House Dems ask prosecutors if Justice Dept policy prevented Trump from being indicted in Cohen case

By Grace Segers

/ CBS News

DOJ ends hush money probe

A House panel wants to know whether Justice Department policy prevented prosecutors in New York from indicting President Trump in relation to campaign finance violations by his former attorney, Michael Cohen.

The House Oversight and Reform Committee sent a letter to prosecutors in the Southern District in New York Friday saying that if prosecutors identified "evidence of criminal conduct by Donald Trump" while he was president and didn't bring charges, "as they would have for any other individual," it would be the "second time" Mr. Trump wasn't "held accountable for his actions due to his position," the letter from Chairman Elijah Cummings said.

Cummings is referring to the Justice Department policy that a sitting president cannot be indicted. Special counsel Robert Mueller pointed to this policy when explaining in his report why he did not make a determination on whether Mr. Trump had committed obstruction of justice by interfering with the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

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The investigation into campaign finance violations concluded this week, and Cohen is already serving a three-year prison sentence over hush money payments made to women before the 2016 elections that were found to have violated campaign finance laws.

In February, Cohen testified before Congress that the president had directed him to lie about illegal payments so as to silence women who claimed to have extramarital affairs with Mr. Trump.

"I am ashamed that I chose to take part in concealing Mr. Trump's illicit acts, rather than listening to my own conscience," Cohen testified in February.

In the committee's letter to prosecutors, Cummings also explained that he had decided to write to the prosecutors' office because he doesn't trust the attorney general. "The Committee is also writing to you directly because Attorney General Barr failed to relay information to Congress and the American people in an independent, neutral, and factual way regarding prosecutors' findings relating to President Trump when he fundamentally mischaracterized the findings of the report issued by Special Counsel Mueller," Cummings said.

Mueller is testifying before the House Judiciary Committee and the House Intelligence Committee next week.

Rebecca Kaplan contributed to this report.

First published on July 19, 2019 / 4:14 PM

© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Grace Segers

Grace Segers is a politics reporter for CBS News Digital.

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