The Russian investigation " comes back to poison Donald Trump in Congress

Three new facts revive the thorny case of suspicion of collusion between the Russians and the US president in the 2016 campaign. "We are now in the middle of a constitutional crisis," even said Democrat Jerry Nadler.

Far from being a "closed case" as Donald Trump calls it, "the Russian investigation" shook Washington Wednesday, May 8 with the surprise announcement of his eldest son's convocation to Congress, the first vote against one of his ministers and the White House's unprecedented refusal to release some sensitive information.

"We are now in the middle of a constitutional crisis," said Jerry Nadler, the Democratic leader of the powerful judicial commission of the House of Representatives. He was speaking after a very rare vote in committee to declare that justice Minister Bill Barr had obstructed the investigative powers of Congress.
His fault: refusing to hand over to the commission the full version of special prosecutor Robert Mueller's investigation report on Russian interference in the US presidential elections of 2016.
This procedure – which until now has only been applied to another minister of justice, Eric Holder, under the administration of Democrat Barack Obama – will only be concluded after a vote in plenary, the date of which has yet to be set.

The vote in committee, which followed the partisan lines between Democrats and Republicans, marked " a very serious and crucial step ", continued Mr Nadler. Pure "political theatre", retorted The Ministry of justice.

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The son Trump summoned by the Senate

A few minutes later, the American Media announced that Republican President Donald Trump Jr.'s eldest son had been summoned by the Senate Intelligence Committee as part of the same Russian investigation. What is significant is that the upper house is controlled by the Republicans – who gave the go-ahead in committee for this decision-unlike the Democratic-majority House of Representatives.

This is the first time that Congress has used its investigative powers to summon a member of the Trump family, some of whom have testified voluntarily as part of this sprawling investigation. Donald Trump Jr., 41, who manages family affairs at the head of the Trump Organization, has himself been heard for long hours by Senate committees in 2017.

According to the American Media, which cite anonymous sources, the Republican-controlled Senate Intelligence Committee wants to review him and question him about his statements at the time, notably about a Trump Tower project in Moscow.

According to The Wall Street Journal, he refused an invitation to appear, offering to answer senators ' questions in writing. He now intends to oppose his summons, the newspaper adds.

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"A witch hunt" according to Donald Trump

In his nearly 450-page report, Robert Mueller exonerated Donald Trump of the suspicion of collusion with Moscow but described a dozen of the president's pressure on the investigation.

Considering himself completely blanched, Mr Trump never stops denouncing a costly "witch hunt".
Convinced instead that he "obstructed justice", the Democrats want to continue the investigation on the basis of the full report, in order to determine whether the reported facts justify the opening of impeachment proceedings against Donald Trump.

No way, the ministry told them, while the Democrats did not even accept his offer to consult, in a select committee, a version much less redacted than the one published on 18 April.

Faced with the Democrats '"threat" against Bill Barr, the ministry asked Trump to apply his presidential prerogatives allowing him to refuse to deliver the documents even under a parliamentary injunction. Which he did on Wednesday, for the first time since coming to the White House.

"This is an attack on the essence of our democracy," said Mr Nadler.

"The Americans clearly see that the desperate manoeuvres of the Democrats are aimed at diverting them from the historic successes of the president," said Sarah Sanders, spokesman for the executive.

If the House finds, in the final vote, that Bill Barr interfered with Congress's investigative prerogatives, it will be tantamount to building an indictment. The court will then have to decide whether or not to investigate on this basis, which did not occur in Mr Holder's case. Bill Barr could face a fine or even jail term, but these sentences remain largely improbable.

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The impeachment in question

Beyond the Russian case, the opposition and the White House are at war on several other fronts in Congress, which could lead to bitter judicial battles.

With their extensive investigative powers in the House, the Democrats are demanding Donald Trump's tax returns and many other documents. For several weeks now, however, the administration has refused them successive denunciations of unjustified requests.

Donald Trump could thus seek to "provoke" the Democrats to trigger an unpopular impeachment procedure against him, warned Democratic speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi.

With a skilful electoral calculation in mind. Because launching this procedure, knowing that the Senate would probably acquit him, could be toxic for Democrats on the verge of the presidential and legislative elections of 2020.

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But other Democrats, including several presidential candidates, believe that after the Mueller report, they no longer have a choice.