House Judiciary Committee Finally Lighting A Fire Under Don McGahn's Ass
It's about damn time! The House Judiciary Committee has finally asked the US District Court in DC to call bullshit on the Trump administration's claim that congressional oversight is ILLEGAL because of some made up claim of "absolute immunity" that White House Counsel Pat Cipollone pulled out of his smarmy, Covington Catholic ass. And if Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson isn't willing to grant summary judgment on this legal question, perhaps she will be willing to order former White House Counsel Don McGahn, who witnessed all the obstruction of justice, to get his behind into the committee for testimony pronto, since it's considering whether to recommend impeachment and needs access to all the evidence to carry out its constitutionally mandated duty.
Yep, the committee is using the "I" word. Again. 44 times in 57 pages. Oh, it's on.
The Judiciary Committee has issued a subpoena for McGahn's testimony in connection with its investigation into Presidential misconduct and consideration of whether to recommend articles of impeachment. In light of that subpoena, McGahn's legal obligation is straightforward: he must appear and testify before the Committee. [Citations omitted.]
Special Counsel Robert Mueller deliberately refused to exonerate the president on charges of obstruction of justice because he didn't want to "preempt constitutional processes for addressing presidential misconduct," a specific reference to congressional impeachment. And if the only way to hold a sitting president accountable is through the impeachment process, then the court can't allow Trump to throw a blanket over all the evidence by shouting EXECUTIVE PRIVILEGE! and blocking all testimony against him.
Citing the case of George W. Bush's White House Counsel Harriet Miers, who was forced to testify to the Judiciary Committee in 2008, and President Nixon's failed attempt to assert executive privilege over the Watergate tapes in 1974, the Committee argues that there is no legal precedent for the "absolute immunity" asserted by Donald Trump and his cronies -- particularly since they already disclosed most of the requested information to Robert Mueller, and Steve Bannon's Hot Tub Time Machine Executive Privilege Defense is a brazen attempt to cover up multiple allegations of obstruction of justice that are already in the public record.
Chairman Jerry Nadler and the committee's Democrats have it up to here with Don McGahn's refusal to comply with a lawfully issued congressional subpoena on the flimsy rationale that "facing contradictory instructions from two co-equal branches of government" he has no choice but to break the law. Here in US America, no person is above the law, and "the President's direction to disobey a legal command from a coequal branch of government does not create a conflicting legal obligation."
Securing McGahn's testimony is critical for two reasons. First because he was a personal witness for so much of the president's obstructive conduct, and second because, once the court dispenses with his facially ridiculous legal argument against testifying, none of the other witnesses will be able to assert it. So Hope Hicks, Reince Priebus, Sean Spicer, Rod Rosenstein, and the rest of the Korruption Krew will have to pony up. The Judiciary Dems aren't excited to have to sue McGahn's assistant Annie Donaldson five minutes after she had a baby, but a decision from this court might force her to pony up her notes without too much fuss.
And speaking of subpoenas, the Committee dropped one on wife-beater witness Rob Porter yesterday as well. The former White House staff secretary was involved in Trump's efforts to get Don McGahn to fire Mueller and, when that failed, Porter told McGahn to draft a memo saying Trump had never sought to have Mueller fired. Which he had on multiple occasions.
Reuters also reports that Porter was instructed to sound out former Deputy Attorney General Rachel Brand after she left the Justice Department to see if she'd be down to stick a shiv in the entire Mueller investigation if Trump fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions and gave her his job. And if the court rules that McGahn has to testify, Rob Porter is going to have to tell the committee all about that on September 17, instead of trotting out some nonsense about "absolute immunity" for anyone who was ever lucky enough to find himself in Trump's royal presence.
So, good job, Judiciary Dems.
But as committee counsel Doug Letter himself pointed out in the pleading, this session of Congress and its impeachment inquiry expires on January 3 of 2021. And maybe Democrats would have a stronger argument about the exigency of their case if they hadn't waited three months after taking the gavel to subpoena their star witness, another two months after he blew them off and refused to appear before filing suit, and then three further weeks before asking for an emergency injunction ordering him to testify. Maybe.
Get a move on, Uncle Jerry! Time's a-wastin'!
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Liz Dye lives in Baltimore with her wonderful husband and a houseful of teenagers. When she isn't being mad about a thing on the internet, she's hiding in plain sight in the carpool line. She's the one wearing yoga pants glaring at her phone.