Democrats writ­ing more sub­poe­nas than laws Im­peach­ment in­quiries side­line House Speaker Pelosi’s agenda

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY STEPHEN DI­NAN AND GABRIELLA MUÑOZ

Thanks to a flurry of Ukraine ac­tiv­ity, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her Demo­cratic ma­jor­ity have ap­proved more sub­poe­nas to in­ves­ti­gate Pres­i­dent Trump than they have writ­ten laws.

The sub­poena is­sued last week to for­mer Am­bas­sador Wil­liam Tay­lor marked the 56th that has been pub­licly ac­knowl­edged and aimed at Mr. Trump and his team. That is 10 more than the 46 House bills that have be­come law this year.

It’s far from a sub­poena record, but it is com­pli­cat­ing Mrs. Pelosi’s at­tempt to por­tray her troops as fo­cused on their agenda.

Per­haps more wor­ry­ing to Mrs. Pelosi’s cause is the con­clu­sion of a for­mer se­nior over­sight at­tor­ney for the House, who said the spate of sub­poe­nas is­sued this month as part of Democrats’ im­peach­ment in­quiry is il­le­gal.

Samuel Dewey, a lawyer at McDer­mott Will & Emery who used to lead in­ves­ti­ga­tions for the House Fi­nan­cial Ser­vices Com­mit­tee, said the House Per­ma­nent Se­lect Com­mit­tee on In­tel­li­gence, led by Rep. Adam B. Schiff of Cal­i­for­nia, is not au­tho­rized un­der the rules to lead an im­peach­ment probe.

“Un­less there’s a bunch of stuff that’s not public, which would in it­self be ex­tra­or­di­nary, there is no way he has ju­ris­dic­tion to con­duct an im­peach­ment in­quiry. I think his pro­ceed­ing is il­le­gal,” Mr. Dewey said.

Mr. Schiff’s im­peach­ment in­quiry sub­poe­nas have all cen­tered around Mr. Trump’s at­tempts to rope Ukraine into in­ves­ti­gat­ing a po­ten­tial po­lit­i­cal op­po­nent, for­mer Vice Pres­i­dent Joseph R. Bi­den. The Wash­ing­ton Times counts 15 pub­licly ac­knowl­edged sub­poe­nas is­sued on the Ukraine mat­ter so far, in­clud­ing the one Tues­day to Mr. Tay­lor.

The House also has ap­proved 22 sub­poe­nas re­lated to spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Rus­sian med­dling and Trump cam­paign be­hav­ior in 2016, seven sub­poe­nas deal­ing with the pres­i­dent’s fi­nances, three con­cern­ing White House mat­ters such as se­cu­rity clear­ances or the ac­tiv­i­ties of Trump aide Kellyanne Con­way, five sub­poe­nas over im­mi­gra­tion pol­icy, three over Mr. Trump’s now-aban­doned at­tempt to ask about ci­ti­zen­ship on the 2020 cen­sus, and one sub­poena to the State Depart­ment over U.S. pol­icy in Afghanista­n.

Those are pub­licly ac­knowl­edged sub­poe­nas that have been ap­proved or for which chair­men have given no­tice. Other sub­poe­nas may have been sent in se­cret, which would mean the ra­tio of sub­poe­nas to bills could be even higher.

“This is be­com­ing a do-noth­ing Congress, and it will ul­ti­mately cost them the ma­jor­ity in 2020,” said Corey Le­wandowski, a con­fi­dant of Mr. Trump and the tar­get of one of the 56 sub­poe­nas, sent in Au­gust.

Mr. Le­wandowski ques­tioned the way Democrats went about call­ing him. He said it seemed more about con­fronta­tion than get­ting in­for­ma­tion.

His sub­poena was is­sued even though his at­tor­ney told the House Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee that he was will­ing to tes­tify vol­un­tar­ily — as he had al­ready done for two other com­mit­tees. But Chair­man Jer­rold Nadler of New York is­sued a sub­poena any­way. Mr. Le­wandowski said he learned about it first from a re­porter, hours be­fore his own at­tor­ney re­ceived no­tice from the com­mit­tee.

“Per­haps they wanted to make it a me­dia story,” he said. “I think that the hear­ing it­self was for show.”

He pointed out that the sub­poena was is­sued the same day Mr. Trump was trav­el­ing to New Hamp­shire, where he all but en­dorsed a po­ten­tial U.S. Se­nate bid for Mr. Le­wandowski.

He also said the com­mit­tee treated him dif­fer­ently than Mr. Mueller, who, un­like Mr. Le­wandowski, de­manded to be sub­poe­naed.

When dur­ing his July hear­ing a law­maker asked Mr. Mueller to read parts of his re­port and he de­clined, the com­mit­tee ac­cepted that. When Mr. Le­wandowski was asked and tried to de­cline, he was cas­ti­gated.

“I just wanted to be treated the same,” he said. “I don’t think they did that.”

Mr. Le­wandowski said he doesn’t ques­tion the le­gal­ity of his sub­poena. By that point, Mr. Nadler was ar­gu­ing to the courts that he was en­gaged in an im­peach­ment in­quiry and had re­ceived his com­mit­tee’s ap­proval for 18 sub­poe­nas re­lated to the Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

That probe pe­tered out af­ter Mr. Le­wandowski’s tes­ti­mony.

