A new aspect of the House impeachment inquiry is an investigation
into whether President Trump lied in a written, sworn statement prepared for
the Mueller investigation earlier this year. The Washington
Post reports that the House general counsel revealed the investigation into
Trump’s statement during proceedings in which the House is asking for the
release of secret grand jury information from the Mueller investigation.
The House request for grand jury information comes in the
wake of Trump crony Roger
Stone’s conviction last week. Stone’s conviction stemmed from attempting to cover
up his contacts with WikiLeaks during the 2016 campaign. Stone passed along
information from WikiLeaks to the Trump campaign and then lied about these communications
House investigators say that testimony and evidence at Stone’s
trial cast doubt on President Trump’s claims that he was not aware of the contacts
between his and WikiLeaks regarding the release of the stolen emails from the
Democratic National Committee.
In one particular instance during Stone’s trial, Rick Gates, a longtime partner of Paul Manafort, who was a former Trump campaign manager, testified that Donald Trump took a phone call from Roger Stone in July 2016. Immediately after hanging up, Trump told those in attendance that “more information would be coming” from Wikileaks. Gates’ testimony contradicts Trump’s written statement, which said, “I do not recall discussing WikiLeaks with” Stone, “nor do I recall Mr. Stone having discussed WikiLeaks with my campaign.”
Gates pled guilty to charges of conspiracy and making false
statements as part of a deal with prosecutors. He was the star witness in the trial
of both Paul Manafort in addition to testifying against Roger Stone. He is also
scheduled to testify against former Obama White House counsel and Manafort
associate, Geoffrey Craig, who was also indicted for lying to investigators
about Manafort’s work in Ukraine. Gates has not yet been sentenced.
“Did the president lie? Was the president not truthful in
his responses to the Mueller investigation?” General Counsel Douglas N. Letter asked
rhetorically in the court appearance.
“The House is now trying to determine whether the current
president should remain in office,” Letter told the court. “This is something
that is unbelievably serious and it’s happening right now, very fast.”
Last month, a federal judge ordered the Department of
Justice to turn over grand jury material referenced in redacted portions of the
Mueller report to House investigators. In the ruling, Beryl
Howell, chief district judge for the DC district court, wrote, “The
Department of Justice claims that existing law bars disclosure to the Congress
of grand jury information. DOJ is wrong.”
There were hints earlier this year that Mueller suspected
president’s answers to his team’s questions were not completely honest. The
Mueller report called Mr. Trump’s responses “inadequate” and
“incomplete or imprecise.” The report noted that investigators had
considered subpoenaing the president but ultimately decided against it.
President Trump’s statement to Mueller was written, but it
was also given under oath. If prosecutors can demonstrate that the president
lied under oath to investigators, it would not only be a crime, but there is
precedent for impeaching a president for a similar act of perjury. If perjury
is added to the Articles of Impeachment against President Trump, it would
represent the parties coming full circle in the space of 20 short years.