House Judiciary chairman hires top lawyers for Trump probes

Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee are beefing up their legal team by hiring two top attorneys to help the panel with its oversight of the Trump administration.

Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) on Tuesday announced the addition of Norman Eisen and Barry Berke — two vocal critics of President TrumpDonald John TrumpThe Hill's Morning Report - White House, Congress: Urgency of now around budget GOP presses Trump to make a deal on spending Democrats wary of handing Trump a win on infrastructure MORE — to the committee legal staff. He said the pair will examine a "range of issues," including possible corruption, ethics violations and obstruction of justice.

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“We are fortunate to be adding the insight and expertise of two widely respected legal authorities to the staff of the House Judiciary Committee as we look to restore accountability, safeguard our democracy, and protect the rule of law,” Nadler said in a statement.

The move signals how aggressively Democrats plan to act as a check on an administration they say has gone without serious oversight during the first two years of Trump's presidency, when Republicans had control of the House. 

"The President of the United States faces numerous allegations of corruption and obstruction," Nadler said. "His conduct and crude statements threaten the basic legal, ethical, and constitutional norms that maintain our democratic institutions. Congress has a constitutional duty to be a check and balance against abuses of power when necessary."

Eisen and Berke will focus on matters related to "the Department of Justice, including the Department’s review of Special Counsel [Robert] Mueller’s investigation, and other oversight and policy issues within the Committee’s jurisdiction,” Nadler added.

The two attorneys are high-profile hires, given their public critiques of the Trump administration.

Eisen most recently led Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), where he frequently lambasted Trump's policies, either in writing, on television or on social media. During the Obama administration, Eisen served as the top ethics lawyer in the White House.

He also served as co-counsel in a lawsuit that alleged Trump violated the Emoluments Clause by refusing to fully separate himself from his businesses when he became president. The clause, as written in the Constitution, bars the president from accepting gifts or receiving other benefits from foreign leaders without congressional consent.

Berke has written extensively with Eisen on obstruction of justice and other potential legal exposures involving Trump. He is seen as a powerful litigator with vast experience.

The new additions to the staff suggest Democrats will move forward with investigations of the president, his administration and his businesses.

The Judiciary Committee, which has a broad jurisdiction, has traditionally been the congressional committee where impeachment proceedings have started.

Nadler, however, has been careful not to take up the matter of impeachment while Mueller continues to investigate whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia during the 2016 election.