House Democrats Approve Authority to Sue Trump Advisers Who Ignore Subpoenas

By Reuters

WASHINGTON—Democratic lawmakers in the House of Representatives voted on June 11 to authorize their committees to sue Trump administration figures including former White House counsel Don McGahn to enforce ignored subpoenas.

The House of Representatives, which is controlled by the Democrats, voted 229–191 to approve the measure authorizing House committees to file lawsuits in federal court seeking orders from judges to compel officials to cooperate with congressional inquiries.

For instance, the measure would authorize the House Judiciary Committee to seek a court order to enforce subpoenas seeking an unredacted version of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Some Democrats predicted that House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler would move quickly to compel testimony before his panel by McGahn about the Republican president’s efforts to impede Mueller’s investigation.

jerrold nadler
Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Jerry Nadler, speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington, on May 8, 2019. (Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images)

McGahn defied a subpoena in May for his testimony and related documents after the White House directed him not to cooperate with the Judiciary panel.

“He’s made it clear that he’s very committed to getting Mr. McGahn before the committee as quickly as possible,” Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), a Democrat on Nadler’s panel, told reporters on Capitol Hill.

Don McGahn
White House Counsel and Assistant to the President for President Donald Trump, Donald McGahn, at the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, on Sept. 27, 2018. (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)

The measure also would establish a process for other panels to take similar action. Six House panels are looking into Trump’s presidency and personal holdings. The House Ways and Means Committee is seeking his tax returns. Other panels are probing his financial records.

The House measure also authorized the Judiciary Committee to petition a federal judge for permission to access grand jury evidence from the Mueller probe.

Mueller completed a 22-month investigation in March, concluding there is not enough evidence to establish that Trump colluded with Russia to influence the 2016 election. Mueller formally closed the investigation without bringing obstruction of justice charges against the president.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller arrives
Special Counsel Robert Mueller arrives to make a statement about the Russia investigation at the Justice Department in Washington on May 29, 2019. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Three separate investigations in the House and Senate reached the same conclusion as Mueller, finding no evidence that Trump colluded with Russia. The House investigations separately established that the FBI used a Clinton-funded opposition research dossier to obtain a surveillance warrant on a former Trump campaign associate.

Republicans accuse the Democrats of abusing congressional powers to pursue frivolous investigations of Trump and his associates in order to score political points for the 2020 elections. Trump calls the Democrats’ tactic “presidential harassment.”

“It is difficult not to view the purpose of this resolution and this debate as anything but political,” said Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-Ariz.).

The vote took place a day after the Justice Department agreed to give Democrats more evidence from the Mueller probe.

Under the agreement, House Democrats will hold off on an earlier plan for a criminal contempt vote against Attorney General William Barr, who has resisted a subpoena for an unredacted version of the Mueller report and underlying evidence. A redacted version was released by Barr in April.

Attorney General William Barr
Attorney General William Barr speaks alongside Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, right, and acting Principal Associate Deputy Attorney General Edward O’Callaghan, left, about the release of a redacted version of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report during a news conference at the Department of Justice in Washington, on April 18, 2019. (Patrick Semansky/AP Photo)

Judiciary Committee members hope to gain access to underlying material including FBI interviews and investigative notes at the Justice Department as early as the afternoon on June 11.

The House Oversight Committee plans to hold contempt votes against Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross on June 12 after they defied subpoenas related to the U.S. census.

By David Morgan. Epoch Times staff member Ivan Pentchoukov contributed to this report.