Committee Asks Prosecutors if Justice Department Policy Prevented Indictment of President for “Hush Money” Crimes
Washington, D.C. (July 19, 2019)—Today, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, the Chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, sent a letter to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Southern District of New York requesting information about whether an internal Justice Department policy against indicting a sitting President played any role in the decision not to indict President Donald Trump for directing his longtime personal attorney, Michael Cohen, to pay off women alleging affairs with the President to silence them during the 2016 campaign.
“The Committee is seeking to determine whether the internal Department of Justice policy against indicting a sitting President—the same policy that prevented Special Counsel Robert Mueller from bringing an indictment against President Trump for obstruction of justice in the Russian election interference investigation—played any role in your office’s decision not to indict President Trump for these hush money crimes,” Cummings wrote.
Today’s letter comes after the Southern District of New York announced that it closed its investigation without indicting the President or anyone other than Mr. Cohen, who pleaded guilty and is currently serving a three-year sentence in part for his role in these crimes.
“If prosecutors identified evidence of criminal conduct by Donald Trump while serving as President—and did not bring charges as they would have for any other individual—this would be the second time the President has not been held accountable for his actions due to his position,” Cummings wrote. “The Office of the President should not be used as a shield for criminal conduct.”
In March, Special Counsel Mueller issued his report on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, which found evidence that President Trump obstructed justice on multiple occasions. But Special Counsel Mueller made clear that he had to follow an internal Department of Justice policy not to indict a sitting President.
“The Committee is writing to you as the top official at the Southern District of New York charged with overseeing this investigation and leading prosecutors and investigators in their work—and their decisions,” Cummings wrote. “You serve in a parallel capacity to that of Special Counsel Mueller, who issued a detailed report to Congress about his investigation and will be testifying next week about his findings.”
“The Committee is also writing to you directly because Attorney General Barr failed to relay information to Congress and the American people in an independent, neutral, and factual way regarding prosecutors’ findings relating to President Trump when he fundamentally mischaracterized the findings of the report issued by Special Counsel Mueller,” Cummings concluded.
The Committee requested that the Southern District produce by August 2, 2019, all evidence collected about the role of any other individual in connection with the campaign finance charges against Cohen, including any evidence relating to the President, and copies of all immunity deals granted, or informal immunity agreement letters or non-prosecution agreements entered into, in this investigation.
Click here to read today’s letter.