Now the fo­cus is on Ukraine, and Mr. Nadler’s com­mit­tee has been side­lined.

The Wash­ing­ton Times reached out to staff for Mr. Nadler’s com­mit­tee and three oth­ers re­spon­si­ble for al­most all of the sub­poe­nas. None of them re­sponded.

But Rep. Ger­ald E. Connolly, a Vir­ginia Demo­crat and se­nior mem­ber of the Over­sight and Re­form Com­mit­tee, chal­lenged The Times’ com­par­i­son of laws to sub­poe­nas. He said the House can is­sue the sub­poe­nas on its own but needs co­op­er­a­tion from the Repub­li­can-led Se­nate and Mr. Trump to write leg­is­la­tion.

He said Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell, Ken­tucky Repub­li­can, is re­fus­ing to pass Democrats’ bills, hurt­ing their leg­isla­tive record.

“Some­thing be­comes law when both par­ties vote for it. And we’ve passed eas­ily 100 pieces of leg­is­la­tion wait­ing at the grim reaper’s — Mitch McCon­nell — desk,” he said. “We’ve got at least 100 more ready to go. They won’t bring it up.”

The House is on a good pace with 46 bills signed into law. Eight years ago, when Democrats con­trolled the White House and Se­nate and Repub­li­cans led the lower cham­ber, the House had writ­ten 32 bills signed into law at this point.

In 1995, when Repub­li­cans took both houses of Congress un­der a Demo­cratic pres­i­dent, just 23 House bills were signed into law by this point.

Mrs. Pelosi’s tally this year is in­flated by nine cer­e­mo­nial pieces of leg­is­la­tion, such as re­nam­ing post of­fices. Even among the sub­stan­tive bills, many are tweaks or ex­ten­sions to cur­rent law, leav­ing few mar­quee ac­com­plish­ments.

Mr. Connolly said what­ever the ra­tio, the House is well be­hind Repub­li­cans in terms of sub­poena records. When Repub­li­cans con­trolled the House and Barack Obama was in the White House, he said, the Over­sight and Gov­ern­ment Re­form Com­mit­tee alone fired off “well over 100 sub­poe­nas.”

Dur­ing the 1990s, when Pres­i­dent Clin­ton was in of­fice, Rep. Dan Burton sent out more than 1,000, in­clud­ing one no­to­ri­ous in­ci­dent in which he sent a sub­poena to the wrong per­son be­cause he con­fused two peo­ple with sim­i­lar Asian sur­names.

But Rep. Jim Jor­dan of Ohio, the top Repub­li­can on the over­sight com­mit­tee, said the sub­poena num­bers summed up Mrs. Pelosi’s ten­ure.

“We’ve been say­ing this. When the Democrats are com­pletely fo­cused on at­tack­ing the pres­i­dent, it’s tough to do what’s best for the coun­try,” he told The Times.

Mr. Dewey, the for­mer House at­tor­ney, in­di­cated that Democrats have been more pub­licly con­fronta­tional in their ap­proach to sub­poe­nas than past con­gresses.

He said his own usual ap­proach was to make a vol­un­tary re­quest to a tar­get for doc­u­ments or tes­ti­mony and try to reach ac­com­mo­da­tions with those who re­sisted. Only af­ter that failed would a sub­poena be nec­es­sary, he said. He also said he worked with his coun­ter­parts in the other party, no­ti­fy­ing them when sub­poe­nas were is­sued.

“Hon­estly, if you’re cut­ting cor­ners on pro­ce­dure, my ex­pe­ri­ence is you’re hid­ing some­thing or you’re just lazy,” he said.

Mr. Dewey said Democrats could face a le­gal chal­lenge over any im­peach­men­tre­lated sub­poe­nas be­cause the House has yet to vote to au­tho­rize an in­quiry. Mrs. Pelosi cre­ated an in­quiry by procla­ma­tion, turn­ing the reins over to Mr. Schiff. Mr. Nadler, mean­while, has ar­gued to the courts that he has been in the midst of an in­quiry for months.

Mr. Dewey said those ar­gu­ments aren’t friv­o­lous, but “I think they’re wrong.”

“I do not think as a mat­ter of law that the Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee can ex­er­cise the im­peach­ment power with­out a vote of the full House,” he said. “And I think in­de­pen­dently of that, I do not think any other com­mit­tee can ex­er­cise the im­peach­ment power.”

He said that could be an ar­gu­ment Mr. Trump’s team could make to defy some of the im­peach­ment in­quiry’s de­mands.

“It’s the de­fense to a sub­poena,” he said. “I think that you would have a way to chal­lenge it.”


House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s leg­isla­tive suc­cess tally this year is in­flated by nine cer­e­mo­nial bills, such as re­nam­ing post of­fices. Even among the more sub­stan­tive bills, many are tweaks or ex­ten­sions to cur­rent law, leav­ing few mar­quee ac­com­plish­ments.

Pres­i­dent Trump has been more of a House fo­cus this con­gres­sional ses­sion than leg­is­la­tion to fur­ther the Democrats’ agenda.

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