House Intel postpones possible contempt vote against Barr


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The House Intelligence Committee has postponed a potential vote to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress, citing efforts by the Justice Department to comply with their demand for access to special counsel Robert Mueller’s files.

“The Department of Justice has accepted our offer of a first step towards compliance with our subpoena, and this week will begin turning over to the Committee twelve categories of counterintelligence and foreign intelligence materials as part of an initial rolling production,” committee chairman Adam Schiff said in a statement Wednesday. “That initial production should be completed by the end of next week.”

The cooperation puts on hold what could have been a second contempt vote against Barr. The House Judiciary Committee took the rare step earlier this month when Barr refused to turn over Mueller’s unredacted report and underlying evidence.

The Justice Department also indicated that its agreement with the Continue reading “House Intel postpones possible contempt vote against Barr”

Dems struggle to secure testimony from a wary Mueller


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House Democrats are scrambling to secure Robert Mueller’s public testimony amid concerns from the special counsel and his staff about what he can share publicly related to his Russia investigation, according to key lawmakers and sources familiar with the talks.

Negotiations between Mueller’s team and staff on the Democrat-led Judiciary and Intelligence Committees have faltered in recent weeks over the best arrangement for open hearings involving the former FBI director. The sources say Mueller has been reluctant to set a firm date for hearings until he gets more clarity from his Justice Department supervisors about the boundaries for what exactly he can publicly discuss that goes beyond what’s in the redacted 448-page report released last month.

“Mueller appears to be a by-the-book guy,” said a source familiar with the negotiations between the special counsel’s team and the Democrats. “As such, he needs clarity about what he can and cannot talk Continue reading “Dems struggle to secure testimony from a wary Mueller”

House Judiciary Committee subpoenas Hope Hicks, Annie Donaldson


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House Democrats on Tuesday issued subpoenas for Hope Hicks, the president’s former adviser and confidant, as well as former White House deputy counsel Annie Donaldson.

The House Judiciary Committee subpoenas request documents from Hicks and Donaldson by June 4, and they request that Hicks testify on June 19 and Donaldson on June 24.

The new push to compel documents and testimony from the former West Wing officials comes amid an increasingly pitched confrontation between House Democrats and the White House, which has tried to block testimony from current and former aides.

Donaldson’s notes on the chaotic atmosphere in the West Wing after special counsel Robert Mueller’s appointment were among Mueller’s most vivid evidence of the president’s state of mind during the Russia probe.

The White House is sure to attempt to prevent Hicks and Donaldson from complying with the committee’s requests, which come on the same day Donaldson’s former Continue reading “House Judiciary Committee subpoenas Hope Hicks, Annie Donaldson”

Pelosi faces rising pressure to launch impeachment inquiry


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Speaker Nancy Pelosi doesn’t want to impeach President Donald Trump, but a growing number of her members are trying to drag her there.

Despite repeated pronouncements from the California Democrat that she doesn’t want to try to remove Trump from office — including taking a hard line in a tense leadership meeting Monday night — Pelosi faces increasing calls from her rank and file to trigger an impeachment inquiry.

"It’s time to start," said Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas), a member of the House Intelligence Committee.

Pelosi is now attempting to keep her caucus in line as the White House continues to fuel the conflict with the new House majority over its investigations. Trump on Tuesday blocked his former White House counsel from testifying in a highly-anticipated hearing with the House Judiciary Committee. Lawmakers on the panel, which has jurisdiction over impeachment proceedings, said former White House counsel Don McGahn’s no-show Continue reading “Pelosi faces rising pressure to launch impeachment inquiry”

Nadler vows accountability after McGahn defies subpoena to testify


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House Democrats convened Tuesday to hear a crucial witness in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation — and for the second time in a month, they came face to face with an empty chair.

Former White House Counsel Don McGahn refused to appear, deferring to President Donald Trump’s instruction that he not testify to the Democrat-led House Judiciary Committee. Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) has warned that McGahn could face stiff consequences for ignoring his subpoena to appear and sent a warning shot at the president Tuesday.

“Let me be clear: this committee will hear Mr. McGahn’s testimony, even if we have to go to court to secure it,” Nadler said at the outset of the hearing.

“We will hold this presideHnt accountable, one way or the other,” Nadler said.

But the empty-chair hearing, just weeks after Attorney General William Barr similarly refused to appear over a disagreement with the Continue reading “Nadler vows accountability after McGahn defies subpoena to testify”

McCabe reveals he’s the one who decided to remove Strzok from Mueller’s team


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It’s long been gospel in the Russia probe: When special counsel Robert Mueller learned of the inflammatory anti-Trump text messages sent by FBI agent Peter Strzok, he immediately removed him from his team.

