Now that Congress has returned from its long summer recess, things are about to heat up in the House of Representatives, and a new investigation planned by the House Judiciary Committee could wind up being a major threat to President Donald Trump.
The Washington Post notes that Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY), chairman of the judiciary committee, will hold hearings on the payoffs Trump instructed his former attorney, Michael Cohen, made to adult film star Stormy Daniels and Playboy Playmate Karen McDougal:
“The House Judiciary Committee is preparing to hold hearings and call witnesses involved in hush-money payments to ex-Playboy model Karen McDougal and adult-film star Stormy Daniels as soon as October, according to people familiar with the plans who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe internal discussions.”
But the really bad news for the White House is that there’s already so much evidence Nadler’s committee can examine, and it all points directly to the president:
“Democrats say they believe there is already enough evidence to name Trump as a co-conspirator in the episode that resulted in his former attorney, Michael Cohen, pleading guilty to two campaign finance charges.”
Nadler’s hush-money probe will be part of a larger move by the House to prove that Trump has indeed committed high crimes and misdemeanors and should be impeached:
“The new congressional inquiry will reopen questions about the extent of Trump’s involvement in the episode — and whether he would have been charged if not for Justice Department opinions that a sitting president cannot be indicted.”
While attorneys for Trump have repeatedly sought to shrug off congressional investigations of the president, legal experts say the fact that Cohen is already serving a three-year sentence for violating campaign finance laws suggests that Trump is also partially guilty.
Duncan Levin, a former prosecutor for the Justice Department and Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, told the Post:
“It’s inconceivable Michael Cohen acted alone … what happened? When you have one of the most important, sensitive investigations into the president and his family and his company, and then when you unexpectedly drop it, it is going to raise a lot of questions.”
New York University law professor Stephen Gillers agreed with Levin, noting that Cohen didn’t act alone, and the threat to Trump is that he will indeed be named as part of a larger conspiracy:
“There is clear evidence that one or more people participated in Cohen’s crime. We just don’t know who they are and whether they are subject to investigation and could still be prosecuted.”
Even if Trump isn’t formally impeached, getting the facts about his alleged crimes out in public hearings could be incredibly damaging to Trump politically. With Trump’s approval rating at a historically low level, to lose even one or two percentage points of support could prove devastating to his reelection chances.