A House chairman on Monday subpoenaed former White House Counsel Don McGahn as Democratic leaders moved to deepen their investigation of President Donald Trump.
Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler was one of six committee leaders making their case on a conference call with other House Democrats late in the day that they are investigating Trump-related matters ranging from potential obstruction to his personal and business taxes. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi urged divided Democrats to focus on fact-finding rather than the prospect of any impeachment proceedings.
Nadler and the other chairmen made clear they believe Trump did obstruct justice, according to people on the call. McGahn would be a star witness for any such case because he refused Trump’s demand to set Mueller’s firing in motion, according to the report.
“The Special Counsel’s report, even in redacted form, outlines substantial evidence that President Trump engaged in obstruction and other abuses,” Nadler said in a statement released as the conference call got underway. “It now falls to Congress to determine for itself the full scope of the misconduct and to decide what steps to take in the exercise of our duties of oversight, legislation and constitutional accountability.”
The subpoena angered Republicans
Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia, the top Republican on the Judiciary panel, pointed out that McGahn sat for 30 hours of interviews with Mueller and said Nadler was asking for some items that he knows cannot be produced.
Trump insisted he wasn’t worried.
“Not even a little bit,” he said when asked Monday whether he was concerned about impeachment.
“Only high crimes and misdemeanors can lead to impeachment,” Trump said Monday on Twitter. “There were no crimes by me (No Collusion, No Obstruction), so you can’t impeach. It was the Democrats that committed the crimes, not your Republican President!”
Only high crimes and misdemeanors can lead to impeachment. There were no crimes by me (No Collusion, No Obstruction), so you can’t impeach. It was the Democrats that committed the crimes, not your Republican President! Tables are finally turning on the Witch Hunt!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 22, 2019
Pelosi disappointed some Democrats
On the other end of the scale, Pelosi’s approach disappointed some Democrats who are agitating for impeachment proceedings. Rep. Val Demings of Florida said on the call: “As a 27-year law enforcement officer, and while I understand we need to see the full report and all supporting documents, I believe we have enough evidence now.”
After Mueller’s report was released last week, the most prominent of the Democratic freshmen, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, signed on to Rep. Rashida Tlaib’s resolution calling for an investigation into Trump’s conduct and the question of whether it merits a formal impeachment charge in the House.
On Monday, Pelosi’s letter made clear there was no Democratic disagreement that Trump “at a minimum, engaged in highly unethical and unscrupulous behavior which does not bring honor to the office he holds.” But she acknowledged the party’s officeholders have a range of views on how to proceed.
She counseled them repeatedly to go after facts, not resort to “passion or prejudice” in the intense run-up to the 2020 presidential and congressional elections. She is the de facto leader of her party until Democrats nominate a candidate to challenge Trump, so her words echoed on the presidential campaign trail.
“We all firmly agree that we should proceed down a path of finding the truth,” Pelosi wrote. “It is also important to know that the facts regarding holding the president accountable can be gained outside of impeachment hearings.”
How Democrats conference call happened
As the conference call got underway, Nadler’s subpoena announcement was made public, an indication that the facts-first approach was moving ahead. Pelosi, calling from New York City, spoke briefly. Then she put a show of leadership force on the line — six committee chairmen, some of the most powerful people in Congress — to give more details, according to people on the call.
Nadler went first. Others who followed were Oversight and Reform Chairman Elijah Cummings, intelligence committee Chairman Adam Schiff, Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot Engel, Financial Services Chairwoman Maxine Water and Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal.
The call lasted about 90 minutes and included about 170 Democrats, according to a party official.
There’s more coming to keep Trump investigations in public. Congressional panels are demanding the unredacted version of the Mueller report and its underlying material gathered from the investigation. Attorney General William Barr is expected to testify in the House and Senate next week. Nadler has summoned Mueller to testify next month, though no date has been set.
In the face of the intense run-up to the 2020 election, Pelosi implicitly suggested Democrats resist creating episodes like the one in January in which Tlaib was recorded declaring the House would impeach Trump.
“We must show the American people we are proceeding free from passion or prejudice, strictly on the presentation of fact,” Pelosi wrote.
This article was edited by TheBL.