President Trump’s Lawyer: Not Aware Of Any Investigation

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Shortly after some of Donald Trump’s accusers called for a congressional investigation into their claims of sexual harassment and assault, a group of Democratic lawmakers called on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform to look into their claims.

But with Republicans controlling both the houses of Congress—plus the executive branch of government—the chances for a Congressional inquiry already appear slim:  the committee’s chairman, Representative Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) shot down the request almost immediately, referring it to the Department of Justice, over which Trump has oversight.

The decision, according to Politico, doesn’t sit well with Democrats, including the committee’s ranking Democrat Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), who said sexual harassment allegations against the president are within the committee’s purview.

Two Democratic lawmakers tried another route on Wednesday, calling on the U.S. Office of Government Ethics to investigate the claims of Trump’s sexual misconduct by 19 women.

But the office’s former head, Walter Shaub, wrote in a tweet that while he shares “the frustration” of those in Congress “over the lack of investigation into serious allegations against” Trump, the office is not—nor should be—an investigative office.

I share the frustration of these Members of Congress over the lack of investigation into serious allegations against POTUS, but OGE is not (& should not be) an investigative agency. This investigation should happen, but under our Constitution, it should be conducted by Congress.

— Walter Shaub (@waltshaub) December 14, 2017

“This investigation should happen,” Shaub wrote, “but under our Constitution, it should be conducted by Congress.”

Norm Eisen, an attorney who served as ethics chief for the Obama White House, says that Democrats on the Oversight committee can look at the allegations “on their own, though they do not have formal power to hold an official hearing or issue an official report absent majority (Republican) consent.”

There are other House and Senate committees that could look into the matter, says Eisen, calling Gowdy’s referral to the Justice Department “all the more reason” for the DOJ to take up the matter.

But with Republicans in power, an investigation by the Republican-controlled Congress and Justice Department “will be politicized,” says Richard Painter, the former George W. Bush White House Chief Ethics lawyer.

Painter forsees that if there were a Congressional or Department of Justice investigation into Trump’s alleged sexual misconduct, Republicans would demand that all members of the House and Senate be investigated for behavior related to sexual harassment prior to taking office.

“I think the Democrats are walking into a hornets nest,” Painter says.

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Democrats may have to win back power before a proper investigation of any kind is undertaken. “I am sure if Congress was not in the thrall of President Trump’s own party — which has shown a repeated propensity not to hold him accountable — there would be a congressional investigation that’s appropriate and proper,” says Eisen.

Painter believes in Trump’s case, “the judicial process is the appropriate form of investigation of conduct prior to taking office” and cites the defamation lawsuit filed against Trump by former Apprentice contestant Summer Zervos.

Trump called Zervos a liar after she went public with allegations that he began kissing her very aggressively and put his hand on her breast without her consent in 2007.

The lawsuit, notes Painter, could lead to depositions of Trump under oath, and if he lies, it could be grounds for impeachment, as it was for President Bill Clinton when he lied about his sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky.

Democrats, says Painter, have a much better chance of bringing about a successful investigation into Trump regarding issues involving abuse of executive power while he has been in office — including threats to the first amendment, Russian collusion, obstruction of justice, and violating the emoluments clause.

“If at some point they want to have the women come forward, it’s indicative of his character,” Painter says.

If there were a congressional investigation into Trump’s alleged sexual harassment and assault, what would it mean for the accusers?

Eisen says remedies could range from fact-findings all the way up to impeachment.

“At a minimum if they found the women’s claims were true and Trump was falsely denying them, they could make recommendations on how to remediate the hostile work environment,” says Eisen. “For example Trump should not be meeting alone with women, there should a chaperone.”

Eisen says that Trump’s and the White House’s continued denial of the women’s claims — including White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ issuing a list of faulty “eyewitnesses” to dispute Trump’s accusers — “are very serious legal violations.”

“The Senate and House findings in that regard could go up to the constitutional remedy” of impeachment, he says.

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