelligence investigation targeting President Donald J. Trump, National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort, Carter Page, Roger Stone, or any employee of the Executive Office of the President.”
In his statement, Nadler noted that he pursued the inquiry after previous requests to committee leadership and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) concerning the trust of Trump’s businesses managed by his children, and Trump’s foreign business ties. He also said that his committee “can report the Resolution ‘unfavorably’ after markup to prevent it from going to the floor.”
While resolutions of inquiry have been used hundreds of times since 1947, the Washington Post reported, flagging CRS data, they have rarely been used to scrutinize a president so directly.
Nadler’s goal, he told the Post, was to force Republicans to confront their responsibility to investigate potential conflicts of interest in the executive branch. And if they chose not to, to be held accountable for shirking that duty.
“That means every Republican will have to vote, in effect, on whether or not to abdicate their responsibility to have oversight,” he said.