As­sorted sub­poe­nas tar­get Trump aides

House panel fo­cuses on pair of is­sues


WASH­ING­TON — The House Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee on Thurs­day approved a dozen new sub­poe­nas tar­get­ing wit­nesses cited in Robert Mueller’s re­port as Democrats con­tinue their in­ves­ti­ga­tion into pos­si­ble ob­struc­tion of jus­tice by Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump.

The panel also approved a sep­a­rate group of sub­poe­nas seek­ing in­for­ma­tion about the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s prac­tice of sep­a­rat­ing mi­grant chil­dren from their fam­i­lies at the bor­der.

And House Demo­cratic lead­ers set Tues­day for a full House vote to hold At­tor­ney Gen­eral Wil­liam Barr and Com­merce Sec­re­tary Wil­bur Ross in con­tempt of Congress over their re­fusal to re­lin­quish un­der sub­poena doc­u­ments re­lated to the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s ef­forts to add a ci­ti­zen­ship ques­tion

to the 2020 cen­sus.

“The House will not shirk from its over­sight of this ad­min­is­tra­tion and its ma­lign ef­fort to si­lence the voices of mil­lions in our democ­racy,” said Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., the ma­jor­ity leader, re­fer­ring to fears that a ci­ti­zen­ship ques­tion would dis­suade im­mi­grants from fill­ing out cen­sus forms.

Among the prom­i­nent fig­ures to be sub­poe­naed by the Democrats are Jeff Ses­sions, the former at­tor­ney gen­eral; Rod Rosen­stein, his deputy who ap­pointed Mueller, the former spe­cial coun­sel; John Kelly, the former White House chief of staff; Jared Kush­ner, the pres­i­dent’s sonin-law and se­nior ad­viser; and Corey Le­wandowski, a former Trump cam­paign man­ager. Democrats also autho­rized a sub­poena for David Pecker, who as head of Amer­i­can Me­dia helped kill po­ten­tially em­bar­rass­ing sto­ries about Trump over the years by pay­ing hush money in a prac­tice known as “catch-and-kill.”

White House of­fi­cials could try to in­ter­vene to block tes­ti­mony from many of those sub­poe­naed Thurs­day who are cur­rent or former high-level ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials, as they have with other wit­nesses.

That would only deepen the stand­off be­tween the ad­min­is­tra­tion and the House. On the cen­sus is­sue, Barr and Ross could still reach an ac­com­mo­da­tion with the House Over­sight and Re­form Com­mit­tee, but Tues­day’s vote would al­low the com­mit­tee to go to court to ob­tain the doc­u­ments and make crim­i­nal re­fer­rals for Barr and Ross to the Jus­tice Depart­ment for de­fy­ing con­gres­sional sub­poe­nas.

De­spite Repub­li­can op­po­si­tion, Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee Democrats who con­trol the com­mit­tee were able to push the sub­poena au­tho­riza­tions through along party lines — promis­ing to jump-start two of their high­est-pri­or­ity over­sight in­ves­ti­ga­tions of Trump and his pres­i­dency. The chair­man, Rep. Jer­rold Nadler, D-N.Y., did not in­di­cate when he would de­ploy the newly autho­rized or­ders.

“The com­mit­tee on the ju­di­ciary has a con­sti­tu­tional obli­ga­tion to in­ves­ti­gate cred­i­ble al­le­ga­tions of mis­con­duct,” Nadler said as he opened the hear­ing. “There is no sub­sti­tute for pri­mary ev­i­dence as the com­mit­tee makes its de­ci­sions.”

Trump posted about the new sub­poe­nas Thurs­day morn­ing on Twit­ter, urg­ing Democrats to “go back to work” on pol­icy is­sues rather than try­ing to take ad­di­tional “bites at the ap­ple” after the con­clu­sion of Mueller’s 22-month in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Rep. Doug Collins of Ge­or­gia, the top Repub­li­can on the com­mit­tee, protested what he called a “sub­poena binge” that was de­signed to pro­voke po­lit­i­cal con­flicts rather than find in­for­ma­tion.

