Tue. 9:06 a.m.: McGahn to skip hearing as Democrats debate next steps
WASHINGTON (AP) — House Democrats are facing yet another attempt by President Donald Trump to limit their investigations, this time with former White House counsel Donald McGahn defying a subpoena for his testimony on orders from the White House.
A lawyer for McGahn said he would follow the president’s directive and skip today’s House Judiciary hearing, leaving the Democrats without yet another witness — and a growing debate within the party about how to respond.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, backed by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, is taking a step-by-step approach to the confrontations with Trump. Nadler said the committee would vote to hold McGahn in contempt, and take the issue to court.
“You face serious consequences if you do not appear,” Nadler warned McGahn in a letter on the eve of the hearing. Democrats are encouraged by an early success on that route as a federal judge ruled against Trump on Monday in a financial records dispute with Congress.
But that hasn’t been swift enough for some members of the Judiciary panel who feel that Pelosi should be more aggressive and launch impeachment hearings that would make it easier to get information from the administration. Such hearings would give Democrats more standing in court and could stop short of a vote to remove the president.
The issue was raised in a meeting among top Democrats Monday evening, where some members confronted Pelosi about opening up the impeachment hearings, according to three people familiar with the private conversation who requested anonymity to discuss it.
Maryland Rep. Jamie Raskin made the case launching an impeachment inquiry would consolidate the Trump investigations as Democrats try to keep focus on their other work, according to the people.
Pelosi pushed back, noting that several committees are doing investigations already and they had already been successful in one court case. But the members, several of whom have spoken publicly about the need to be more aggressive with Trump, are increasingly impatient with the careful approach. Other Democrats in the meeting siding with Raskin included Rhode Island Rep. David Cicilline, California Rep. Ted Lieu and freshman Colorado Rep. Joe Neguse.
Just before the start of the meeting, Cicilline tweeted: “If Don McGahn does not testify tomorrow, it will be time to begin an impeachment inquiry of @realDonaldTrump.”
In the hours after the discussion, Pelosi and Nadler met privately. Shortly after emerging from that meeting, Nadler said “it’s possible” when asked about impeachment hearings. But he noted that Democrats had won a court victory without having to take that step.