Ex-White House Lawyer Skips House Hearing as Trump Spurns Democrats

Chris Wattie/File Photo/Reuters

Last updated 5/21/2019 at 10:25 a.m. ET.

The U.S. House of Representatives committee that would handle any impeachment of President Donald Trump convened a hearing on Tuesday with another empty chair at the witness table, as former White House counsel Don McGahn refused to testify.

In a further escalation of a 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 subpoena to appear at the hearing.

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.

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.

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.

(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Additional reporting by David Morgan. Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh)

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Sidney Jolly
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Sidney Jolly

If Donald Trump’s position that Congress has no right or duty of oversight over the Executive branch is allowed to stand, then the POTUS is effectively above all law — a soverign power in all but name, and answerable only to the American people in elections. Assuming that he doesn’t declare himself President for Life, and cancells all future Presidential elections.

Lee Kirkland
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Lee Kirkland

To hear about Democrats complaining about someone not following the “Rule of Law” is hypocritical at best. The Democrats are some of the most crooked people among us and will band together like the thieves they are. I have never like Democrats, but their continued attack on a President that IS doing great things for our country, has me to the point of despising all Democrats. I wish for the day the Democrat Party was eradicated and these dangerous and even treasonous people are jailed and will never be allowed in office again. They are a great danger to this… Read more »

James
Member

The Russian investigation is over. Mueller has filed his end report with the DOJ. It’s unfortunate members of the dimwit Party cannot, will not, will never accept the results of 675 days of investigating, 2800 subpoenas, 500 witnesses interviewed, ~500 search warrants issued, over $35 Million spent and then came up with ZILCH, NADA, NYET, NEIN, ZERO, NOTHING!! But of course, Mueller was supposed to be one of them, to cooperate and find or manufacture something, anything they might use to impeach Trump simply because he became the POTUS over their sickly, mentally and socially unfit, Saul Alinsky radicalized Socialist… Read more »

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