Rep. Trey Gowdy, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, told Democrats the committee won’t investigate allegations of sexual misconduct against President Trump, but said he would refer their request to the Justice Department since the allegations constitute crimes.
Members of the Democratic Women’s Working Group, with the backing of more than 100 Democrats, sent the South Carolina Republican a letter calling for the oversight panel to look into allegations of inappropriate behavior against Trump — which has received renewed attention in recent days.
The letter outlined what Gowdy said were criminal allegations against Trump.
More than a dozen women have accused Trump of sexual misconduct in incidents that occurred before he was elected, including groping, forcibly kissing, and inappropriate touching.
“This Committee, nor any other Committee of Congress, does not, and cannot, prosecute crimes,” Gowdy wrote. “This is true for many reasons but especially true in crimes of this serious nature. Those alleging sexual assault or criminal sexual conduct deserve to be interviewed by law enforcement professionals, and charging decisions should be made by prosecutors based on the quantum and quality of the admissible and provable evidence.”
Gowdy said he sent a copy of the letter to the Justice Department, but with the understanding the agency doesn’t have jurisdiction over state law violations. Gowdy said the allegations the Democrats’ detailed in their letter constitute crimes that break state laws rather than federal laws.
Only in one instance, where Trump allegedly groped and forcibly kissed a woman aboard an airplane in the 1970s, may federal law enforcement be involved, Gowdy wrote.
Trump and the White House have denied the claims made against him, and the president on Tuesday said his accusers were fabricating stories.
The Oversight and Government Reform Committee has in the past investigated allegations of sexual misconduct that occurred at numerous federal agencies, including at the Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Agriculture, Department of Justice, and National Park Service.
The Republican-controlled committee held multiple hearings from April 2015 to December 2016 examining the alleged sexual harassment.
During one hearing in September 2016 that looked into misconduct at the National Park Service, Gowdy asked one witness to be a voice for women who have experienced inappropriate behavior.
"I want the fear and the difficulty and the pain to belong to the perpetrator, not the victim," Gowdy said. "So I want you to tell us as much about your fact pattern, your story, and I want you to stop and cite all those instances where something more could have been done and should have been done, and do it on behalf of women who maybe don't have the ability to speak up like you do."