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story.lead_photo.caption Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said Tuesday that the “unprecedented stonewalling by the administration is completely unacceptable.”

WASHINGTON -- The House took its strongest step yet in the standoff with President Donald Trump over congressional oversight, voting Tuesday to seek court enforcement of subpoenas for Attorney General William Barr and former White House counsel Donald McGahn.

On a party-line vote of 229-191, the House passed a resolution that would empower the House Judiciary Committee to go to court against Barr and McGahn over noncompliance with requests for documents and testimony.

"We need answers to the questions left unanswered by the Mueller report," Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on the House floor ahead of voting.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy countered that the Democratic maneuvers are all "just a desperate attempt to relitigate the Mueller investigation." He called it "an impeachment effort in everything but name."

Arkansas' four representatives, all Republicans, voted against the measure.

The vote keeps Democrats on an investigative track favored by Pelosi, D-Calif., and other top leaders -- and away from the formal impeachment inquiry that some 60 rank-and-file Democrats and several 2020 presidential candidates have been seeking.

The House vote reflects the frustration among Democrats with Trump's unwillingness to cooperate with congressional investigators, who argue they have a constitutional right to examine the executive branch.

"This is a dark time. This Congress is being tested -- in this case, not by a foreign adversary, but by our own president," said House Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern, D-Mass.

House Republicans lambasted Tuesday's vote as a distraction from bigger issues facing the country, including the southern border crisis. Minority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., borrowed one of Trump's favorite descriptions, calling the vote "presidential harassment."

Democrats have already gone to federal judges in Washington and New York to seek enforcement of subpoenas targeting Trump's financial records that are in the possession of private companies. They have scored initial wins in trial courts, but appeals are likely to play out over the coming months.

The vote stops short of a criminal contempt citation, a more serious sanction, and it comes a day after the Justice Department agreed to begin providing materials gathered by former special counsel Robert Mueller during his nearly two-year probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election. Still, Democrats cast the vote as their most serious move yet in a campaign to hold Trump accountable over allegations that he acted to derail Mueller's investigation.

Heading to Iowa, Trump told reporters that Pelosi "is a mess" and criticized Democrats' investigations.

"All they do is waste time where there is no obstruction, no collusion. And in the meantime, we can't get anything done," said the president. "We need them to work on illegal immigration, on drug prices, on infrastructure."

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., chairman of the House Democratic Caucus and a Judiciary Committee member, said the aggressive tactics helped force the Justice Department to make at least some of Mueller's material available to Congress after a monthslong standoff.

"They've begun to recognize that we are going to function like a separate and coequal branch of government," he said, contrasting Democrats' posture to that of the previous Republican majority: "They consistently bent the knee to Donald Trump. That is something we will refuse to do. And we are going to make it clear that no one is above the law, one way or the other."


Barr's agreement to make some of Mueller's materials available has at least temporarily forestalled any enforcement action on that front.

The Justice Department's understanding when it reached a deal with Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., was that while the committee would proceed with Tuesday's resolution vote giving the committee authorization to sue, it would not actually file a suit if the Justice Department held up its end of the bargain, according to a U.S. official. The department never viewed the resolution as holding the attorney general in contempt, the official said.

Nadler confirmed in floor remarks Tuesday that enforcement of the Barr subpoena would be held "in abeyance for now." But he said he would go to court "as quickly as possible" against McGahn, who at the behest of the White House has defied subpoenas for documents and his testimony.

"This unprecedented stonewalling by the administration is completely unacceptable," he said.

McGahn was a key witness in Mueller's investigation into whether Trump obstructed justice during the probe. The committee can now also petition a federal judge to release protected grand jury materials gathered in the probe, which underpin many of the key sections that Justice Department officials redacted from Mueller's report.

McGahn has so far declined to testify pursuant to a White House legal opinion holding that close presidential advisers cannot be compelled to testify. "Mr. McGahn remains obligated to maintain the status quo and will respect the president's instruction," his lawyer, William Burck, told the committee last month.

Tuesday's vote also does nothing to bring Mueller before the House for testimony, whether public or private.

The panel is also seeking the testimony of two other Trump aides, former communications director Hope Hicks and Annie Donaldson, a top aide to McGahn. Those subpoenas were not targeted for enforcement in the resolution passed Tuesday, but it permits the committee to seek authorization from the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group, a special panel of top House leaders controlled by Democrats -- sidestepping the need for future floor votes.

And Nadler added new names to the list, saying he is also interested in hearing from Assistant Attorney General Jody Hunt, who served as former Attorney General Jeff Sessions' chief of staff, and former White House aide Rick Dearborn. Both are mentioned frequently in the Mueller report.

"Either work with us and comply with subpoenas or we'll see you in court," said McGovern, the chairman of the Rules Committee.

The chairman of nearly any House committee, in fact, now has the ability to seek authorization from the group to "initiate or intervene in any judicial proceeding before a federal court" to enforce any duly issued subpoena.

Nadler said Tuesday that the broad authorization was necessary to fight the Trump administration's stonewalling strategy: "We cannot afford to waste all the floor time for every single time the administration rejects one of our subpoenas, which is every time we issue a subpoena."

The chairmen of several oversight committees said after the vote that Tuesday's action extends beyond the Russia investigation into other aspects of Trump's administration, including their subpoena for the president's tax returns.

"This is not just about Russia, this is a broad, coordinated campaign to stall more investigations across the board," said Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., the chairman of the Oversight Committee. "We are here in a fight for the soul of our democracy and we will use every single tool that is available to us to hold this administration accountable."

