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Washington - Defied By Trump, House Panel Holds Rapid Hearing Without Ex-White House Lawyer

Published on: May 21, 2019 11:00 AM
By: Reuters
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A name placard is displayed for former White House Counsel Don McGahn, who is not expected to appear before a House Judiciary Committee hearing, Tuesday, May 21, 2019, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)A name placard is displayed for former White House Counsel Don McGahn, who is not expected to appear before a House Judiciary Committee hearing, Tuesday, May 21, 2019, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Washington - The U.S. House of Representatives committee that would handle any impeachment of President Donald Trump briefly convened and then adjourned a hearing on Tuesday with another empty chair at the witness table, as former White House counsel Don McGahn did not show up to testify.

In a further escalation of a constitutional struggle between Trump and Congress over its power to investigate him, the White House on Monday told McGahn, who left his post in October, to disregard a subpoena from the Democratic-led House Judiciary Committee to appear at the hearing.

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“When this committee issues a subpoena, even to a senior presidential adviser, the witness must show up. Our subpoenas are not optional,” committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler said at the beginning of the hearing.

“Mr. McGahn has a legal obligation to be here for this scheduled appearance. If he does not immediately correct his mistake, this committee will have no choice but to enforce this subpoena against him,” added Nadler, who called McGahn’s failure to appear part of the Republican president’s “broader efforts to cover up his misconduct.”

Doug Collins, the panel’s top Republican, accused Nadler of engaging in a political “circus.” Echoing Trump’s own language, Collins said the 448-page Mueller report found no collusion by Trump with Russia and no obstruction of justice by the president. “Now the Democrats are trying desperately to make something out of nothing,” Collins said.

But Nadler said, “Let me be clear: this committee will hear Mr. McGahn’s testimony, even if we have to go to court to secure it.” Panel Democrats voted to adjourn the hearing after roughly a half hour.

The panel is investigating Trump and Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s inquiry into Russian election meddling. Attorney General William Barr on May 2 also snubbed the committee, which later voted to hold him in contempt of Congress for not handing over an unredacted copy of Mueller’s final report.

At the hearing that Barr skipped, an empty witness chair figured prominently and a Democratic committee member put a ceramic chicken on the table in front of it for the cameras. There was no sign of a repeat chicken appearance on Tuesday.

In the Mueller report, McGahn was a key witness regarding possible obstruction of justice by Trump. Career prosecutors who are not involved in the case have said the report contained strong evidence that Trump committed a crime when he pressured McGahn to fire Mueller and later urged him to lie about it.

Trump is stonewalling numerous congressional inquiries into himself, his turbulent presidency, his family and his sprawling business interests, which he did not divest or put into a blind trust when he took office in January 2018.

IMPEACHMENT QUESTION

Trump and most fellow Republicans in Congress dismiss the inquiries as political harassment ahead of the 2020 elections.

However, House Republican Justin Amash, a frequent Trump critic and outspoken Michigan conservative, said over the weekend that the president “has engaged in impeachable conduct.”

Counter-punching in his usual style, Trump told reporters on Monday outside the White House that Amash is “a loser.”

Any impeachment effort would begin in the House, led by the Judiciary Committee, before action in the Republican-led Senate on whether to remove Trump from office.

Late on Monday, the Department of Justice issued a legal opinion saying McGahn did not need to appear at the hearing, while McGahn’s lawyer, William Burck, wrote that his client would not testify before the committee unless it reached an agreement with the White House.

In a letter sent to McGahn, committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler told the former White House counsel that he would “risk serious consequences” if he failed to show up to testify.

“Should you fail to do so, the committee is prepared to use all enforcement mechanisms at its disposal,” Nadler wrote.

On another front, in a legal setback for Trump, a U.S. judge on Monday ruled against him in a case involving another House panel. The House Oversight Committee has subpoenaed Trump’s financial records from his long-time accounting firm Mazars LLP.

In an unusual move, lawyers for Trump and the Trump Organization, his company, last month sued to try to block the subpoena. U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta in Washington ruled against Trump and denied his request for a stay pending appeal.

Early on Tuesday, Trump appealed the judge’s ruling, challenging “all aspects” of Mehta’s decision.

As the confrontation between Trump and Congress has intensified, Democrats have raised growing concerns about the president’s conduct, especially since the mid-April release of the Mueller report.

“We simply cannot sit by and allow this president to destroy the rule of law ... If Mr. McGahn doesn’t testify tomorrow, I think it is probably appropriate for us to move forward with an impeachment inquiry,” Democratic Representative David Cicilline, a Judiciary Committee member, told MSNBC on Monday.

The redacted, 448-page report from Special Counsel Robert Mueller, 22 months in the making, showed how Moscow interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election in Trump’s favor and detailed Trump’s attempts to impede Mueller’s probe.

The report found there was insufficient evidence to allege a criminal conspiracy between Moscow and the Trump campaign. It made no recommendation on whether Trump obstructed justice, leaving that question up to Congress.

Trump earlier this month cited the controversial doctrine of executive privilege to block the Judiciary Committee’s subpoena seeking an unredacted version of Mueller’s final report.



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Read Comments (6)  —  Post Yours »

1

 May 21, 2019 at 01:26 PM Classy dems Says:

What, no fried chicken this time? Have they found “respect?” Nah. Never. They’re the party of selfish power seeking political hoaxes and anti semitism. Jews, take heed!

2

 May 21, 2019 at 02:41 PM qazxc Says:

Reply to #1  
Classy dems Says:

What, no fried chicken this time? Have they found “respect?” Nah. Never. They’re the party of selfish power seeking political hoaxes and anti semitism. Jews, take heed!

TRUMP UBER ALAS!

3

 May 21, 2019 at 03:36 PM Jews, take heed! Says:

Adam Schiff -- Jewish
Nadler -- Jew
Schumer -- Jew

4

 May 21, 2019 at 03:37 PM No political hoaxes, except from TRump Says:

The ... report from Special Counsel Robert Mueller showed how Moscow interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election in Trump’s favor and detailed Trump’s attempts to impede Mueller’s probe.

5

 May 21, 2019 at 04:56 PM Educated Archy Says:

Reply to #2  
qazxc Says:

TRUMP UBER ALAS!

That was a real Yoni sense of humor using nazis kind of dialect.

Gotto polish your screen names better you con.

5

 May 21, 2019 at 05:01 PM Educated Archy Says:

Reply to #4  
No political hoaxes, except from TRump Says:

The ... report from Special Counsel Robert Mueller showed how Moscow interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election in Trump’s favor and detailed Trump’s attempts to impede Mueller’s probe.

What does "interfere" mean? Oy vey the russians leaked some info to wiki leaks. nebach. You left out "they attacked our democratic institutions".

Trump's attempts to impede a nonsense investigation. Wow what a crime. Is impeding the same as "obstruction"? Is it a crime to "impede"?

Catchy user names but no intellect.

(Still love the way wrte yesterday how trump promised to Label china a curency manipulator and he never did so he lied. How foolish. Like is it about labels or is it about taking actions to fight it like tarrifs and the fights with China's google etc..)

6

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