House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler on Tuesday blasted President Trump for blocking former White House Counsel Don McGahn’s scheduled appearance before his committee, defying a congressional subpoena.
“The president took it upon himself to intimidate a witness which has a legal obligation to be here today,” Mr. Nadler, New York Democrat, said. “This conduct is not remotely acceptable.”
Mr. McGahn said Monday he would skip the hearing, citing a Justice Department opinion that he cannot be compelled to testify about his official duties.
Democrats are anxious to hear from Mr. McGahn after last month’s release of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report. Mr. McGahn is featured prominently in the report, including a revelation that he refused to obey Mr. Trump’s order to fire Mr. Mueller.
“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.”
“Let me be clear, this committee will hear Mr. McGahn’s testimony even if we have to go to court to secure it,” Mr. Nadler said. “We will not allow the president to prevent the American people from hearing from this witness.”
The committee’s top Republican, Doug Collins, Georgia, accused Mr. Nadler of orchestrating political theater in an effort to grab headlines. He said the chairman rushed to subpoena Mr. McGahn rather than work to secure his voluntarily testimony.
“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.”
The committee left an empty chair for Mr. McGhan, but the hearing lacked the theatrics of a previous meeting earlier this month. When Attorney General William P. Barr dodged a scheduled hearing, House Democrats ate from a bucket of fried chicken as a swipe at the nation’s top law enforcement officer.
After about 20 minutes, the committee voted to end the hearing in a 21-13 vote, entirely along party lines.
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