“To­day’s sub­poena binge is an ef­fort to change the nar­ra­tive,” Collins said. “It is a show of force. It is a chance for the chair­man to prove to his rank and file, and the rest of the Demo­cratic cau­cus, he can be tough on the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion after be­ing pushed around for six months.”

The Ju­di­ciary panel is in­ves­ti­gat­ing whether the pres­i­dent ob­structed jus­tice after Mueller’s re­port de­tailed sev­eral episodes of pos­si­ble ob­struc­tion by Trump. Mueller said he could not ex­on­er­ate Trump on ob­struc­tion and in­di­cated in a May news con­fer­ence that it was up to Congress to de­cide what to do with his find­ings.

As part of that in­quiry, Mueller is sched­uled to tes­tify to Congress next week be­fore both the Ju­di­ciary and in­tel­li­gence pan­els for about two hours each. As the hear­ing ap­proaches, Democrats have been in last-minute ne­go­ti­a­tions to fig­ure out the format un­der the tight time con­straints. It’s likely that not ev­ery mem­ber will get to ques­tion Mueller, a point that raised ire among Repub­li­cans at the com­mit­tee meet­ing.

Collins said the panel was “rolled” and is “hav­ing our legs cut out from un­der us by lim­it­ing the ques­tion­ing.” Ari­zona Rep. Deb­bie Lesko, a ju­nior Repub­li­can on the panel, said the de­ci­sion to ex­clude some mem­bers from ques­tion­ing is “just plain wrong.”

“I have been elected just like any­one else here,” she said, spec­u­lat­ing that she’d be one of the mem­bers cut out.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said at a news con­fer­ence that she wishes law­mak­ers had more time with Mueller, but “I’m glad we have the time that we have.”

In addition to Ses­sions and Rosen­stein, the Mueller-re­lated sub­poe­nas tar­get Michael Flynn, Trump’s former na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser; Jody Hunt, Ses­sions’ chief of staff; Rob Porter, a former top White House aide; and Rick Dear­born, another former White House official. Flynn has al­ready been sub­poe­naed by the House In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee.

The immigratio­n-re­lated sub­poe­nas are part of a Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee in­ves­ti­ga­tion of the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s poli­cies at the bor­der. They specif­i­cally au­tho­rize the com­mit­tee to de­mand tes­ti­mony and doc­u­ments from cur­rent and former ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials about its so­called zero-tol­er­ance pol­icy at the bor­der, the prac­tice of sep­a­rat­ing mi­grant fam­i­lies and the stan­dards of detention of mi­grants.

They are also seek­ing in­for­ma­tion about any talk of pres­i­den­tial par­dons for Depart­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity of­fi­cials in­volved in car­ry­ing out the pres­i­dent’s immigratio­n or­ders, de­spite the pos­si­bil­ity that some might vi­o­late the law.

Nadler said Thurs­day that he was pur­su­ing a com­pul­sory process be­cause the Jus­tice Depart­ment had failed to mean­ing­fully com­ply with vol­un­tary re­quests for the same in­for­ma­tion. The Home­land Se­cu­rity and Health and Hu­man Ser­vices de­part­ments, he added, had largely com­plied with sim­i­lar re­quests.

“We have given the ad­min­is­tra­tion am­ple time to re­spond to these se­ri­ous re­ports of egre­gious con­duct,” Nadler said. “This com­mit­tee can­not sit idly by. There must be over­sight and ac­count­abil­ity.”


The House Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee “has a con­sti­tu­tional obli­ga­tion to in­ves­ti­gate cred­i­ble al­le­ga­tions of mis­con­duct,” the panel’s chair­man, Rep. Jer­rold Nadler, said as he opened Thurs­day’s hear­ing.

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