House Democrats are considering holding hearings regarding President Donald Trump’s role in hush-money payments made to two women in order to keep them silent about alleged affairs they had with the President prior to him assuming office.
The House Judiciary Committee is planning to call witnesses with knowledge of the payments and get their testimonies on the matter involving former Playboy model Karen McDougal and adult-film star Stephanie Clifford, known by her stage name Stormy Daniels.
A federal probe into the hush-money payments by the President’s ex-attorney Michael Cohen was conducted and completed, but Democratic lawmakers allegedly believe that substantial evidence is available for them to open an investigation of their own, The Hill writes.
People familiar with the plans said that the hearings could begin as early as October.
According to Democrats, Trump could be named as a co-conspirator in the event that resulted in Cohen pleading guilty to two campaign finance charges. Prior to his entering prison, the former Trump attorney said the President directed him to make the payments. Federal prosecutors did not bring additional charges, despite naming Trump in court papers.
The Washington Post informs that the House inquiry will open a new front in Democrats’ months-long consideration of whether to bring articles of impeachment against the President. About 130 Democrats support drafting articles of impeachment, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has opposed, saying it would be political suicide.
“The fingerprints are all over this one — it’s not like a big mystery. As with the evidence of presidential obstruction of justice, the conclusion seems inescapable: that [Trump] would have been tried had he been anybody else,” said representative Jamie B. Raskin, referring to Justice Department opinions that a sitting president cannot be indicted.
“And now it’s left to Congress again to figure out what to do with the lawbreaking and apparent impunity of the president,” Raskin added.
Democrats also plan to look into whether the federal investigation into the episode was in any way obstructed, and are considering calling David Pecker as a witness. Pecker is the chairman and CEO of American Media Inc., the parent company of the National Enquirer, which admitted it had made the payment to McDougal.