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US House Dems Move Closer to Holding Trump Officials in Contempt
Written by <a href="index.php?option=com_comprofiler&task=userProfile&user=50517"><span class="small">William Roberts, Al Jazeera</span></a>   
Saturday, 08 June 2019 08:31

Excerpt: "A US House of Representatives committee unveiled a resolution on Thursday to hold Attorney General William Barr and former White House Counsel Don McGahn in civil contempt for refusing to testify about Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia probe."

William Barr. (photo: Tom Williams/Getty Images)
William Barr. (photo: Tom Williams/Getty Images)

US House Dems Move Closer to Holding Trump Officials in Contempt

By William Roberts, Al Jazeera

08 June 19

Measure sets up court fight with White House over access to witnesses, documents subpoenaed by committees probing Trump.

US House of Representatives committee unveiled a resolution on Thursday to hold Attorney General William Barr and former White House Counsel Don McGahn in civil contempt for refusing to testify about Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia probe.

The resolution authorises House lawyers to seek enforcement in federal court of subpoenas issued to Barr, McGahn and other present and former Trump administration officials. Democratic leaders intend to bring the measure to a vote in the full House on Tuesday.

"The Trump administration is waging an unprecedented campaign of stonewalling and obstruction on issues the American people care about, including its attack on healthcare, its inhumane family separation policy, and the countless egregious examples laid out in the Mueller report," Representative James McGovern, chairman of the Rules Committee, said in a statement.

US President Donald Trump has been engaged in a battle with House Democrats over access to witnesses and documents since the release of the redacted version of an investigative report of Mueller's inquiry into Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election.

Attorney General Barr has refused to appear before the House Judiciary Committee to explain his handling of the special counsel investigation into Russian interference.

Trump instructed McGahn, who was the top lawyer in Trump's White House until October 2018, not to comply with a Judiciary Committee request for his testimony and notes. McGahn is a key witness to many of the possible obstruction of justice incidents identified by Mueller.

The Judiciary Committee voted to hold Barr in contempt on May 8. Subsequent negotiations between the committee and Barr for access to the full report have failed to yield an agreement.

President Trump is engaged in "one of the largest cover-ups in any administration that I can recall," House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told reporters on Capitol Hill earlier this week.

Mueller's 22-month investigation was unable to establish a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia despite finding significant contacts between Trump associates and Russians.

Mueller declined to make a judgment on whether Trump obstructed justice, though the report outlined 10 instances in which Trump tried to impede the investigation.

Barr and former deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein subsequently determined Trump had not broken the law.

Breaking his silence and prompting rising calls on Capitol Hill for impeachment proceedings, Mueller said on May 29 that charging Trump was never an option for his team of prosecutors, citing Justice Department guidelines that prohibit charging a sitting president.

"Charging the president with a crime was ... not an option we could consider," Mueller told reporters. 

"We concluded that we would not reach a determination one way or the other about whether the president committed a crime," he said. "If we had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so. We did not, however, make a determination as to whether the president did or did not."

Trump has repeatedly called the Mueller investigation a "witch-hunt" and since its conclusion has called on politicians to "move on". 

Series of investigations

Since winning control of the House in November 2018, Democrats had opened a series of investigations into Trump's alleged obstruction of justice and abuses of power. The president has responded by directing his administration officials not to comply with any subpoenas or oversight requests.

"That is unacceptable, contrary to the constitution and contrary to the interests of the American people," Hoyer said.

Most recently, the Judiciary Committee issued subpoenas to Hope Hicks, Trump's former White House director of communications, and to Annie Donaldson, who was McGahn's secretary and who provided extensive testimony to Mueller. They have both been told by Trump's White House lawyers not to cooperate with Congress.

Tuesday's vote, if passed, would pave the way for the House Ways and Means Committee to move forward with legal proceedings to obtain six years of Trump's tax returns. The House Oversight Committee is preparing to enforce a subpoena to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross for testimony and documents related to Trump's push to add a citizenship question to the upcoming 2020 census.

The contempt resolution clarifies short-cut procedures allowing House committees to seek court enforcement of subpoenas with approval from a five-member panel, called the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group, without having to obtain approval from the full House.

"This is the way to enforce the subpoenas and compel witnesses to testify," Hoyer said.

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-9 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2019-06-08 10:22
All of this just seems like theatre to me. Barr did agree to testify but not if the questions were asked by attorneys hired by congress. Lots of witnesses negotiate the terms of their appearance.

More important, Barr does not really know anything. He did give to the committee a 99% unredacted version of the Mueller report. Nader did not read it. He wants the whole thing made available to the public. But he can't really want this. People will find out how one-sided and dishonest the Mueller report really is.

The person who needs to be subpoenaed is Mueller. He knows everything. He challenged congress in somewhat veiled terms to impeach Trump. He must have his reasons. Why would congress not want to hear them. Mueller does not want to testify because he knows republicans will eat him alive with hard questions about how the probe was staffed and why he omitted all the exculpatory evidence he clearly knew about. But that's the risk Mueller will have to take.

A contempt citation for Barr is just playing to the media. They love it, but it will do no good. It really does appear as a form of harassment.
+2 # wilhelmscream 2019-06-08 10:41
It’s about TIME!!
+4 # chapdrum 2019-06-08 12:22
Inching their way.