The chairman of the committee in charge of impeachment has said it is “very clear” US President Donald Trump obstructed justice.
Jerrold Nadler said the House of Representative panel will request documents from more than 60 people from Mr Trump’s administration, family and business as part of a rapidly expanding Russia investigation.
He said the House Judiciary Committee wants to review documents from the Justice Department, the president’s son Donald Trump Jr and Trump Organisation chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg.
Former White House chief of staff John Kelly and former White House counsel Don McGahn also are likely targets, he said.
“We are going to initiate investigations into abuses of power, into corruption and into obstruction of justice,” Mr Nadler said.
“We will do everything we can to get that evidence.”
Asked if he believed Trump obstructed justice, Mr Nadler said: “Yes, I do.”
Mr Nadler is not calling the inquiry an impeachment investigation but said House Democrats, now in the majority, are simply doing “our job to protect the rule of law” after Republicans during the first two years of Mr Trump’s term were “shielding the president from any proper accountability”.
“We’re far from making decisions” about impeachment, he said.
In a tweet on Sunday, Mr Trump blasted anew the Russia investigation, calling it a partisan probe unfairly aimed at discrediting his win in the 2016 presidential election.
He said: “I am an innocent man being persecuted by some very bad, conflicted & corrupt people in a Witch Hunt that is illegal & should never have been allowed to start – And only because I won the Election!”
Newly empowered House Democrats are flexing their strength with blossoming investigations.
Half a dozen House committees are now probing alleged coordination between Trump associates and Russia’s efforts to sway the 2016 election, Mr Trump’s tax returns and possible conflicts of interest involving the Trump family business and policy-making.
The House oversight committee, for instance, has set a Monday deadline for the White House to turn over documents related to security clearances after The New York Times reported that the president ordered officials to grant his son-in-law Jared Kushner’s clearance over the objections of national security officials.
Mr Nadler’s added lines of inquiry also come as special counsel Robert Mueller is believed to be wrapping up his work into possible questions of Trump campaign collusion and obstruction in the Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election.
He said his committee will seek to review the Mueller report but stressed the investigation “goes far beyond collusion.”
Mr Nadler pointed to what he considered several instances of obstruction of justice by the president, including the “1,100 times he referred to the Mueller investigation as a ‘witch hunt’” as well Trump’s abrupt firing of FBI director James Comey in 2017.
According to Mr Comey, Mr Trump had encouraged the then-FBI director to drop an investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn. Trump has denied he told Comey to end the Flynn probe.
“It’s very clear that the president obstructed justice,” Mr Nadler said.