House Republicans just voted to keep hiding government information about Trump and Russia

Democrats forced a vote on asking the DOJ to turn its information over. It died on partisan lines in the Judiciary Committee.

Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, left, talks with Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., in the House Chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2017, as the 115th Congress gets underway. CREDIT: AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite
Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, left, talks with Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., in the House Chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2017, as the 115th Congress gets underway. CREDIT: AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Republican lawmakers on the House Judiciary Committee voted against a Resolution of Inquiry Tuesday night that would have provided the House with a wide swath of information about President Donald Trump’s ethics violations and alleged ties to Russia.

The vote ran down partisan lines, with 18 Republicans voting against and 16 Democrats voting for.

The resolution was introduced weeks ago by Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY), who began his statements in the committee by noting the mounting questions concerning Trump’s foreign business entanglements and “his inexplicably cozy business relationship with Russia.

“Each day, Democrats on this committee and on other committees have requested hearings and investigations into these serious issues. And yet each day, with a few exceptions, we have been met with a deafening silence from our Republican colleagues,” Nadler said, citing GOP lawmakers’ inaction as the reason for introducing the resolution.

The resolution represents a formal request from Congress to the Department of Justice, asking for a wide swath of information relevant to issues dogging Trump’s presidency.

Specifically, it would have asked the DOJ to turn over, within 14 days, any information relevant to: conflicts of interest stemming from Trump’s decision to maintain ownership of his companies, any ethics violations pertaining to either Trump or any of his federal employees, payments by foreign governments made to organizations Trump owns (a violation of the constitution’s Emoluments Clause), and any information the DOJ has about connections between Trump’s aides and Russia.

The Democrats on the Judiciary Committee say this information is essential for the House to conduct its constitutionally-mandated oversight duties. Additionally, Nadler cited the potential conflicts posed by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who was heavily involved with the Trump campaign, and who has thus far refused to recuse himself from the investigation.

“It is not clear that he could be impartial, or that he will even conduct an investigation at all. Therefore, we must ensure that we in the House get access to any information the Department of Justice has so that we can do our own investigation,” said Nadler.

Chair of the Committee Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) objected to Nadler’s resolution, calling it “politically charged,” objecting routinely to every amendment offered by Democrats as “broadening” the reach of an “already too-broad resolution.”

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), who made waves last Friday by suggesting that Sessions should recuse himself from the investigation, suggested that the resolution was an overstep. He also objected to the fact that the resolution was introduced on Sessions’ first day on his new job.

Democrats on the committee staunchly defended the resolution as a necessary, reasonable, and legal action.

Nadler did indicate a measure of political showmanship in forcing the vote. By introducing the resolution on February 9th, he kicked off a time-limited period during which Republicans had to vote on the record to continue giving Trump’s secrets a pass — essentially, forcing them to go on legislative record that they wouldn’t pursue aggressive investigations against Trump. Thus far, most congressional Republicans have preferred to simply avoid the subject unless forced.

Nadler, on Twitter, responded immediately after the vote that though Republicans killed this version in committee, it was only the first salvo in the attempt — and a success for efforts to shine a light on Republican intransigence.

Nadler’s efforts are the latest Democratic attempt to circumvent and shine a light on the Republican stranglehold on congressional investigations.

Currently, Republican lawmakers have enormous power over Congress’ oversight capabilities — effectively controlling what issues Congress investigates and how aggressively those investigations unfold. So far, however, they have been extremely reluctant to dig into any of the issues swirling around President Trump.

Just Monday night, Republicans voted en masse on the House floor against a proposal that would have enabled Congress to get a look at Trump’s tax returns and release them to the public if they are in the public’s interest.

Republicans have also been reluctant to use their oversight power within committees to go after the president.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), chair of the House Oversight Committee and dogged pursuer of Hillary Clinton’s emails, has declined repeated calls to hold a hearing investigating Trump’s conflicts of interest. The chair of the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), has been making press calls on behalf of the White House to counter negative reporting about the Trump campaign’s ties with Russia.

And Nunes told reporters Monday that he will not be requesting a copy of Trump’s tax returns — even though those documents would help Congress dig into whether Trump has any financial ties to Russia or Russian investors. Republican Sen. Susan Collins (ME) previously said she believed the committee could issue a subpoena for the returns during the investigation.