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Trump Lashes Out at Widening House Probes of His Finances

FILE - In this Feb. 1, 2019, photo, President Donald Trump speaks in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington.

U.S. President Donald Trump lashed out Thursday at congressional investigations of his finances and business dealings spearheaded by newly empowered opposition Democrats in the House of Representatives.

He assailed Congressman Adam Schiff, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, whom he said had "found zero Russian collusion" in the 2016 presidential election, but was now "going to be looking at every aspect of my life, both financial and personal, even though there is no reason to be doing so. Never happened before! Unlimited Presidential Harassment."

"The Dems and their committees are going 'nuts.'" Trump said in a string of pre-dawn Twitter comments.

Trump wrongly claimed that Republican lawmakers never investigated his predecessor, former Democratic President Barack Obama, saying "there would be no time left to run government."

He described the investigation by Schiff's committee as "a continuation of the Witch Hunt," the term he has long used to describe the ongoing probe by special counsel Robert Mueller into Trump campaign links to Russia and whether Trump, as president, obstructed justice by trying to thwart the investigation. Five men in Trump's orbit have been convicted of various offenses in the investigation and a sixth indicted.

"PRESIDENTIAL HARASSMENT! It should never be allowed to happen again!" the president said.

Trump's vitriol at the new investigations came as a House panel holds a hearing Thursday on the subject of presidential tax returns, an initial step in a process that could lead the Democratic-led panel to examine his tax information.

Democrats last month took over as the majority party in the House and are embarking on a number of investigations at the committee level looking into Trump's financial interests and whether they might be driving certain policy decisions.

Tax returns are confidential, but under law the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee has the power to obtain anyone's tax filing.

The issue has lingered since Trump launched his presidential campaign and broke with modern precedent by not voluntarily disclosing his tax information. His opponent, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, released her tax return.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., speaks with reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Feb. 6, 2019.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., speaks with reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Feb. 6, 2019.

At a White House event on Wednesday, Trump targeted his criticism at Schiff, a prominent Trump critic, after he announced the new investigation.

"Under what basis would he do that? He has no basis to do that. He's just a political hack. He's trying to build a name for himself," Trump said.

Hours earlier, Schiff declared that the committee would broaden its investigation to go "beyond Russia" and examine whether Trump's concern for his financial interests is driving his decisions and actions as president.

The committee's wider mandate will "allow us to investigate any credible allegation that financial interests or other interests are driving decision-making of the president or anyone in the administration," Schiff told reporters. "That pertains to any credible allegations of leverage by the Russians or the Saudis or anyone else."

The California congressman and former federal prosecutor said the committee would continue examining Russia's actions during the 2016 presidential election as well as contacts between Moscow and Trump's campaign team, but now would also scrutinize "whether any foreign actor has sought to compromise or holds leverage, financial or otherwise, over Donald Trump, his family, his business, or his associates."

The committee, earlier Wednesday, voted to send more than 50 transcripts of interviews from its Russia investigation to Mueller.

When the panel was under Republican control last year, lawmakers of the then-majority party in the House sought to bring their investigation to an end, despite protests from Democrats that it was premature to reach any conclusions.

Trump, during his State of the Union address Tuesday to lawmakers of both chambers, called such inquiries by congressional committees "ridiculous partisan investigations."

In his speech, Trump stated, "If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters Wednesday that Congress would be "delinquent" if it failed to carry out its oversight responsibilities and that Trump "should not bring threats to the floor of the House."