New York, March 26: Fortified by the exoneration of allegations that he had colluded with the Russians to get himself elected, US President Donald Trump and his supporters have come out swinging against those behind the accusations, calling for a probe of his adversaries, whom he called "treasonous". As both sides drew fresh battle lines for the next round on Monday, a day after the release of a summary of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's inquiry report, Democrats drew strength from its inconclusiveness on obstruction of justice allegations and vowed to carry it forward.
The Democrat chairpersons of six House of Representatives committees, who are launching investigations into various matters relating to Trump and his associates, gave an April 2 deadline to Attorney General William Barr to release the entire report that Mueller submitted to him on March 22. Both parties also said they wanted Mueller and Barr to testify before Congressional committees. Donald Trump's AG Nominee Asserts Independence, Defends Russia Probe.
The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Lindsay Graham, told the media in Washington that he wanted another Special Counsel to investigate abuses by intelligence agencies against the Trump campaign. On another front, Trump received a boost with the arrest of the lawyer who had brought to the open through a lawsuit allegations that he had a sexual encounter with adult film star Stormy Daniels, and that he had paid her $130,000 to stay quiet. US President Donald Trump Says He 'Never Worked for Russia'.
In a matter unrelated to Trump, Michael Avenatti was arrested in New York and charged by federal prosecutor Geoffrey Berman with trying to blackmail the sports gear maker Nike. But Berman's office is also looking into several charges against Trump and his associates. With the cloud of impeachment lifted, Trump started on Monday defying international opinion by formally recognising the Golan Heights as Israeli territory, even though the UN and virtually all countries consider the land captured by Israel in the 1967 war as occupied territory.
At a joint appearance at the White House with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, he told reporters in his usual hyperbolic style: "There are a lot of people out there that have done some very evil things, very bad things, I would say treasonous things against our country. "Those people will certainly be looked at", he said without identifying them. "And I'm saying, why haven't they been looked at? They lied to Congress."
On the other side, the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives is conducting several investigations against Trump, his family and his aides. The House Intelligence Committee headed by Adam Schiff, for example, is continuing investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election and Trump's financial ties to Russia and other foreign countries. It was not known if Trump's links to real developers in India would be covered under this.
The Oversight Committee is focusing on how Trump's daughter Ivanka and son-in-law, Jared Kushner got top secret clearances and if that was against the advice of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). While Democrats continue with their investigations and many party members press for impeachment, the leadership has given up on it, turning their focus to pressing issues like health. Indian-origin Representative Ro Khanna backed Speaker Nancy Pelosi's decision to avoid impeachment, tacitly admitting there weren't enough grounds for it.
"The report vindicates Nancy Pelosi's judgment of proceeding with deliberateness and caution and focusing on issues that we can deliver for the American people", he said. The clear exoneration of the President at least on the main charge of Russian collusion has come as a let down for the Democrats, who had been trumpeting it for more than two years now and hoped it would bring him down.
With the presidential elections only 20 months away, the 15 Democrats who have so far declared their intention to seek the party nomination have to recalibrate their strategies to take on Trump next year. Graham, who had pursued the investigations of former President Bill Clinton, expressed regret for his role and advised the Democrats to learn from his "mistakes" and move on.
Yet he called for the appointment of another special counsel to probe what he considers abuses by intelligence agencies under former President Barack Obama. The FBI had obtained a secret surveillance order against a Trump foreign policy adviser, Carter Page and Graham said that the "counter-intelligence investigation was opened as a back door to spy on the Trump campaign". He had previously said that it was based on a dossier partly financed by Democrats that was compiled by a man, Christopher Steele, who had worked for the British intelligence service.
Although both parties have demanded the release of the Mueller report, Barr will have to ensure that portions of it that deal with counterintelligence operations that may be national secrets or certain testimonies that are legally protected from disclosures are not published. And that may mean those who want to can keep their theories afloat can cite those excisions.