The stand-off between the House Democratic majority and the Trump administration over the latter’s absolute refusal to comply with oversight and investigation efforts is continuing to heat up. The House Judiciary Committee has now issued subpoenas for two more former White House staffers, targeting former communications director Hope Hicks and former deputy White House counsel Annie Donaldson. They want to interview the former Trump staffers about incidents of apparent presidential obstruction of justice outlined in the final report from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.
The panel issued the subpoenas on the same day that former White House counsel Don McGahn had been scheduled to appear for testimony. At the direction of the Trump administration — which he’s long left — he didn’t show up, claiming through his attorney William Burck that the no-show constitutes an expression of “duties he, as an attorney, owes to his former client,” despite that “former client” (meaning Trump) repeatedly and consistently deriding his credibility. In response, the Judiciary Committee’s Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) has insisted that Democrats are ready to hold McGahn in contempt of Congress and even go to court in an effort to obtain his testimony.
They’ve already taken a similar move against Attorney General William Barr, who has repeatedly and consistently asserted that he’ll be directing the Justice Department in accordance with the president’s wishes, openly and baselessly asserting for instance that there’s reason to be concerned about the government’s behavior in investigating the Russia scandal, which Trump hates. Besides refusing to show up for House testimony, Barr flatly refused to comply with a subpoena for the full, unredacted final report from Mueller’s Russia investigation, and the Judiciary Committee’s majority promptly voted to hold him in contempt of Congress — after gaveling in a hearing with an empty witness chair making Barr’s stonewalling abundantly clear.
The committee also convened with an empty witness chair this week when McGahn refused to show up.
As Nadler put it at that hearing without the former White House lawyer:
‘Our subpoenas are not optional.’
The committee got an early red flag that the Trump team would try and block testimony when recently, it intervened to demand the panel go through them for document requests targeting the lawyer — although it’s hardly as though the White House has been forthcoming with those Congressional requests at any point.
Nadler’s subpoenas for Hicks and Donaldson also demand both documents and testimony. The committee wants both to provide documents by June 4 and for Hicks to testify publicly on June 19 and Donaldson to participate in a deposition on June 24. Besides these latest targets, the Judiciary Committee also has subpoenas already authorized and ready to go targeting former White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and former top Trump adviser Steve Bannon.
The incidents under scrutiny include Trump demanding that McGahn get Mueller out when his investigation was still active, which Barr — in character — insists is no big deal. He told Congress that removing Mueller over a conflict of interest would have been just fine, although he couldn’t name a conflict of interest when pressed by Senate Judiciary Committee ranking member Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), just like he couldn’t point to any actual evidence of government wrongdoing in connection to the Russia investigation.
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