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WASHINGTON —Top Democratic lawmakers vowed Sunday to step up their investigations of U.S. President Donald Trump and his connections to Russia during the 2016 presidential election.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler told ABC News that on Monday his panel would be issuing requests for documents to 60 people, "to begin the investigations to present the case to the American people about obstruction of justice, corruption and abuse of power.”
He said the requests would be sent to officials at the White House and Justice Department, along with Trump's oldest son, Donald Trump Jr., and Allen Weisselberg, the chief financial officer of the Trump Organization, the president's global business empire.
Nadler said he believes the president has obstructed justice during his two years in office. He said that Trump's former long-time personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, in his lengthy public testimony to Congress last week, "directly implicated the president in — in various crimes, both while seeking the office of president and while in the White House."
“We don’t have the facts yet," Nadler said. "But we’re going to initiate proper investigations.”
Cohen, who called Trump “a racist, a con man, a cheat," showed a House panel two $35,000 checks — one signed by the president and one signed by the younger Trump and Weisselberg — to Cohen to partly reimburse him for $130,000 he paid shortly before the 2016 election to adult film star Stormy Daniels as hush money, to keep her quiet about an alleged affair she claims to have had with then real estate mogul Trump more than a decade ago.
Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, told CNN that after hearing Cohen's testimony, "We've got to dig deeper" about the extent to which Trump pursued construction of a skyscraper in Moscow during the 2016 campaign even as he told voters he was not involved in any Russian business deals.
Cohen has been sentenced to prison for three years after pleading guilty to financial crimes and to lying to Congress that Trump's Russian business overtures ended in January 2016 at the outset of the presidential campaign. Now, Cohen says Trump's Russian business involvement extended for months after that.
Warner said he will reach his decision on whether Trump colluded with Russia to help him win the election after more investigation. But he said, "The claim that there is no evidence is factually wrong."
Nadler's committee would be first to initiate impeachment proceedings against Trump, but he said that no decisions have been reached on that. His Judiciary committee and other panels in Congress are awaiting release of special counsel Robert Mueller's report on his 22-month investigation of Trump campaign links to Russia and whether Trump, as president, obstructed justice by trying to thwart the investigation.
Mueller's report could be turned over to Attorney General William Barr in the coming days, but how much of it will be made public is uncertain. Democratic lawmakers have called for its full release, but Barr has said he would only do so to the extent that Justice Department regulations allow him to.
Nadler said, “The Republicans spent two years shielding the president from any proper accountability." He said Republican lawmakers "threatened to impeach people in Justice Department, they threatened the — the Mueller investigation. It’s our job to protect the rule of law. That’s our core function."
Trump, since returning from his collapsed summit in Hanoi last week with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, has resumed his attacks on Mueller's investigation and the growing number of inquiries in Congress.
"After more than two years of Presidential Harassment, the only things that have been proven is that Democrats and other [sic] broke the law," Trump said on Twitter Sunday.
"The hostile Cohen testimony, given by a liar to reduce his prison time, proved no Collusion!" Trump said. "His just written book manuscript showed what he said was a total lie. but the Fake Media won't show it. I am an innocent man being persecuted by some very bad, conflicted & corrupt people in a Witch Hunt that is illegal & should never have been allowed to start - And only because I won the Election! Despite this, great success!"