POLITICS

Here's How Congress Is Fighting To Get Answers From Trump

His administration won't give the House answers on the Mueller report, Trump's obstruction of justice and his personal finances, among other things.

House Democrats have issued nine subpoenas for testimony or documents from the Trump administration. President Donald Trump is fighting almost all of them.

The highest profile standoff stems from Attorney General William Barr’s refusal to comply with the House Judiciary Committee’s subpoena for the full, unredacted version of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 election and the probe’s underlying evidence. The committee voted Wednesday to hold Barr in contempt for his failure to comply with its request. The White House responded by declaring the report covered by executive privilege.

The confrontation is just one example of Trump’s unprecedented blanket obstruction of congressional investigations. The president’s declaration that he will fight “all the subpoenas” has caused his administration to disobey laws requiring the transmission of executive branch information to Congress. And the president has personally sued to prevent third parties from giving documents to Congress.

Trump’s declaration of open conflict between the executive and legislative branches represents a “constitutional crisis,” according to House Judiciary Committee chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.).

Here are all of the investigations the Trump administration is fighting and seeking to thwart:

The Mueller Report

The House Judiciary Committee voted to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress on Wednesday for failing to
The House Judiciary Committee voted to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress on Wednesday for failing to produce documents under subpoena.

The House Judiciary Committee authorized a subpoena for the full, unredacted Mueller Report and the underlying grand jury evidence on April 3. Barr refused to provide it.

Instead, he offered to allow 12 senior lawmakers ― six from each party ― to read at the Department of Justice a less-redacted version than he had submitted to Congress. Each lawmaker would be allowed to have one staff member to be present, but no one could take notes.

Committee Democrats refused the offer and moved toward holding Barr in contempt of Congress.

In a last-ditch effort to avert the contempt vote by the committee, the DOJ offered to allow the 12 lawmakers to each bring two staff members with them and that they could make notes.

The committee rejected this offer, leading to the contempt vote on Barr and the White House’s executive privilege assertion.

“In the coming days, I expect that Congress will have no choice but to confront the behavior of this lawless administration,” Nadler said after the White House’s executive privilege declaration. “The committee will also take a hard look at the officials who are enabling this cover-up.”

The House Intelligence Committee issued its own subpoena for the unredacted Mueller report and the underlying evidence on Wednesday.

Don McGahn

The House Judiciary Committee subpoenaed former White House counsel Don McGahn on April 22 to compel his testimony and for documents related to the Mueller investigation. The Mueller report showed that McGahn rebuffed requests by Trump to fire Mueller and otherwise obstruct the Russia investigation. The committee sought McGahn’s testimony on the president’s acts to obstruct justice and the documents he had already provided to Mueller that detailed his dealings with Trump on the matter.

The White House asserted executive privilege over McGahn’s documents on Tuesday. McGahn announced, through his lawyers, that he would respect the White House’s executive privilege declaration and not hand over the material to the committee.

McGahn is due to testify under order of the committee’s subpoena on May 22. Nadler threatened to hold him in contempt if he fails to appear to testify.

“I fully expect that the committee will hold Mr. McGahn in contempt if he fails to appear before the committee, unless the White House secures a court order directing otherwise,” Nadler wrote to McGahn’s lawyers.

Trump’s Tax Returns

House Ways & Means Committee chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.) on April 3 ordered Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and the Internal Revenue Service to provide him with Trump’s tax returns for the years 2013-2018 under a law allowing the panel to obtain anyone’s taxes.

Mnuchin declared on Monday he would break the law by not handing over Trump’s returns.

The committee will decide later on Thursday whether to go to court to enforce the law.

Jared Kushner’s Security Clearance

Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law, received a security clearance over objections raised by career security profession
Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law, received a security clearance over objections raised by career security professionals.

The House Oversight and Reform Committee subpoenaed former White House personnel director Carl Kline on April 2 as part of an investigation into how several White House officials received security clearances over the objections of career security professionals. A whistleblower told the committee about 25 instances in which Kline’s office approved security clearances for White House officials over the objections of career staff.

The most high profile instances in which the professionals were overridden involved Ivanka Trump, the president’s eldest daughter, and her husband, Jared Kushner. The FBI had raised particular concern that Kushner could be an easy mark for foreign influence operations.

The White House ordered Kline not to testify on April 23, which he abided by. Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the committee’s chairman, threatened to hold Kline in contempt, but eventually allowed him to testify behind closed doors with a White House lawyer present on May 1. Kline told the committee that he was not pressured to approve security clearances.

