Cummings asks prosecutors about decision not to charge Trump in hush money probe

Democrats are pressing federal investigators on whether an internal Department of Justice policy played any role in their decision not to indict President TrumpDonald John TrumpDemocratic senator rips Trump's 'let them fight' remarks: 'Enough is enough' Warren warns Facebook may help reelect Trump 'and profit off of it' Trump touts Turkey cease-fire: 'Sometimes you have to let them fight' MORE following a probe into payments made to women alleging affairs with Trump.

House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsMichael Steele: Celebrating Elijah Cummings, a servant and a leader Republicans seek to delay effort to censure Schiff after Cummings' death House leaders offer tributes from floor to Elijah Cummings MORE (D-Md.) in a Friday letter to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Southern District of New York asked whether the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) opinion "played any role in your office’s decision not to indict President Trump for these hush money crimes.”

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“If prosecutors identified evidence of criminal conduct by Donald Trump while serving as President—and did not bring charges as they would have for any other individual—this would be the second time the President has not been held accountable for his actions due to his position,” Cummings wrote. “The Office of the President should not be used as a shield for criminal conduct.”

The OLC opinion argues that a sitting president cannot be indicted or be the subject of criminal prosecution because doing so would “undermine the capacity of the executive branch to perform its constitutionally assigned functions.”

The request from Cummings comes shortly after U.S. District Judge William Pauley III ordered prosecutors to file case-related documents in largely unredacted form, while noting that investigators had completed their probe into the campaign finance violations tied to the hush money payments.

Michael CohenMichael Dean CohenTrump offers condolences on frequent foe Cummings: 'Very hard, if not impossible, to replace' Elijah Cummings, Democratic chairman and powerful Trump critic, dies at 68 Schiff says committees will eventually make impeachment inquiry transcripts public MORE, the president's former personal attorney, has publicly testified that Trump directed him to arrange payments to women alleging affairs with Trump ahead of the 2016 election.

The court documents unsealed on Thursday reveal that Cohen was in contact with Trump multiple times as he arranged the payments. Cohen was also in touch with other Trump campaign officials, like then-campaign press secretary Hope HicksHope Charlotte HicksTrump: 'Top shows' on Fox News, cable are 'Fair (or great)' to me Trump criticizes Fox, which 'isn't working for us anymore' Sarah Huckabee Sanders becomes Fox News contributor MORE, according to the documents.

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Cummings is asking the Southern District of New York to turn over "all evidence collected about the role of any other individual in connection with the campaign finance charges against Cohen," including the president, by Aug. 2. He is also seeking information as to whether the office granted any immunity deals or non-prosecution agreements, formal or informal.

Cohen, who is serving a three-year prison sentence for campaign finance violations and other offenses, blasted the news that the investigation was concluding without bringing charges against the president or others.

"The conclusion of the investigation exonerating The Trump Organization's role should be of great concern to the American people and investigated by Congress and The Department of Justice," Cohen said in a joint statement with his attorney Lanny Davis on Thursday.

Cohen made the payments to two women — adult-film star Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal — both of whom have alleged extramarital affairs with Trump from before he was president. Trump has denied the allegations.

The president, who initially denied knowledge of the payments, has denied any wrongdoing as it relates to possible violations of campaign finance laws. He has also questioned Cohen's credibility.

Cohen pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about discussions to build a Trump Tower in Moscow during the 2016 election as part of a deal to cooperate with now-former special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerFox News legal analyst says Trump call with Ukraine leader could be 'more serious' than what Mueller 'dragged up' Lewandowski says Mueller report was 'very clear' in proving 'there was no obstruction,' despite having 'never' read it Fox's Cavuto roasts Trump over criticism of network MORE.

Republicans on the House Oversight and Reform Committee blasted Cummings for using Cohen's accounts of the payments to go after the president.

“Everyone knows that convicted felon Michael Cohen is a habitual liar. But still Chairman Cummings continues to use Cohen—the Chairman’s first announced witness this Congress —to attack the President for political gain," a GOP spokesperson for Oversight said in a statement. "Democrats in Congress should be solving real problems instead of indulging their obsession with impeaching the President.”

Cummings drew parallels between the OLC opinion playing a role both in the hush money case and the special counsel's Russia report, in which Mueller said the investigation did not make a determination either way about whether Trump obstructed justice.

Cummings noted that he is reaching out directly to the U.S. attorney's office because Democrats feel Attorney General William BarrWilliam Pelham BarrMulvaney walks back comments tying Ukraine aid to 2016 probe Mulvaney ties withheld Ukraine aid to political probe sought by Trump Matthew Shepard's parents blast Barr's LGBTQ record in anniversary of hate crime law MORE fumbled the release of the Mueller report by relaying information to Congress and the public in a way that "fundamentally mischaracterized the findings of the report." 

Mueller is slated to testify publicly on Wednesday in what is expected to be a historic event on Capitol Hill. Democrats are eager to press the former special counsel on the episodes of possible obstruction by Trump as laid out in his report, as well as how much weight he gave to the OLC opinion. Republicans are expected to ask Mueller about the origins of the Russia investigation.