On Monday this week, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (N.Y.) reached a deal with the U.S. Department of Justice to gain access to background intelligence gathered by the FBI during the Mueller investigation. As part of the agreement, Nadler canceled a House vote, scheduled for Tuesday, June 11, that might have held Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress.
However, on Tuesday, House Democrats proceeded to pressure the Trump White House by voting to pass a civil contempt resolution against Attorney General Barr and former White House Counsel Don McGahn. The resolutions empower congressional committee leaders to pursue civil cases in court in order to enforce subpoenas related to investigations into President Trump.
Passed by a vote of 229-191, and divided along party lines, the civil contempt resolution clears the way for more lawsuits against a range of Trump administration officials, campaign aides, and business associates.
Although Tuesday’s resolution names Attorney General Barr specifically, Nadler has agreed to hold off on filing a civil suit for the time being. Barr has refused to testify before the House Committee and has refused to release the full, unredacted Mueller report. However, he has been amenable to sharing selective information from the Justice Department with Nadler’s committee in private.
In May, President Trump directed former White House counsel McGahn not to comply with a subpoena that sought his testimony before the House Judiciary Committee. McGahn became a key witness during the Mueller investigation when it surfaced that Trump had pressured McGahn to instruct then Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to fire Mueller.
Current White House counsel Pat Cipollone also rejected the House Judiciary Committee’s requests last month for a broad range information and private communications from within the Trump White House. At the time, Cipollone complained, “It appears that the committee’s inquiry [into Trump] is designed, not to further a legitimate legislative purpose, but rather to conduct a pseudo law enforcement investigation on matters that were already the subject of the special counsel’s long-running investigation and are outside the constitutional authority of the legislative branch.”
While House Democrats have struggled to overcome White House resistance to numerous congressional investigations, they have won two recent victories in court.
A U.S. District Court in Washington ruled in favor of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee to enforce a subpoena that would give the committee access to Trump’s financial records. That case now sits before a federal appeals court. Likewise, a U.S. District Court in New York recently refused the Trump administration’s request to block subpoenas from the House Financial Services and Intelligence committees that demand access to Trump’s bank records at nine global banks and financial institutions.
Tuesday’s resolution suggests that more court cases are soon to come.
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