An attorney for House Democrats affirmed in the strongest terms yet Monday that lawmakers are investigating whether Trump lied to former special counsel Robert Mueller — a warning shot that came shortly after the president said he’s “strongly” considering giving sworn testimony in the impeachment inquiry.
Douglas Letter, the House’s general counsel, made the case for potential lies in Trump’s written Mueller testimony during a court hearing on Democrats’ attempts to get their hands on the special counsel’s secret grand jury materials.
“Did the president lie? Was the president not truthful in his responses to the Mueller investigation?” Letter said in a Washington federal appeals courtroom, noting that the grand jury records could answer such questions.
The Democrats, led by House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., first signaled in September they were exploring whether Trump may have misled Mueller about his 2016 campaign’s contacts with Roger Stone and WikiLeaks.
However, Letter’s court comments marked the first time the Democrats have used the word “lie” to describe Trump’s potential infractions.
The counsel’s remarks also strongly suggest House Democrats could consider lies to Mueller as grounds for additional articles of impeachment against Trump, as has been previously floated by some members.
“The House is trying to determine whether the current president should remain in office. This is unbelievably serious and it’s happening right now, very fast,” Letter said.
A federal judge ruled last month that the Justice Department had to hand over the confidential Mueller documents to the House, but the Trump administration appealed and the matter is under review by the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington.
Letter’s fighting words came on the heels of a tweet from Trump saying he may take House Speaker Nancy Pelosi up on her offer for him to testify under oath in the fast-moving impeachment inquiry.
“(Pelosi) suggested on Sunday’s DEFACE THE NATION,” Trump posted, referring to the CBS News show, “that I testify about the phony Impeachment Witch Hunt. She also said I could do it in writing. Even though I did nothing wrong, and don’t like giving credibility to this No Due Process Hoax, I like the idea & will, in order to get Congress focused again, strongly consider it!”
Trump’s written answers to Mueller came under renewed scrutiny last week after it was revealed during Stone’s criminal trial that he spoke with the president over the phone after WikiLeaks’ July 2016 release of Democratic National Committee emails stolen by Russian hackers.
Stone, who was found guilty on all counts, told Trump on the call that he should expect “more information” to come out, former deputy Trump campaign chairman Rick Gates testified in the trial.
In his written answers to Mueller, Trump claimed he couldn’t recall ever speaking with Stone about WikiLeaks during the 2016 campaign.
A Democratic source told the Daily News the revelations from Stone’s trial made it “easier” for Letter to “say things more directly” and use the word “lie” in court Monday.
Jay Sekulow, one of Trump’s top personal attorneys, declined to address Letter’s allegations about potential lies and said in a text message that the president’s written answers to Mueller “speak for themselves.”
Trump critics said the president should not be allowed to give written answers in the impeachment inquiry, which is looking into his attempts to pressure Ukraine into investigating Joe Biden and other Democrats before the 2020 election.
“‘Testifying in writing’ is worthless,” former Justice Department Inspector General Michael Bromwich tweeted. “This is the con he pulled with Mueller. Not worth the committee’s time to prepare the questions. He should sit at the witness table and answer questions like everyone else.”
Sekulow and other members of Trump’s legal team on numerous occasions signaled he would sit down with Mueller’s investigators as part of the special counsel’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and possible coordination with the president’s campaign.
However, Trump ultimately never met with Mueller’s team and instead opted to only give written testimony that was widely seen as insufficient since Trump didn’t answer several key questions, claiming he couldn’t recall the incidents or topics referenced.