House committee recruits lawyers who say Trump obstructed justice

US President Donald Trump faces multiple investigations in the House of Representatives over his campaign's ties to Russia and allegations of collusion, obstruction, and possible financial and tax wrongdoing (AFP Photo/MANDEL NGAN)

Washington (AFP) - A key congressional committee investigating President Donald Trump announced Tuesday it is hiring two outspoken lawyers who have urged Trump's indictment and impeachment for obstruction and other charges.

The House Judiciary Committee, which would likely hear any impeachment motion against the president, said that Barry Berke and Norman Eisen would be retained as "special oversight counsels" related to the Department of Justice and to Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation of the Trump campaign and Russia meddling in the 2016 election.

The move could signal that, with the House newly under Democratic Party control, the committee does not plan to wait for Mueller to conclude his investigation to begin building a legal case against the president.

"We are fortunate to be adding the insight and expertise of two widely respected legal authorities to the staff," committee chairman Jerrold Nadler said in a statement.

"This is a critical time in our Nation’s history. The President of the United States faces numerous allegations of corruption and obstruction."

Berke is a respected lawyer dealing with corruption and white-collar criminal cases.

Eisen is a former White House ethics chief who, as head of Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington, has already sued Trump for allegedly illegally profiting on his presidency through his Washington nameplate hotel.

Together they have published recent several articles arguing that evidence of Trump's obstruction of justice already exists and that his 2016 campaign did collude with the Russians.

"The question has become less about whether there is a case that Donald J. Trump obstructed justice, and more about whether and in what form the rule of law will be followed," they said in an August report for the Brookings Institution.

In December, they wrote in the Washington Post that Trump's attack on his former lawyer Michael Cohen, who implicated the president in crimes, and a simultaneous appreciation of associate Roger Stone, for pledging to never testify against Trump, was clearly illegal witness-tampering.

"The message is quite clear: Those who cooperate with law enforcement and agree to be witnesses against Trump will be punished, while those who keep his secrets will be protected," they wrote.

"That makes it all the more important that Congress examine whether the pattern of evidence constitutes an abuse of power or criminal obstruction of justice."