#currently disabled Judiciary panel hires veteran lawyers as Pres. Trump probes begin

Judiciary panel hires veteran lawyers as Pres. Trump probes begin

Donald Trump, United States President, Photo Date: February 23, 2018 / Cropped Photo: Gage Skidmore / CC BY-SA 2.0
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WASHINGTON (AP) — House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler says he has hired two veteran lawyers and critics of President Donald Trump as his committee begins to investigate the president and his administration.

The hiring of the two prominent lawyers, Barry Berke and Norman Eisen, comes as lawmakers from both parties are pressuring Trump attorney general nominee William Barr to release a full accounting of special counsel Robert Mueller's probe when it's complete. The new additions to Nadler's staff could also provide expertise for impeachment proceedings, if Democrats decide at some point to pursue them.

Nadler said in a statement that the panel is determined to "ask critical questions, gather all the information, judiciously assess the evidence, and make sure that the facts are not hidden from the American people."

He did not mention impeachment, but noted that Trump faces "numerous allegations" of corruption and obstruction.

"His conduct and crude statements threaten the basic legal, ethical and constitutional norms that maintain our democratic institutions," Nadler said. "Congress has a constitutional duty to be a check and balance against abuses of power when necessary."

Nadler said Berke and Eisen "have been retained on a consulting basis as special oversight staff" to the committee's Democratic majority. He said they would consult on matters related to the Department of Justice and Mueller's Russia probe.

Both men have been high-profile critics of Trump, and they co-authored a Brookings Institution report released last year that laid out a case for his impeachment. The report said "it has become apparent that the president's pattern of potentially obstructive conduct is much more extensive than we knew."

Eisen served as a White House counsel for President Barack Obama and has focused on government ethics and corruption as a co-founder of the group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. Berke is a top trial lawyer and white collar criminal defense lawyer who is based out of New York.

Democrats have been cautious in speaking about impeachment, with most arguing that they want to see the Mueller report before they would even consider such a step. Nadler has called impeachment a "trauma" that should be approached judiciously and with bipartisan support.

Still, he has said he believes Trump has engaged in a pattern of obstruction — one of the issues Mueller is investigating.

"This is a critical time in our nation's history," Nadler said in the statement.

Georgia Rep. Doug Collins, the top Republican on the Judiciary panel, criticized the hires and the "sharply partisan op-eds" that Eisen and Berke have written together.

"Looks like Democrats are staffing up for impeachment before Mueller's report is even out," Collins said.

Associated Press writer Eric Tucker contributed to this report.



 
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