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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."

HOLDING OFF

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.

TRUMP SON TO TESTIFY

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

Print Headline: House panel OK'd to raise heat in probe

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Archived Comments

  • Illinoisroy
    June 12, 2019 at 12:40 p.m.

    DDS,
    Mueller is a republican who was appointed by a republican administration. If he was acting as a democratic sympathizer he would have found old bone spurs guilty of obstruction instead of punting for others to decide.

    Packman,
    America was already great and hopefully will still be after old bone spurs leaves office.

  • mozarky2
    June 12, 2019 at 2:59 p.m.

    Speaking of John Dean:
    Part 1
    In the running-around-with-their-hair-on-fire department, the Congressional Democrats just topped themselves with yesterday’s bizarre testimony of convicted felon John Dean before the House Judiciary Committee. Students of history may recall that Dean served in the Nixon White House as Counsel to the President and pled guilty in 1974 to obstruction of justice for his role in covering up the ties between Nixon’s Committee to Re-Elect the President and the Watergate burglary. Since then, Dean has become a CNN commentator.
    Under the leadership of Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), the committee is investigating whether or not President Trump obstructed justice based on the innuendo-laden report of Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Despite the fact that Mueller’s cohort of Hillary Clinton acolytes did not charge Trump with obstruction of justice and Attorney General William Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein (who appointed Mueller) determined that there had been no obstruction, Nadler is hoping to use the unsubstantiated and discredited allegation to impeach the President.
    In his testimony before the committee, Dean conceded that he was not appearing as a fact witness and did not have personal knowledge as to the truth or falsity of a single fact in Team Mueller’s report. Instead, his role was to provide “historical context” within which Trump’s actions could be assessed. So Dean appeared, in effect, as an expert witness on how to commit obstruction of justice, a crime which involves hiding the truth.
    The Republicans on the committee raised all of the obvious points about Dean’s admitted criminal conduct in the Watergate conspiracy. But it was this exchange between Dean and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) that particularly caught my interest.

    JORDAN: Today Chairman Nadler brings in front of the Judiciary Committee a guy [Dean] to talk about obstruction of justice who went to prison in 1974 for obstruction of justice.
    DEAN: I did not go to prison.
    JORDAN: Okay. You pled guilty to obstruction of justice…
    And that rang a bell in the deep recesses off my aging frontal lobes.
    After pleading guilty to obstruction in the Watergate case, Dean was sentenced to imprisonment for a period of one to four years. So when he later testified against his co-conspirators in the Watergate cover-up trial, the government was able to represent to the jury that he hadn’t gotten a sweetheart deal for his testimony and had nothing to gain by tailoring his testimony to satisfy the prosecutors.
    But because he had flipped and cooperated, instead of prison, Dean was incarcerated in a safe house maintained by the U.S. Marshals Service at Fort Holabird, Maryland. Dean spent his days at the prosecutor’s office prepping his trial testimony and his nights and weekends in confinement. This lasted for 127 days until, following his trial testimony, Dean’s sentence was reduced with the agreement of the prosecutors to time served.

  • mozarky2
    June 12, 2019 at 3:04 p.m.

    John Dean, Part 2:
    In a 2004 interview, Dean said that he had been lodged at the Fort Holabird safehouse because “I was in the Witness Protection Program. The government was very concerned about keeping me alive.”
    He then he added this tidbit:
    There were other government witnesses in that facility, yes. My next door neighbor happened to be a former mafia hit man who once told me, you know, John, I always liked Richard Nixon until I realized he wasn’t a very good criminal.
    That “mafia hit man” was one of my informants from my days as a Special Attorney with the Justice Department’s Buffalo Organized Crime Strike Force. I had been part of the trial team that successfully prosecuted Vito (not his real name) for extortion and related felonies. After his conviction, he flipped and became a valuable mob informant and government witness.
    Instead of sending him to prison, we placed Vito in the Witness Security Program and lodged him at Fort Holabird. From there we regularly brought him to Buffalo where we pumped him for information and prepped him for various trials.
    Among the safehouse inmates were Watergate conspirators John Dean, Jeb Stuart Magruder, Chuck Colson, and Herb Kalmbach. Vito got to know all of them.
    One day, he asked if I would like an autographed copy of Magruder’s new autobiography An American Life: One Man’s Road to Watergate. Sure I would. And so I sent a copy to Vito who had it signed by the author.
    As I am writing this, I have before me Magruder’s book bearing the hilarious inscription “To George, A dedicated prosecutor, Best Wishes, Jeb Stuart Magruder, 1/4/75.” That Vito always was a card.
    The book contains pictures signed by Colson and Kalmbach and this very special inscription: “To George – With best regards, John W. Dean, 1-4-75.”
    So what did this mafioso think of the Watergate defendants? He spoke highly of Colson as a decent “stand up guy.” But he considered Magruder and Dean to be untrustworthy and duplicitous weaklings. And of Dean in particular he opined, “That guy would steal the silver dollars off his dead mother’s eyes.”
    Coming from a hardened career criminal, that’s quite a peer review. But since Dean has offered himself to the Judiciary Committee and the world as an expert on committing crime, he may want to add it to his curriculum vitae. After all, what better testimonial to his criminal expertise can there be than that of a member of La Cosa Nostra, the Harvard of the underworld?

  • mozarky2
    June 12, 2019 at 3:06 p.m.

    I think that, of all the quotes from Richard Nixon, this is my favorite:
    "Go to the john, Dean, and do a good job, I'm telling you"!
    ...or something like that...

  • Packman
    June 12, 2019 at 3:15 p.m.

    Whatever happened to “impeach that mother***ker”? Dems played their base for the fools they are ahead of the mid-terms and now the mouthy chickensh*t blowhards are backtracking. Dems are chickensh*ts. Every. Damn. One. Of. Them.

  • RBolt
    June 12, 2019 at 5 p.m.

    Trump's pouty whining and his shrill chorus of backup whiners convince me the Dems are moving in the proper direction at the appropriate speed.

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