House Democrats are continuing their robust investigations into the Trump administration’s incessantly belligerent behavior, and at least for a moment, they seemingly have one unlikely ally — former White House communications director Hope Hicks. Despite an order from the White House demanding that neither she nor former deputy White House counsel Annie Donaldson comply with subpoenas from the House Judiciary Committee, Hicks has already begun sharing documents.
In the grand scheme of things, the development isn’t overly spectacular, rather proving more like a bare minimum that in the context of President Donald Trump’s team ends up a rarity. Hicks has begun sharing documents covering her time with the Trump presidential campaign leading up to 2016, and not covering her time in the White House itself, a period that has been the focus of House Democrats including the Judiciary panel. Ultimately, the documents she’s sharing might not even be covered by the White House’s demand for her to not cooperate, which argues that neither of the Judiciary Committee’s latest targets “have the legal right to disclose the White House records to third parties.”
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) has countered:
‘The president has no lawful basis for preventing these witnesses from complying with our request. We will continue to seek reasonable accommodation on these and all our discovery requests and intend to press these issues when we obtain the testimony of both Ms. Hicks and Ms. Donaldson.’
Besides documents, the committee also wants public testimony from both Hicks and Donaldson.
Democrats are investigating issues including instances of the president obstructing justice that were outlined in the final report from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. Some on the president’s side have claimed that there can be no obstruction without an underlying crime, but that is demonstrably false, as numerous third parties have pointed out. Even as the president’s team makes this argument, his associate Roger Stone awaits trial for obstruction of justice without any charges for the behavior he was actually trying to conceal, which included getting in touch and coordinating with Wikileaks.
While House Democrats keep trying to get around the president’s team obstruction of investigation into their obstruction, they’re operating with a well-packed bag of options. Next week, the full House is expected to vote on holding both Attorney General Bill Barr and former White House counsel Don McGahn in contempt of Congress. Both of them have defied subpoenas; McGahn did so at the direction of the Trump White House, similarly to the Hicks and Donaldson case. Nadler suggested he could easily see those two former officials ending up held in contempt as well.
Besides these steps, the option of impeaching Donald Trump also remains hanging heavy over the proceedings. Around 60 House Democrats and counting have expressed support for the move — as has a lone Republican, Michigan Congressman Justin Amash — but as of now, House leaders have resisted the notion and preferred to focus on their oversight efforts. Still, those resistant leaders like House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) have acknowledged that the president has engaged in clearly impeachable behavior.
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