McCarthy blasted that move Tuesday, telling reporters it amounted to an unprecedented delegation of legislative powers to a small panel of party leaders.

"It's something Congress has never done before," he said. "What the Democrat majority is doing is, they're trying to get to impeachment without having their members actually vote upon it. They're trying to protect members from not taking a difficult vote."

The focus on Mueller will continue today, when the House Intelligence Committee is to review the counterintelligence implications of Russia's election interference, as detailed in Mueller's report.


Also today, the president's oldest son, Donald Trump Jr., is to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee. Trump Jr.'s return to Capitol Hill for a second private interview with members of the committee, according to people familiar with the plans, is part of a deal he struck with leaders last month after the panel issued a subpoena for his testimony.

It's the first known subpoena of a member of the president's immediate family, and some Republicans went so far as to suggest Trump Jr. shouldn't comply.

Under the terms of the deal, Trump is expected to spend about four hours with the committee answering a limited number of questions, according to people familiar with the terms -- including queries about a June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower with a Russian lawyer promising incriminating information about Hillary Clinton.

He is one of several witnesses that the committee is bringing back to its chambers for a second interview aimed at giving members an opportunity to engage with key figures in the investigation before they will be asked to sign off on the panel's final report. Its long-running investigation into Russian interference during the 2016 presidential elections has been largely staff-run, and is widely considered to be the most bipartisan probe into the matter in Congress.

It's uncertain when the intelligence panel will issue a final report. Its co-chairman, Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., told The Associated Press last month that he hopes to be finished with the investigation by the end of the year.

Information for this article was contributed by Mike DeBonis and Karoun Demirjian of The Washington Post; and by Mary Clare Jalonick, Lisa Mascaro, Laurie Kellman and Jonathan Lemire of The Associated Press.

A Section on 06/12/2019

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Archived Comments

  • 23cal
    June 12, 2019 at 6:23 a.m.

    About "And in the meantime, we can't get anything done," said the president."
    The House has passed over 235 bills this year, the vast majority of which McConnell will not allow to be considered by the Senate.
    Investigating Trump's obstruction of justice isn't stopping anything from getting done. Republican recalcitrance is stopping things from getting done. Apparently, if they don't have total control of all three branches of government, they can't get anything done. When you think about it, they got very little done even when they totally controlled all three branches for two years. The four Republican investigations into Obama didn't "stop things from getting done." The six Republican House investigations into Benghazi didn't "stop things from getting done." Republican obstruction and intransigence, then and now, is what stops things from getting done.
    Trump and the lying hypocrites need to put on their big boy pants, stop whining, stop putting party over country, and go to work. Impeachment hearings were held for Truman and every single subsequent president. The thin-skinned orange baby wanted the pomp of the presidency, he needs to grow up and take the bitter with the sweet.

  • Illinoisroy
    June 12, 2019 at 7:34 a.m.

    Ultimatum of if you don't investigate we will pretend to follow law and provide some information doesn't float. Remember co-equal branches; and, checks and balances?

    Total collusion, Total obstruction.

  • 3WorldState1
    June 12, 2019 at 8:45 a.m.

    Dems need to quit pussy footing around. You think Repubs would have waited this long to do this? Use every tool now! They have a winning hand. The President is a criminal and a Dictator lover.

  • mrcharles
    June 12, 2019 at 9:15 a.m.

    As part of the inherent dna of the gop, they complain of slight hurts when in power and use the full force of the entities of government when they are in control to harrass, bully, misinform their weak minded followers , and generally do their best to show government dont work when they dont work, but whoa, when it clear the manipulator behind the curtain is the one pulling the levers behind the curtain that the fake talking head with the help of fox entertainment is clearly hiding information, they cry and whine and say "look there is a car chase" so that the light of day cannot sanitise their dear leaders misdeeds.

    Hide and lie like dear leaders do is becoming more and more the main plank of the gop, and of course any integrity they had is being destroyed by bowing down to a man who believes putin. What usual suspect here believes putin over our own intelligence community of the russian misdeeds?

  • davisdds
    June 12, 2019 at 9:24 a.m.

    The Dems picked their man Mueller, they put their Clinton cronies on the investigative panels, investigated and placed a dark cloud over our country for two years; but didn't like it when NOTHING was found: NO Collusin and NO Obstruction... Get your heads out of the sand and get behind a president that is finally turning this country around after having Zero of a president for 8 years and an economy going down the drain, not to mention giving our country away to ILLEGALS.. Wake up, the boat is leaving you behind.

  • Packman
    June 12, 2019 at 9:33 a.m.

    Dems keep assembling their circular firing squad. The American people are sick and tired of this bunch of sore losers and it will be reflected in the polls in 2020. President Trump MUST tell them to kiss his a$$ as loudly and as often as possible. MAGA, baby, MAGA.

  • BoudinMan
    June 12, 2019 at 9:34 a.m.

    Anyone claiming that the Democrats picked Mueller to investigate is just more Fox news propaganda. I don't remember the Dems voting to install Mueller as SC. He was appointed by DOJ in May 2017, right after the Orange Mound of Pus fired Comey. Dems didn't take over the House until Jan '19.

  • davisdds
    June 12, 2019 at 9:41 a.m.

    They did pick Mueller because they were tickled with the appointment and don't think for a minute the the Dems weren't behind that appointment.

  • wowy
    June 12, 2019 at 10:58 a.m.

    ! T H E 💊 T O A D !

  • mozarky2
    June 12, 2019 at 11:18 a.m.

    In that picture of Jabba the Waddler, he seems to be having a constipational crisis.
    If I were him after that disastrous appearance by John Dean, I'd never show my face in public again.