Kline’s testimony was insufficient, according to Cummings, because the White House refused to allow him to explain his decisions to approve specific clearances. Cummings is considering the committee’s next steps, in consulation with other panel members and counsel.

2020 Census Citizenship Question

The House Oversight Committee issued a subpoena with bipartisan support on April 2 for John Gore, deputy assistant attorney general for the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, to testify about the inclusion of a citizenship question on the 2020 census.

Critics claim that adding the question to the census aims to discourage participation by immigrants, creating an artificially low population count in regions with high numbers of such populations. That, in turn, would reduce the apportionment of House seats to these areas.

The Supreme Court has heard arguments on the dispute and is expected to rule soon on it.

The Department of Justice ordered Gore not to comply with the committee’s subpoena under a broad view of executive privilege covering all executive branch deliberations. The House committee has not taken any further action yet, as Cummings ponders next steps.

The committee also subpoenaed the Department of Commerce and the Department of Justice on April 2 for documents related to the decision to include a citizenship question on the census. The subpoenas were directed to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Barr. Neither department has fully provided the requested documents to the panel, instead sending it only materials that were either already publicly available or heavily redacted.

On Tuesday, the committee sent out letters seeking testimony ― although not in the form of a subpoena ― from five Commerce Department officials. The committee previously asked for these officials to testify through their superiors, but this time sent letters directly to them. Those letters stated that the committee could withhold the salary of any official who prevented their testimony.

Child Separation

A two-year old Honduran asylum seeker cries as her mother is searched by border patrol agents. Under the Trump administration
A two-year old Honduran asylum seeker cries as her mother is searched by border patrol agents. Under the Trump administration's child separation policy, children like this one were separated from their family members upon crossing the border.

The House Oversight Committee issued subpoenas with bipartisan backing on Feb. 26 to the Departments of Justice, Homeland Security and Health and Human Services for documents on the Trump administration’s child separation policy at the southern border .

The agencies initially only provided documents on the migrant children separated from their families for two out of 11 categories of information requested by the committee. They claimed it would take months to produce all of the desired information.

The committee scheduled hearings for early April to probe why the agencies were not fully complying with the subpoenas. These hearings were postponed after the panel received concessions from the agencies. This is the only instance of Trump administration agencies reaching an agreement over a recent congressional subpoena.

Trump’s Banks and Accountants

The House Oversight Committee issued a “friendly subpoena” to Mazars USA, Trump’s personal accounting firm, for the president’s financial records on April 15. The accounting firm had requested the committee compel it to release the records through a subpoena.

The House Intelligence Committee and the House Financial Services Committee also issued subpoenas to Deutsche Bank and Capital One for Trump’s financial records and those of his various businesses.

The Oversight Committee sought the documents after Michael Cohen, Trump’s former personal lawyer and fixer, testified that the president routinely falsified financial statements to various financial institutions when pursuing loans or other business deals. The Intelligence and Financial Services committees are seeking the president’s financial records to investigate whether the president is subject to any improper foreign influence.

Trump sued the Oversight Committee on April 22 to prevent it from receiving the documents from Mazars. The president also sued Deutsche Bank and Capital One on April 30 to keep them from handing records to Congress.

Trump Hotel

The House Oversight Committee and the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee have repeatedly requested information from the General Services Administration about Trump’s controversial Washington hotel that operates out of the GSA-owned Old Post Office building.

The committees sought documents and testimony from the GSA to explain how the agency approved the hotel’s continued operation despite the lease stating that it could not be owned or managed by any government official. The panels have also pursued information from the GSA about whether the president influenced the decision to keep the FBI headquarters in place across the street from the Trump International Hotel. They are also seeking documents and testimony from the FBI and DOJ.

The GSA had only provided heavily redacted documents that did not meet the committees’ requests, according to a committee letter sent on March 6. GSA now says that it has provided 5,000 documents to the committees in 2019 and is currently preparing more documents to be handed over.

Stephen Miller

The House Oversight Committee on April 17 asked White House adviser Stephen Miller to testify about the administration’s reshuffling of immigration enforcement officials. The White House declined to allow Miller to testify, citing “long-standing precedent” against White House staff appearing before congressional committees.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article stated incorrectly that the GSA had not provided congressional committees with any requested documents. It has provided some redacted documents.  

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