McGahn, Mnuchin, Mueller: House Democrats target more administration members for contempt – Washington Examiner
House Democrats are ramping up plans to hold more members of the Trump administration in contempt of Congress.
Instead of taking up a newly passed Judiciary Committee resolution holding Attorney General William Barr in contempt, Democratic leaders signaled they’ll hold off on a vote to give other administration officials time to comply with subpoenas House lawmakers issued as part of a sweeping investigation into Trump’s business dealings and political activities.
“There may be some other contempt of Congress issues that we want to deal with at the same time,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Thursday when asked about the timing of a House vote on the Barr contempt citation.
She suggested the House vote on contempt would address “a cumulative effect of obstruction that the administration is engaged in,” in the face of broad inquiries by House committees led by Democrats.
The contempt list could grow to include Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and even special counsel Robert Mueller, whom Democrats had widely praised for his handling of a probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Democrats are also after Don McGahn, Trump’s former White House counsel, who has refused a subpoena to testify before the judiciary panel.
Mueller’s name went on the list Friday, when Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler announced he has not yet been able to reach a deal with the Justice Department for Mueller to testify before the committee.
Democrats believed Mueller was going to appear next week, but he won’t be coming.
“He will come at some point,” Nadler, D-N.Y., said to reporters. “If it’s necessary, we’ll subpoena him and he will come.”
A subpoena could lead to a contempt charge if Mueller does not show up, although it’s not clear whom Democrats would blame.
Mueller’s testimony hinges on Barr, who oversees the special counsel’s office.
Barr initially told lawmakers he did not oppose Mueller testifying, but a source close to the talks said Mueller’s appearance is now complicated by the contempt charge leveled against Barr this week.
Democrats cited Barr for refusing to turn over Mueller’s unredacted report into Russian collusion. Barr, however, was legally required to hold back the redacted material because it included grand jury and classified information.
Barr’s office had been negotiating with Nadler when Nadler abandoned talks and went ahead with the contempt vote, further straining relations between the House panel and the Justice Department.
If Barr refuses to allow Mueller to testify, Democrats could ultimately vote to hold Barr in contempt a second time.
Mnuchin faces a similar quandary.
He is refusing to turn over six years of President Trump’s tax returns subpoenaed by the House Ways and Means Committee. Trump does not want the material turned over to House Democrats, whom he believes are using the investigations to damage him politically.
Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass., is weighing how to enforce the subpoena, but some Democrats are eager to punish Mnuchin with a contempt citation.
“I think there have to be consequences and I’m going to leave that to the chair for now, but I personally think, yes, that if you’re not going to follow the law, it’s time for people to start having consequences,” Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., told CNN when asked whether Mnuchin should be held in contempt of Congress.
Democrats could also leave Mnuchin alone and cite IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig with contempt for withholding the tax records. Neal subpoenaed Rettig and Mnuchin on Friday. Neal gave them a May 17 deadline to turn over Trump’s personal and business tax returns dating back six years.
McGahn seems destined for a contempt citation.
He has refused to comply with a subpoena to turn over specific documents by May 7 and to testify on May 21.
The Trump administration cited “significant Executive Branch confidential interests and Executive privilege.”
Nadler wrote to McGahn’s lawyer William Burck this week, with a warning.
“I fully expect that the committee will hold Mr. McGahn in contempt if he fails to appear before the committee, unless the White House secures a court order directing otherwise,” Nadler wrote.