WASHINGTON ― House Republicans on Tuesday defeated a resolution that would have asked the Department of Justice to reveal what it has uncovered about President Donald Trump’s contacts with Russia and his conflicts of interest with other foreign governments.
Eighteen Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee opposed a resolution offered by Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) that would have required Attorney General Jeff Sessions to hand over information related to investigations into the president, his campaign aides, the White House and Trump’s businesses.
The vote came about after Nadler and other Judiciary Committee Democrats made several unsuccessful appeals to Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) requesting he hold hearings on Trump’s Russian ties and other foreign conflicts. Goodlatte opposed the resolution, calling it “overbroad” and “premature.”
Nadler’s resolution is one way Democrats are pressuring Republicans over the president’s business conflicts and his campaign’s possible ties to hacking by Russian intelligence services against Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.
Against all precedent in the modern era, Trump has retained ownership of his multi-billion dollar business empire. He is enriched by every payment to his hotels, resorts, golf courses and other enterprises. Foreign governments have paid his hotels to host parties and rent rooms, and to lease space in his commercial properties. Trump has promised to hand over hotel profits related to foreign entities, but hasn’t provided details. The president also refuses to release his tax returns, leaving the public in the dark about his financial investments, his investors and his debts.
News reports have said Trump campaign aides were in contact with Russian intelligence officials during the presidential race. Seventeen intelligence agencies reported that Russia hacked the Democratic National Committee and Clinton campaign manager John Podesta to influence the vote for Trump. Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, was forced to resign after it was revealed that he lied about his conversations with the Russian ambassador during the transition.
The resolution would have provided Congress with information to chart its own investigations, Nadler said before the defeat. “All this does is ask that the information in possession of the Justice Department be turned over to the House so that we can both preserve it, and decide what course of action to pursue,” Nadler said.
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) urged Republicans to support Democrats “in dispensing of the odorous smell that is not allowing us to run this government on behalf of the American people.”
Nadler introduced the measure as a resolution of inquiry, a special legislative technique that requires a vote on the floor of the House if it is not voted on in committee within 14 business days. Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) decided to send the resolution to committee so that fewer members of his caucus would have to vote on it.
The hearing was attended by an often raucous crowd of liberal activists spilling into the hallway, often erupting into applause.
Goodlatte gaveled down the outbursts, and ordered one person ejected for yelling out.
Republicans dismissed the resolution as politics.
“What we are witnessing is President Trump’s detractors are going through the stages of grief,” Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) said.
Fervent Trump supporter Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) declared all of the accusations about Russian hacking and potential foreign influence in the Trump administration to be “rumors” and “innuendo.” He dismissed reports of hacking carried out by Russia because they came from “the Obama intelligence community.”
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) did not support the resolution, but said committee members should send bipartisan letters asking for information related to the Russian hacking allegations. He added: “If [Russia has] attempted to distort our democracy, we need to know it.”
Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, compared Republican rejection of the resolution to 1974, when 10 Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee voted against all three articles of impeachment against then-President Richard Nixon.
“Looking back, it seems obvious to us that these members misjudged the moment,” Conyers said. “For political and personal reasons, they refused to engage with mounting evidence that the president had violated both the law and his oath of office.”
He added, “I think about those 10 names from the summer of 1974, and I wonder how history will judge us today.”
Mike McAuliff contributed reporting.