WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and Australian magazine executive Dylan Howard are among more than 80 individuals and entities asked to submit documents to a sweeping new congressional probe into alleged “obstruction of justice” by US President Donald Trump.
House of Representatives Judiciary Committee chairman Jerrold Nadler on Monday (local time) announced document requests were also served on former AAP reporter Rob Goldstone and George Papadopoulos, the former Trump foreign policy adviser who had a drinks with former Australian high commissioner to the UK Alexander Downer at a London bar in 2016.
“We have seen the damage done to our democratic institutions in the two years that the Congress refused to conduct responsible oversight,” said Mr Nadler, who became Judiciary Committee chairman after the Democrats won a majority in 2018 mid-term elections.
“Congress must provide a check on abuses of power,” he said in a statement.
A committee lawyer told reporters the immediate aim is to amass a large trove of evidence to guide the investigation and help decide which witnesses to approach. The panel is prepared to use its subpoena power if needed, the lawyer said.
Other notable names on the document request list include Mr Trump’s children, Donald Trump Jr, Eric Trump and Ivanka Trump, former administration officials Hope Hicks, Sean Spicer, Reince Priebus and Steve Bannon, former lawyer Michael Cohen, former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and longtime associate Roger Stone.
“Over the last several years, President Trump has evaded accountability for his near-daily attacks on our basic legal, ethical, and constitutional rules and norms,” Mr Nadler said.
Mr Howard is a former Seven Network reporter who moved to the US and became chief content officer at American Media Inc, publisher of the National Enquirer, US Weekly, OK!, Star and other titles.
The Democrat-controlled House Judiciary committee has asked Mr Howard to produce “documents relating to any payment, or discussions regarding any actual or potential payment, to any person or entity by Michael Cohen, Essential Consultants LLC, or American Media Inc for the benefit of Donald Trump or the Trump Campaign”.
The committee also requested Mr Howard hand over “all documents that relate to the purchase of rights for any narrative, personal account, documentation, recording, or photograph (including but not limited to materials colloquially referred to as “catch and kill”) concerning Donald Trump from June 2015 to the present”.
The committee has asked Mr Assange for all documents relating to the June 9, 2016 Trump Tower meeting between a group including Trump Jr, Manafort, Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, singer Emin Agalarov, Mr Goldstone and Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya.
The committee has also asked Mr Assange for “any contacts, direct or indirect” from January 1, 2015 to January 20, 2017 between or involving Russian Federation officials, agents, intermediaries and Mr Trump, the Trump election campaign and others including Papadopoulos, Stone, Manafort and Cohen.
Mr Downer claimed Papadopoulos told him during their drink session in London that “the Russians might use material that they have on Hillary Clinton in the lead-up to the [US] election, which may be damaging”.
The committee has asked Papadopoulos for any documents involving the Trump Tower meeting, 2016 Republican platform provisions relating to Russia and Ukraine and “any contacts, direct or indirect, from January 1, 2015 to January 20, 2017 between or involving the Russian Federation and its officials, agents, intermediaries, and/or instrumentalities”.
Mr Goldstone, a British-born journalist who moved into public relations after a reporting stint in Australia in the late 1980s, helped set up the Trump Tower meeting by writing an email to Mr Trump Jr on behalf of his client, Azerbaijani pop star Agalarov.
The committee has asked Mr Goldstone for documents relating to multiple areas including the Trump Tower meeting and the Trump Tower Moscow project.