Congressional Democrats are already wielding their newfound power in the House, preparing a move that could pose fresh legal peril for President Trump’s inner circle.
In particular, for Trump’s son Don Jr., and his son-in-law Jared Kushner — if they’re found to have misled congressional investigators during previous testimony.
The House Intelligence Committee plans to turn over all its interview transcripts to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigators, in a move that could mark the beginning of a potentially potent relationship between House Democrats and the special counsel’s office.
“We hope, as one of our first acts, to make the transcript of our witnesses fully available to the special counsel for any purpose, including the bringing of perjury charges, if necessary, against any of the witnesses,” House intel chairman Adam Schiff told CNN’s Jake Tapper on Sunday.
The exact timeframe for the release of those transcripts wasn’t immediately clear. A person familiar with internal deliberations told VICE News that the membership of the committee first needs to be officially confirmed by House leadership before a vote to release the transcripts can take place.
Handing over transcripts of the 73 witnesses who testified before the committee could result in perjury charges for anyone found to have misled Congress, former prosecutors told VICE News.
Democrats who served on the committee last session have already indicated that some of those who testified may have cause for concern — including former Trump campaign advisor and longtime confidant, Roger Stone.
Last month, Schiff said emails that had emerged in November between Stone and his associate Jerome Corsi were “inconsistent” with his testimony.
“The mere existence of those emails are inconsistent with his testimony before our committee,” Schiff said. “That testimony really needs to be provided to the special counsel for consideration of whether perjury charges are warranted.”
Rep. Adam Swalwell was even more blunt in an appearance on MSNBC Sunday evening.
“I think Roger Stone lied to our committee,” Swalwell said. “And he had to send a number of letters amending his testimony. There were others like him. I’m only referencing him because his letters to the committee to update his testimony [are] out there.”
“The fact that the story evolved makes this something they’re likely to have lied about.”
Stone didn’t immediately return an email to VICE News seeking comment. But last month he claimed that he "could prove if forced to that everything I said in my submitted statement and in my questions was truthful,” and blasted Rep. Schiff as a “con man” who is “full of Schiff.”
Stone isn't likely to be feeling any additional heat from Schiff's promises Sunday. The committee already voted late last year to release Stone's testimony to Mueller, in response to a request from the special counsel for an official copy of the transcript.
But Schiff’s intention to share everything he has with Mueller will likely get Don Jr. and Kushner’s attention. Former prosecutors following the case have said Don Jr. and Kushner, who both testified before the committee, may have reason to be concerned — pointing to, for example, the changing public narrative about their meeting with a Russian lawyer in Trump Tower in June of 2016.
After the meeting was revealed a year later, Don Jr. at first gave a more innocuous explanation, before Trump himself later admitted the meeting was about gathering dirt on his 2016 opponent, Hillary Clinton.
“We know they must have been asked about the Trump Tower meeting, and we know that the public story about that meeting has evolved over time,” said Mimi Rocah, a former prosecutor for the Southern District of New York. “The fact that the story evolved makes this something they’re likely to have lied about.”
But perjury charges are difficult to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt.
“You need to be able to contradict their specific statements with evidence,” Rocah said. “If they say they’re not sure about something, for example, then it’s hard to prove that was a lie. A smart witness leaves themselves wiggle room.”
Cover: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., left, poses during a ceremonial swearing-in with Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., right, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 3, 2019, during the opening session of the 116th Congress. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)