Subscribe to INT Podcast
|September 17, 2019|
House authorizes lawsuits against Barr, McGahn in Trump probes
WASHINGTON--The House voted to authorize lawsuits against Attorney General William Barr and former White House Counsel Don McGahn as Democrats try to enforce subpoenas for documents and testimony in its investigations into President Donald Trump and his administration.
The resolution was approved 229-191 Tuesday along party lines in the Democratic-controlled House.
Immediately afterward, House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler said his panel will “move as quickly as possible to go to court” against McGahn and will do the same if other witnesses, including former White House advisers Hope Hicks and Annie Donaldson, refuse to respond to subpoenas.
Nadler said his panel wants to hear from "other key figures and fact witnesses" in Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report, specifically naming Assistant Attorney General Joseph "Jody" Hunt and former White House Deputy Chief of Staff Rick Dearborn.
The Judiciary chairman said he won’t go to court against Barr if the Justice Department fulfills its recent agreement to begin making documents available.
The resolution stops short of holding Barr and McGahn in contempt of Congress. Instead, its focus on civil legal action reflects the middle-ground approach taken by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who’s trying to finesse pressure within her party to open impeachment proceedings against Trump that she’s warned could backfire politically.
Pelosi accused Trump of a “campaign of blanket, unprecedented obstruction,” from “witness intimidation to blanket stonewalling to spurious claims of executive privilege, absolute immunity and lack of legislative purpose.”
“This obstruction violates decades of legal precedent,” she said on the House floor shortly before the vote.
Representative Doug Collins, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, accused Democrats of taking “novel, untested and risky” action.
“The goal is clearly to haul the administration into court in an attempt to pacify a base rabid for impeachment,” Collins said.
Special counsel Mueller
The measure, H.Res. 430, also authorizes the House to sue to obtain grand jury information from Mueller's Russia report, which would require a court order to release.
It permits a number of committee chairmen to bypass future floor votes in order to file additional lawsuits in their probes, ratcheting up the constitutional showdown between the House and a president who has vowed that “we’re fighting all the subpoenas.”
Nadler’s panel is seeking to obtain more information about Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and whether Trump sought to obstruct the probe.
“When a congressional committee issues a subpoena, compliance is not optional,” Nadler said on the House floor. “We have never faced such blanket stonewallings.”
The measure’s sponsor, Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern, called it “a civil enforcement resolution that will strengthen our hand in court as Congress tries to get documents this administration is currently trying to hide.”
But House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy called the resolution “a desperate attempt to relitigate the Mueller investigation.”
“Fundamentally, it is an impeachment effort in everything but name,” McCarthy said.
McGahn, the former White House counsel, defied a Judiciary Committee subpoena to turn over documents and testify, citing White House protective assertions of executive privilege. One of the legal issues is whether the administration waived executive privilege for McGahn by allowing him to cooperate with Mueller’s investigation. He became a key witness cited frequently in Mueller’s final report. (Source: Bloomberg)
Story Date: June 12, 2019