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Republicans, Dems battle over new documents in fetal tissue probe

Republicans, Dems battle over new documents in fetal tissue probe

House Republicans are pointing to new documents as evidence that Planned Parenthood illegally profited from the sale of fetal tissue, but Democrats say the documents are wildly misleading and were possibly obtained illegally.

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The committee set up to investigate Planned Parenthood presented the documents at a hearing on Wednesday.

One document, labeled Exhibit B2, appears to tout an unidentified fetal tissue procurement company's services to abortion clinics as “financially profitable” and “providing a financial benefit to your clinic.”

Republicans say the documents show illegal profits from fetal tissue sales.

Chair Marsha BlackburnMarsha BlackburnBlackburn pushes back on potential Corker bid: 'I'm going to win' Nervous GOP seeks new 2018 Senate candidates in three states Corker 'listening closely' to calls to reconsider retirement MORE (R-Tenn.) said the documents highlight companies that want to make money “selling baby parts.”

Democrats, though, questioned the validity of the documents, saying it is unclear how they were obtained.

Democrats said that one of the fetal tissue procurement organizations in question is Stem Express. They pointed to a letter from the company that called the documents misleading and stated that some of them could have come from the maker of the videos targeting Planned Parenthood, David Daleiden.

“It appears that the Majority Staff may have repurposed unauthenticated, stolen documents illegally obtained by David Daleiden and the Center for Medical Progress ('CMP'),” states a letter to the committee from Stem Express’s lawyers at McDermott Will & Emery.

For example, the letter states that Exhibit B2, touting services as “financially profitable,” was used for Stem Express’s work on adult blood and adult tissue, as opposed to only for fetal tissue donation.

“I’m concerned because the so-called exhibits, I don’t think they’re really designed to find the facts,” said Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), adding that they were “created from whole cloth.”

She put forward a motion challenging the use of the documents as evidence, but Republicans defeated it.

Brian Lennon, a former assistant U.S. attorney, said the documents are evidence that a crime was committed in illegally selling fetal tissue for profit.

He said price-per-tissue payments “informs me that we’re talking about the sale of a part, and not some reasonable cost.”

Democrats countered that the documents are not reliable enough to make those kinds of judgments, given a lack of detail on their origin.

“We can’t just have some witch hunt based on some things that were created off of screen shots,” DeGette said.

Democrats said that Stem Express had offered to explain its practices to the committee, but Republicans rejected the offer.

Robert Raben, a former assistant attorney general, said that Lennon and other witnesses engaged in “pure speculation” about whether crimes were committed and expressed his concern that the hearing was meant to pressure the Department of Justice.

He noted that multiple state investigations have found no wrongdoing by Planned Parenthood.

--This report was updated at 1:31 p.m.