The lawyers — Sheri Dillon and Stefan Passantino — were formerly employed in the White House and responsible for the president’s ethics and financial disclosures.
Their testimony could be critical to figuring out whether or not the president was guilty of committing crimes when he made hush-money payments to adult film star Stormy Daniels.
“These two relatively unknown figures could soon emerge as key players in the congressional investigations into President Donald Trump.”
Neither lawyer has agreed to cooperate with Cummings’ committee, however. They have consistently disregarded a March 6 deadline that the committee chairman set to provide transcribed interviews to his committee. He is now hoping to receive the transcripts later next week, according to his congressional aides.
As the process plays out it will be a test of the ability of House Democrats to force Trump administration officials and allies to provide information to Congress.
As Trump people keep dragging their feet and refusing to comply, Cummings will probably be forced to play hardball. Nobody will be surprised if he has to issue subpoenas to get them to give him the information he has requested.
Passantino and Dillon are the first targets Cummings is publicly pursuing since Michael Cohen testified in front of the Oversight Committee on February 27.
According to documents sent by the committee to the two attorneys, they “appeared to provide false information” to federal officials about payments to Cohen to keep the alleged Trump affair from becoming public.
In other words, it looks like they filed false financial disclosure forms with the Office of Government Ethics.
It also appears that they falsified ethics officials’ written notes documenting “evolving stories” from the two about the payments and Trump’s improper failure to disclose them.
Passantino was a White House deputy counsel in charge of ethics policy, and is now working for the Trump Organization to field inquiries from the Democratic-led House. His signature was on Trump’s disclosure form. Dillon is in a law firm, and serves as a personal attorney for Trump.
Republicans, in a letter to Cummings, said suggestions that the two may have lied are “extremely unfair and unsupported accusations.”
“This is a serious charge, for which you relied only on cherry-picked passages of incomplete, one-sided handwritten notes prepared by OGE staff,” wrote Reps. Jim Jordan of Ohio, the ranking Republican on the committee, and Mark Meadows of North Carolina, who also said the charges were made public before speaking directly to the attorneys.
But Democrats say the lawyers may have good reason to avoid the newly empowered Democratic House majority.
“It’s often the second-tier players who know a lot and reveal a lot,” said Rep. Gerry Connolly, a Virginia Democrat on the committee.
“These folks may not be household names but they could prove critical witnesses in providing corroborating testimony and further details” about what may be “a violation of federal election law” and a “conspiracy” to affect the 2016 election, Connolly said.
Cummings has said he will also probably request testimony from Allen Weisselberg, the Trump family’s longtime accountant and the Trump Organization’s chief financial officer, who has been granted immunity to share information by prosecutors in the Southern District of New York.