In a vote along party lines, the U.S. House on Tuesday approved a resolution from Democrats to more swiftly authorize court action against Trump Administration officials who have refused to comply with subpoenas from various committees in Congress, as Democrats accused the White House of a broad effort to stonewall legitimate investigations by the Legislative Branch into the Russia investigation and other matters.
"President Trump himself has said, 'we are fighting all subpoenas,'" said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who joined Democrats on the House floor in saying the Executive Branch cannot ignore oversight by the Congress.
"His administration has employed every tool it can to obstruct legitimate committee oversight," the Speaker added, as this measure specifically noted subpoenas for the Attorney General, and a former White House Counsel.
"This Administration has repeatedly behaved in a lawless manner, as thought they should not be accountable to anyone," said Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA).
.@realDonaldTrump has vowed to fight all subpoenas. And true to his word, he has blocked key witnesses from testifying before the @HouseJudiciary, including his former @WhiteHouse Counsel, Don McGahn, whose account of the President’s actions was featured in the #MuellerReport.— House Judiciary Dems (@HouseJudiciary) June 11, 2019
“Today’s vote should send a very clear message to the entire administration that Congress will not tolerate anyone’s refusal to cooperate with our efforts to hold this administration accountable to the people it is supposed to be serving,” said Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO).
In debate on the House floor, Democrats rattled off a number of investigations where they say subpoenas have simply been ignored by the Trump Administration; among the examples:
+ Subpoenas for documents related to the Mueller probe
+ A subpoena for testimony by former White House Counsel Don McGahn
+ A request to the IRS for the President's tax returns
+ Subpoenas about the 2020 Census form
+ Documents concerning security clearances issued by the White House
Republicans said it was all political theater, and a power grab by Democrats in the House.
"Using untested tactics like this could set dangerous precedent that harms us all," said Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK).
H.Res 430 is an assault on this body’s constitutional oversight authorities. We are gambling with the power of a coequal branch. This approach is untested and could do significant harm to Congress’ Article I authority. pic.twitter.com/gOXyrM3ESl— Rep. Doug Collins (@RepDougCollins) June 11, 2019
The vote came a day before the House Oversight Committee was expected to vote on a resolution to find Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in contempt of Congress, for refusing to turn over information related to the investigation of Trump Administration efforts to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census form.
"The Trump Administration defied all three subpoenas," Democrats on the panel wrote in a report for Wednesday's proceedings, as they accused the White House of trying to 'stymie' the committee's investigation by slowing the availability of witnesses.
"The Department of Commerce and the Department of Justice have obstructed the committee's investigation," the report declares.
Democrats made clear they were ready to go to court to enforce their subpoenas.
Walking onto the House floor, Nadler says he wants to file lawsuits to enforce subpoenas "as soon as possible" after the resolution passes, but said timing is up to House counsel.— Jeremy Herb (@jeremyherb) June 11, 2019
Judiciary is likely to sue to enforce the McGahn subpoena and for the Mueller grand jury material
The House vote came a day after the Justice Department had agreed to turn over some of the underlying investigative materials from the Mueller Report, dealing with questions surrounding obstruction of justice by the President.