But in a newly released transcript of a December 2017 interview, former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe told lawmakers that he’s the one who made the call to oust Strzok from the probe, worrying that Strzok’s involvement could taint the special counsel’s work.

In a closed-door interview with the House Judiciary and Oversight Committees, McCabe said he learned of Strzok’s text messages July 27, 2017, and made a quick decision.

"I made the decision to remove him from the investigation that evening," McCabe said at the time.

"That very day you decided to remove him?" wondered Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.)

"I came back from my meeting with the inspector general. I met with a very Continue reading “McCabe reveals he’s the one who decided to remove Strzok from Mueller’s team”

Judge upholds Dem subpoena for Trump financial records


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A federal judge upheld a congressional subpoena seeking President Donald Trump’s financial records from an accounting firm, dealing a blow to the president’s efforts to resist Democratic investigations.

U.S. District Court Judge Amit Mehta’s ruling means that Mazars USA must comply with the House Oversight and Reform Committee’s subpoena for eight years of Trump’s financial records, though the president is certain to appeal the ruling.

The president filed suit last month to block the subpoena, arguing that it amounted to an abuse of congressional authority.

Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) issued the subpoena to Mazars last month as part of the panel’s investigation into whether Trump committed financial crimes before he became president.

In particular, the committee has sought to corroborate specific claims made by Trump’s former personal attorney and fixer Michael Cohen. Earlier this year, Cohen turned over documents to the panel which purport to show Continue reading “Judge upholds Dem subpoena for Trump financial records”

White House instructs McGahn to defy Dem subpoena to testify


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The White House on Monday directed former White House Counsel Don McGahn to defy a subpoena to testify before the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, and the Justice Department released a corresponding legal opinion arguing that McGahn is not obligated to answer lawmakers’ questions.

The move deals a blow to House Democrats, who have sought testimony from McGahn after special counsel Robert Mueller’s report detailed President Donald Trump’s efforts to shut down the Russia probe.

“The Department of Justice has provided a legal opinion stating that, based on long-standing, bipartisan, and constitutional precedent, the former counsel to the president cannot be forced to give such testimony, and Mr. McGahn has been directed to act accordingly,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement. “This action has been taken in order to ensure that future presidents can effectively execute the responsibilities of the Office of the Presidency.”

Though Continue reading “White House instructs McGahn to defy Dem subpoena to testify”

Some Republicans unsettled by Trump’s sweeping claims of immunity


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Senior House Republicans are breaking with Donald Trump over the president’s legal claims that Congress can’t investigate whether a commander in chief violated the law.

That view, advanced by Trump’s personal attorney and the White House counsel late last week, would upend long-held understandings about Congress’ ability to scrutinize presidential conduct — especially alleged criminal activity.

“I’m in Congress. I’m aligned with Congress. I’m not aligned with the executive branch. And I think we have oversight authority over the administration,” said Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.), a member of the House Judiciary Committee. “And if the president has acted illegally, then I think we have oversight authority.”

Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), a veteran lawmaker who first came to Capitol Hill in the early 1980s as a congressional staffer, said he didn’t agree with Trump’s legal theories.

“Obviously there is such a thing as congressional oversight,” Cole said.

Institutionalist-minded Continue reading “Some Republicans unsettled by Trump’s sweeping claims of immunity”

Amid cooperation bid, Flynn messaged top Mueller critic in Congress


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Just months into a cooperation agreement with special counsel Robert Mueller, former national security adviser Michael Flynn sent an unsolicited text message to one of President Donald Trump’s top allies in Congress, urging him to "keep the pressure on."

"You stay on top of what you’re doing. Your leadership is so vital for our country now," Flynn wrote to Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), one of Congress’ most vocal critics of the Mueller investigation. "Keep the pressure on."

POLITICO confirmed the details of the exchange, first reported by CNN, which came in April 2018, just five months into Flynn’s cooperation agreement with Mueller. Flynn began assisting Mueller’s probe after a Dec. 1, 2017 guilty plea on charges that he made false statements to the FBI about contacts with Russia’s ambassador.

Flynn sent Gaetz a separate set of messages on Feb. 14, 2019, the day Attorney General William Barr Continue reading “Amid cooperation bid, Flynn messaged top Mueller critic in Congress”

Prosecutors: Person ‘connected to’ Congress tried to influence Flynn’s cooperation with Mueller


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An unnamed person “connected to … Congress” allegedly attempted to influence former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s willingness to cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe, according to a filing unsealed in federal court Thursday.

In a newly unredacted filing from prosecutors related to Flynn’s sentencing – originally submitted to a federal judge in December – Mueller’s team revealed that Flynn assisted Mueller’s investigation of efforts by President Donald Trump and his allies to thwart Mueller’s probe.

