Don McGahn skips House hearing on the Mueller report
The House Judiciary Committee just adjourned today's hearing. Former White House counsel Don McGahn was scheduled to testify during it, but he skipped.
The hearing finished after 21 members voted to adjourn. Another 13 voted no.
Former White House counsel Don McGahn was scheduled to testify before the House Judiciary Committee about the Mueller report — but he defied the committee's subpoena and skipped the hearing. However, the committee left out a chair for him today.
Rep. Doug Collins, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, called today's hearing "theater" and blamed Democrats for "desperately to make something out of nothing."
Collins said Chairman Jerry Nadler isn't looking for an investigation, but instead is orchestrating a political stunt.
"The chairman orchestrated today’s confrontation when he could have avoided it because he’s more interested in the fight than the fact finding," he said. "I cannot emphasize this enough — the chairman’s track record demonstrates he does not actually want information. He wants the fight, but not the truth. The closer he actually comes to obtaining information, the farther away he runs from it."
House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler said he and the rest of the committee will hear former White House counsel Don McGahn's testimony, one way or another.
"Let me be clear: This Committee will hear Mr. McGahn’s testimony, even if we have to go to court to secure it," he said. "We will not allow the President to prevent the American people from hearing from this witness."
He continued: "We will not allow the President to block congressional subpoenas, putting himself and his allies above the law. We will not allow the President to stop this investigation, and nothing in these unjustified and unjustifiable legal attacks will stop us from pressing forward with our work on behalf of the American people."
"We will hold this President accountable, one way or the other," he said.
In his opening statement, Nadler says he believes the episodes in the Mueller report would have led to Trump being charged with obstruction had he not been president, and that his obstruction has continued since the end of the Mueller probe.
"I believe that each of these incidents, documented in detail in the Mueller report, constitutes a crime. But for the Department of Justice’s policy of refusing to indict a sitting President, I believe he would have been charged with these crimes,” Nadler said.
"And I believe that the President’s conduct since the report was released, with respect to Mr. McGahn’s testimony and other information we have sought, has carried this pattern of obstruction well beyond the four corners of the Mueller report,” he added.
House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler just gaveled in for today's session. Former White House counsel Don McGahn was supposed to testify, but he announced he'd skip it after the White House argued that, as a former senior adviser to the President, he is exempt from having to appear before Congress.
In his opening remarks, Nadler argued that the committee's "subpoenas are not optional."
"When this committee issues a subpoena, even to a senior presidential adviser, the witness must show up," he said. "Mr. McGahn has a legal obligation to be here for this scheduled appearance. If he does not immediately correct his mistake, this committee will have no choice but to enforce the subpoena against him."
Nadler added: "Mr. McGahn did not appear today because the President prevented it."
The House Judiciary Committee plans to hold its scheduled oversight hearing on the Robert Mueller report at 10 a.m. Former White House counsel Don McGahn was supposed to be at the hearing — but he decided to skip.
Earlier Monday afternoon, the White House argued that, as a former senior adviser to the President, he is exempt from having to appear before Congress.
This is the second time this month the committee has carried on with a no show witness. Earlier this month, Attorney General William Barr did not testify following a dispute about the hearing format.
Former White House counsel Don McGahn's scheduled testimony today was the subject of much debate. It was always unclear if he would even testify.
Here's what both sides argued:
- Democratic leadership: House Democrats have argued that McGahn and other former White House officials have waived executive privilege by speaking to special counsel Robert Mueller's team. House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler also said that the documents he's seeking are not covered by executive privilege because they were turned over to attorneys outside the White House.
- The White House: The White House counsel's office has countered that it still has the right to invoke executive privilege with respect to congressional investigations, arguing that waiving executive privilege for Mueller's criminal investigation is not the same thing as doing so for a separate branch of government.
Why this matters: It's a move that appears to set the stage for another contempt vote to retaliate against the Trump administration for rejecting the demands of Congress, as committee Chairman Jerry Nadler threatened late Monday to do whatever was necessary to make McGahn appear before his panel, which convenes Tuesday at 10 a.m. ET.
"As with the subpoena for documents, Mr. McGahn again finds himself facing contradictory instructions from two co-equal branches of government," McGahn's attorney William A. Burck said in a letter to Nadler. He added later, "Under these circumstances, and also conscious of the duties he, as an attorney, owes to his former client, Mr. McGahn must decline to appear at the hearing tomorrow."
Hours later, in a letter sent Monday night, Nadler warned McGahn that the committee would use "all enforcement mechanisms at its disposal" to compel his testimony.