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Taylor writes: "Donald Trump Jr and long-term Trump aide Roger Stone face a heightened threat of criminal charges as Democrats on Capitol Hill prepare to hand evidence to Robert Mueller's Russia investigation."

Donald Trump Jr. (photo: Getty Images)
Donald Trump Jr. (photo: Getty Images)

Trump Aides May Be in Legal Jeopardy as Democrats Give Evidence to Mueller

By David Taylor, Guardian UK

08 January 19

Adam Schiff says he will hand over transcripts of interviews withheld by Republicans when they controlled committee

onald Trump Jr and long-term Trump aide Roger Stone face a heightened threat of criminal charges as Democrats on Capitol Hill prepare to hand evidence to Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.

They could be charged with perjury if there is evidence that they lied to Congress during interviews behind closed doors with the House intelligence committee.

The California Democrat Adam Schiff will take over leadership of the committee now that his party has control of the House, following victory in the midterm elections.

Speaking on CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday, Schiff made clear he would be handing over transcripts which had been withheld from Mueller’s investigation by Republicans when they controlled the panel.

The committee staged 73 interviews with dozens of witnesses, including Jared Kushner, Trump Jr and Stone. Michael Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer, has already pleaded guilty to perjury for lying to Congress over attempts to make a deal to construct a Trump Tower in Moscow.

Schiff said he was “trying to deconflict” with special counsel Mueller’s investigation because over the last two years the committee, under Republican leadership, had actively tried to make the special counsel’s work more difficult.

Schiff said he planned “as one of our first acts to make the transcripts of our witnesses fully available to special counsel for any purpose, including the bringing of perjury charges”.

Trump Jr is in peril because he orchestrated the now infamous Trump Tower meeting with a group of Russians after being promised “dirt” on Hillary Clinton. He would face problems if he told Congress that his father was unaware of the meeting but Mueller has obtained evidence to contradict that.

Stone has been under scrutiny over whether he joined the Russian conspiracy to hack Democratic party emails and whether he had prior knowledge of their publication by WikiLeaks.

Kushner, Trump’s son in law and senior adviser, has faced questions over his contacts with Russian officials during the transition period between the November 2016 election and the start of the Trump administration in January 2017.

Mueller’s investigation has had access to emails and other records which can be used to test whether witnesses were honest in their evidence to Congress.

Schiff did not name any individuals, but said: “There’s no reason to protect these witnesses. There’s every reason to validate Congress’s interest in not having people come before it and lie.

“I think people felt that they had some kind of immunity when the GOP majority at the time because they would often intervene and tell witnesses: ‘You don’t have to answer that question.’”

Schiff also underlined that his committee will start to investigate the Trump Organization and any possible connections to Russian money.

He said last month he wanted to investigate finances of the Trump Organization, naming Deutsche Bank, which has a history of laundering Russian money and which for a time was the only lender willing to do business with Trump.

On Sunday, Schiff said his committee had gone to work seeking records from private institutions.

Trump has consistently claimed the Mueller investigation into Russian election interference and possible collusion with the Trump campaign is a hoax and a witch-hunt.

On Friday, it was confirmed that judge Beryl Howell, chief judge of US district court in Washington DC, had granted a six-month extension to the grand jury which has been reviewing evidence and recommending or rejecting charges in connection with the Mueller investigation.

Under federal rules, a grand jury can serve no longer than 18 months unless the chief judge extends its service by a period of six months or less, “upon determination that such extension is in the public interest”.

So far, 33 people and three Russian organisations have been charged, convicted or have pleaded guilty in connection with Mueller’s investigation.

Schiff said it was premature to talk about the possible impeachment of Trump, saying “we need to see what Bob Mueller has to say”.

He said impeachment was a theoretical possibility, but could only go ahead if it was a bipartisan process with Senate Republicans in support.

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