NADLER: ‘Our subpoenas are not optional…’
(AFP) Furious Democrats threatened to go to court or invoke contempt charges against Donald Trump’s former lawyer Don McGahn on Tuesday after McGahn refused to testify about obstruction allegations against the president.
McGahn, who provided evidence to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia meddling investigation that Trump tried to stifle the probe, failed to appear before the House Judiciary Committee Tuesday on White House orders, despite having been subpoenaed.
Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler said each of the incidents of Trump’s obstruction that McGahn described to Mueller “constitutes a crime,” and said McGahn must testify about them to Congress.
“Our subpoenas are not optional,” Nadler said in opening the hearing.
“Let me be clear: this committee will hear Mr McGahn’s testimony, even if we have to go to court to secure it.”
“We will hold this president accountable one way or the other.”
Trump’s block on McGahn’s testifying was the latest in Trump’s efforts to prevent Congress from further exposing possibly criminal behavior by the president.
The White House and the Justice Department have refused to turn over to Congress an unexpurgated version of Mueller’s final report, completed in March, and documents linked to his investigation.
They have also refused to provide another Democrat-led House committee with Trump’s financial records, a fight which is already in federal court in Washington where a judge ruled on Monday that the records must be handed over.
Trump’s persistent “stonewalling”, as Nadler branded it, has Democrats arguing internally whether to keep fighting for the documents and testimony they want, or, using the Mueller report’s evidence, directly launch an impeachment effort against the president.
Nadler said McGahn’s testimony to Mueller was strong evidence of law-breaking by Trump, but made clear he favors sticking with the party’s current path of publicly investigating the Republican leader rather than impeaching him.
He accused Trump of pressuring McGahn to stay away from the committee hearing and trying to destroy McGahn’s reputation.
“In short, the president took it upon himself to intimidate a witness who has a legal obligation to be here today. This conduct is not remotely acceptable.”
On Monday the White House said Mueller’s sprawling probe had cleared the president, meaning there was no need for more digging.
McGahn himself was questioned by Mueller’s team for about 30 hours.
“The Department of Justice has provided a legal opinion stating that, based on long-standing, bipartisan, and Constitutional precedent, the former Counsel to the President cannot be forced to give such testimony, and Mr. McGahn has been directed to act accordingly,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said.
© Agence France-Presse