- The Washington Times
Tuesday, May 21, 2019

The Trump administration and Congress battled on three fronts Tuesday over Democrats’ growing list of subpoenas demanding documents and testimony from the president’s closest current and former advisors.

Former White House Counsel Don McGahn defied a Judiciary Committee subpoena demanding he appear to testify about what he saw and did during special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into President Trump’s handling of Russian meddling in the 2016 campaign.

Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler held the hearing anyway, blasting Mr. McGahn and threatening future action.

Hours later, he issued new subpoenas to two other former Trump aides, one-time White House Communications Director Hope Hicks and Annie Donaldson, who was Mr. McGahn’s chief of staff.

Meanwhile the Justice Department, battling a subpoena from the House intelligence committee, said it’s willing to work with the panel to share more of Mr. Mueller’s work with committee members.

It said, though, that cooperation will end if Chairman Adam Schiff goes ahead with a secret vote Wednesday to punish Attorney General William P. Barr for not turning over the complete unredacted Mueller report.

“To be clear, should the committee take the precipitous and unnecessary action of recommending a contempt finding or other enforcement action against the attorney general, then the department will likely not be able to continue to work with the committee to accommodate its interest in these materials,” Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd wrote.

Mr. Barr says he would be breaking the law if he turned over the unredacted report, since it contains grand jury information that cannot legally be shared. He’s offered to provide the committee’s members with a less-redacted version that includes classified information, as well as information hidden from public view because of ongoing investigations or privacy interests, but no grand jury information.

He’s also offered to see what backing materials he can release to Mr. Schiff.

The chairman did not respond to a request for comment.

Democrats say they want to review and expand on the work Mr. Mueller did, including exploring whether there is evidence of serious enough crimes to warrant impeachment of Mr. Trump.

To that end, Mr. Nadler earlier this year issued document demands to 81 people or entities in Mr. Trump’s orbit, seeking materials he said they’re already likely provided to Mr. Mueller.

He now says he hasn’t gotten enough cooperation from two of them — Ms. Hicks and Ms. Donaldson — and he issued the subpoenas Tuesday to demand compliance.

“I have issued these subpoenas today to two critical witnesses who have worked closely with the president,” Mr. Nadler said. “We are seeking the information in order to conduct proper oversight, consider potential legislation and perform our constitutional duties.”

Ms. Donaldson’s thorough notes of goings-on at the White House provided some of the juiciest moments of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report.

Ms. Hicks, meanwhile, was a key Trump aide during the campaign and in the early months of his time in the White House.

The subpoenas came just hours after Mr. Nadler gaveled in a committee hearing, facing an empty chair where Mr. McGahn was supposed to be sitting to testify in response to another subpoena.

Mr. Trump has directed Mr. McGahn not to comply, saying as a former close advisor he’s immune under separation of powers doctrine that protects a president’s close team from being compelled to testify.

Fuming, Mr. Nadler accused the president of witness intimidation.

“He took to Twitter to call Mr. McGahn a liar,” Mr. Nadler said of the president. “His lawyers went on cable television to do the same. In short, the president took it upon himself to intimidate a witness who has a legal obligation to be here today.”

The chairman threatened legal action if Mr. McGahn does not appear in the future.

“Our subpoenas are not optional,” he said. “Mr. McGahn has a legal obligation to be here for his scheduled appearance. If he does not immediately correct his mistake, this committee will have no choice but to enforce the subpoena against him.”

The top Republican on the committee, Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia, accused Democrats of engaging in political theater for the purpose of embarrassing the president. He said Mr. Nadler rushed the subpoena rather than working to secure voluntary testimony from Mr. McGahn.

“I cannot emphasize this enough — the chairman’s track record demonstrates he does not actually want information,” Mr. Collins said. “He wants the fight, but not the truth. The closer he actually comes to obtaining information, the farther away he runs from it.”

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