To paraphrase the great Betty Davis in All About Eve, “Fasten your seatbelts. It’s going to be a bumpy week.” There are several congressional committee deadlines coming due this week in the Trump administration’s policy of “total obstruction” of Congress:
Stunned by the administration’s refusal to allow officials to testify or respond to document requests, lawmakers have been left to think aloud about their next steps against the White House.
Rep. Jerrold Nadler, the House Judiciary Committee chairman, has given Attorney General William Barr a Monday deadline to comply with a subpoena demanding a redacted version of Mueller’s report, along with its underlying evidence, or face a contempt charge.
Barr could face another subpoena to appear before Nadler’s committee after skipping a hearing Thursday in a dispute over the rules for questioning him. Nadler, D-N.Y., also has subpoenaed testimony from former White House counsel Don McGahn.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee. is considering what to do on several fronts, including about testimony from Carl Kline, the White House’s personnel security director. Cummings said Kline declined last week to answer specific questions in a closed-session hearing about the security clearances granted for White House advisers Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, the president’s son-in-law and daughter. Also, the House Ways and Means Committee is being refused access to Trump’s tax returns.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has a self-imposed May 6 target for a “final decision” on producing Trump’s tax returns, after “consulting with the Justice Department.” “Coverup-General Barr” no doubt will instruct this Bond villain not to comply after his own stunning performance in the Senate Judiciary Committee last week, and his failure to appear in the House Judiciary Committee.
On Monday, Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.) said House Democrats should consider impeaching IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig. Though Neal’s requests for the returns have gone directly to the IRS commissioner, Mnuchin has taken the lead on the issue, which Democrats say is a violation of normal procedure.
“Accordingly, we have not made a final determination on how to respond to your request and are awaiting further guidance and direction … before doing so,” Rettig wrote.
Trump’s blanket refusal to engage in oversight – and Democrats’ unrelenting demand that he do so – is testing the system of checks and balances with a deepening standoff in the aftermath of Robert Mueller’s investigation.
Republicans are largely declining to join Democrats in pursuing the investigations any further.
Let’s be perfectly clear: the Trump administration is engaging in obstruction of Congress and contempt of Congress, and the Republican members of Congress are aiding and abetting these crimes. They are all complicit and equally culpable. Some of them are even accessories after the fact to Trump’s obstruction of justice. Obstruction of Congress was one of the articles of impeachment against President Richard Nixon.
Unfortunately, impeachment does not extend to members of Congress aiding and abetting a president’s crimes. That is up to you, the voters, to remove these unfit people from office for violating their oaths of office.
It’s time to spruce up the “House jail” for inherent contempt proceedings in Congress against recalcitrant members of the Trump administration. Resort to the courts would only allow them to engage in dilatory delays and to run out the clock. Congress needs to enforce its subpoenas without further delay.
Whether fact or folklore, this small space in the basement of the Capitol with steel bars is sometimes referred to as the old “House jail,” but it used today to protect the cherished Lincoln Catafalque, the pedestal for caskets used during state funerals, in Washington, Friday, May 3, 2019. When William Barr refused to appear before the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif., suggested a stay in the House “jail” for the recalcitrant attorney general. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
UPDATE: House Judiciary member David Cicilline said Sunday that the committee has reached a “tentative date” of May 15 for Robert Mueller to testify, though he later clarified that the date for Mueller’s appearance had not yet been finalized. House Democrat clarifies comments on Mueller, Judiciary Committee reaching ‘tentative date’ for special counsel to testify.
“Just to clarify: we are aiming to bring Mueller in on the 15th, but nothing has been agreed to yet. That’s the date the Committee has proposed, and we hope the Special Counsel will agree to it. Sorry for the confusion,” Cicilline tweeted later Sunday.
UPDATE: On Friday, when asked whether Mueller should testify before Congress and whether he’d like to see the special counsel do so, Trump replied, “I don’t know. That’s up to our attorney general, who I think has done a fantastic job.” In reversal, Trump says Mueller ‘should not testify’ before Congress:
Well, OK then.
But wait …. the Twitter-troll-in-chief is adding another count of obstruction of justice to his articles of impeachment.
President Trump said Sunday that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III should not testify before Congress, reversing course from his previous position that the decision is up to Attorney General William P. Barr.
“Bob Mueller should not testify,” Trump said in an afternoon tweet. “No redos for the Dems!”
Trump’s reversal came hours after a key member of the House Judiciary Committee said that the panel has proposed a date of May 15 for Mueller to testify but that no agreement has been reached yet.
The White House, Cicilline said in the Fox interview, has indicated it will not interfere with Mueller’s attempt to testify and “we hope that won’t change.”
Trump’s tweet — if interpreted by the attorney general as a direct order to stifle Mueller’s testimony — could set up the most consequential legal battle of the entire special counsel’s probe: Whether executive privilege can be used to halt executive branch employees from testifying about their investigation into the president.
UPDATE 5/16/19: The Washington Post reports, “we just learned that Trump’s attorney general, William P. Barr, defied the deadline set by Democrats for releasing the full, unredacted Mueller report and underlying materials. Democrats are now preparing to hold Barr in contempt.”