A leading Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee referred to the business empire of President Donald Trump as a “criminal enterprise” on Sunday and promised to investigate allegations that he has used the office of the White House to enrich himself.
The Trump Organization is “a criminal enterprise that he and his family has been engaged in, to run for president and once they got the presidency they monetized it,” Tennessee Rep. Steve Cohen said in an interview with MSNBC.
“They’ve done it at Trump Tower. They’ve done it with the Trump hotels. They’ve done it with the Saudis ... This is a criminal enterprise that makes Al Capone and Frank Nitti look like good guys,” he said.
Cohen said the committee will conduct hearings on the emoluments clause at the start of the new Congress in January. Emoluments violations comprise two of the five articles of impeachment that Democrats, led by Cohen, levied against President Trump in November of last year. The committee will also interrogate comments the president has made disparaging the judiciary branch, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the press.
Those hearings on the gravity of the charges levied against Trump will be “in essence, hearings on impeachment,” Cohen said.
The House Judiciary Committee carries out impeachment proceedings. Cohen has chastened Republicans for not initiating those proceedings, accusing committee Republicans of functioning “like a branch of the administration.”
But Cohen acknowledged the possibility that any investigation could be stifled by the White House.
In a separate interview with National Public Radio Saturday, Cohen said that Trump will “use whatever tactics” available to consolidate power — including using his pardon power to absolve his former confidantes and his family from the probe by special prosecutor Robert S. Mueller III.
“And I expect the Trump family to be among the people who find themselves under indictment and then have to go to trial unless the president pardons them,” Cohen said. “And I don’t put anything beyond this president — pardoning his sons, pardoning his daughter, pardoning his son-in-law, pardoning Manafort — you name it.
“He will use whatever tactics and powers that he has or can conjure up to protect himself to maintain power,” he continued.
New information surfaced in the Mueller probe Friday that appears to directly link the president to criminal actions. Court documents indicate Trump directed longtime fixer Michael Cohen to make illegal hush payments to two women who said they had affairs with the president.
But the new revelations do not hasten the committee’s timeline for possible impeachment proceedings, Cohen said.
“You had introduced articles of impeachment last year. I have to ask, based on [new revelations], do you plan on doing that again?“ an NPR host asked.
“Well, not right now,” Cohen replied.
Watch: Burr on Russia Investigation: 'We've Gotta Do It on Facts'
President Donald Trump and his top advisers are considering whether to make Rep. Mark Meadows, the chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, his next chief of staff.
Axios first reported the president's consideration of Meadows, one of his fiercest defenders in the House since he took office.
Trump has asked his closest advisers about tapping the North Carolina Republican to lead his administration in addition to three other people, Axios reported, though it could not confirm any other candidates. White House Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin have been rumored as candidates for the job, other news outlets have reported.
The timing could not be better for Meadows since he is leaving his post as Freedom Caucus chairman next month. Founded in 2014, the conservative group's elected leader serves no more than one term.
Trump said Saturday that current White House Chief of Staff John Kelly will leave his post at the end of the year, concluding a rocky tenure during which he clashed with his boss.
“A great guy,” Trump said of the retired Marine Corps general as he left the White House for the Army-Navy football game in Philadelphia.
“We’ll be announcing who will be taking John’s place” in the next few days, Trump added.
But Kelly's presumed replacement, Nick Ayers, Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff, has declined Trump's terms to be the next chief of staff until the end of his four-year term.
Trump soon will have his third chief of staff in under two years in office. In a January 2012 tweet, Trump wrote this of then-President Barack Obama: “3 Chief of Staffs in less than 3 years of being President: Part of the reason why @BarackObama can't manage to pass his agenda.”
Kelly is the latest Cabinet official or senior White House staffer to exit Trump’s ever-changing roster of advisers and department heads. But he brushes off any notion that his staff has had more turnover than other administrations, even though the data suggests it does.
“People leave,” Trump said during a rowdy 90-minute press conference just hours before Sessions resignation at his behest was announced in a tweet.
“And I’ll tell you, there will be changes. Nothing monumental from that standpoint. I don’t think very much different than most administrations,” Trump said. “We have many people lined up for every single position. Any position.
“Everybody wants to work in this White House. We are a hot country. This is a hot White House,” the president contended. “We are a White House that people want to work with.”
Watch: President Trump Announces His Picks for AG and UN Ambassador