“The defendant informed the government of multiple instances, both before and after his guilty plea, where either he or his attorneys received communications from persons connected to the Administration or Congress that could’ve affected both his willingness to cooperate and the completeness of that cooperation,” according to the newly revealed portion of the filing. “The defendant even provided a voicemail recording of one such communication.”

Though Mueller’s report spelled out potential efforts Continue reading “Prosecutors: Person ‘connected to’ Congress tried to influence Flynn’s cooperation with Mueller”

No more ‘do-over’ probes: White House claps back at Dem subpoenas


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The White House on Wednesday issued a long-delayed response to House Democrats’ sweeping investigation into abuses of power by President Donald Trump, characterizing the probe as a politically-motivated “do-over” of special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation and suggesting Trump might assert executive privilege to shield internal documents.

In a 12-page letter to House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler, White House Counsel Pat Cipollone argued that Nadler’s inquiry is an improper assertion of congressional authority and intended to "harass" a political opponent rather than drive legislation. Cipollone called on Nadler to cancel his investigation altogether.

"Under the circumstances, the appropriate course is for the Committee to discontinue the inquiry discussed in the March 4 letter," he wrote. "Unfortunately, it appears that you have already decided to press ahead with a duplicative investigation, including by issuing subpoenas, to replow the same ground the Special Counsel has already covered. I ask that you reconsider Continue reading “No more ‘do-over’ probes: White House claps back at Dem subpoenas”

Dems tee up new document fight with DOJ over Obamacare


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House Democrats are mounting yet another confrontation with the Justice Department that could lead to subpoenas, but this time it’s not about special counsel Robert Mueller’s report — it’s about health care.

Five committee chairman foreshadowed a possible subpoena as soon as May 24 if Attorney General William Barr declines to provide documents related to his decision to stop defending the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act — the health care law signed by President Barack Obama in 2010.

In letters to Barr and White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, the chairmen say they’ve been asking since April 8 for documents connected to the decision, as well as testimony from four key officials involved in the effort. The request, they said, sought a response by April 22 but that the reply fell short. Now, they’ve giving the Justice Department two more weeks to meet the committees’ demands. They’re also asking Continue reading “Dems tee up new document fight with DOJ over Obamacare”

Judge set to rule on Trump’s subpoena challenge


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President Donald Trump’s strategy of outright resistance to House subpoenas will face its first test in federal court on Tuesday, setting up a ruling that could boost Democrats’ efforts to investigate the president’s business dealings.

U.S. District Court Judge Amit Mehta is set to rule on the Democrat-led House Oversight and Reform Committee’s subpoena to accounting firm Mazars USA for eight years of Trump’s financial records. The committee’s demand is part of its investigation into alleged financial crimes committed by Trump.

Trump filed suit seeking to invalidate the subpoena three weeks ago — the first of two lawsuits aimed at hobbling House Democrats’ investigations targeting his administration, presidential campaign and business empire.

Mehta’s ruling will represent a flashpoint in the myriad disputes between the White House and Congress — marking the first time the judiciary weighs in on Trump’s blanket strategy of refusing to comply with congressional subpoenas and Continue reading “Judge set to rule on Trump’s subpoena challenge”

Nadler squeezed with calls for ‘inherent contempt’


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House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler is in a bind.

A growing number of Democratic committee members are pushing Nadler to take more aggressive steps to force President Donald Trump and top administration officials to comply with a host of congressional subpoenas. Some lawmakers even want Congress to dust off its little-used authority to fine or even jail witnesses, something that the House hasn’t done in more than 80 years and is ill prepared to execute.

But Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her leadership team worry that such moves, while pleasing to a party base that loathes the president, would backfire and boost Trump politically.

Caught in the middle is Nadler, a 71-year-old Democrat who has long been a thorn in Trump’s side. Anything he does will displease some key constituency — either at home in his New York City district, in his committee room in the Rayburn House Office Building, Continue reading “Nadler squeezed with calls for ‘inherent contempt’”

Pelosi hints at contempt charges against multiple Trump associates


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Speaker Nancy Pelosi suggested Thursday that the House could pursue contempt charges against multiple people in Donald Trump’s orbit — not just Attorney General William Barr — as Democrats look to overcome the president’s blanket effort to hobble their investigations.

Pelosi declined to provide a timeline for when the full House would vote to hold Barr in contempt of Congress for failing to provide the unredacted Mueller report, telling reporters there may be other related “issues” Democrats will want to handle simultaneously.

“When we’re ready we’ll come to the floor,” Pelosi said, a day after the House Judiciary Committee approved the contempt resoluion. “And we’ll just see because there may be some other contempt of Congress issues that we might want to deal with at the same time.”

Pelosi’s comments indicate Democrats could wait weeks to take further action against Barr, while they determine whether other Cabinet officials are Continue reading “Pelosi hints at contempt charges against multiple Trump associates”

Trump investigations: A list of ongoing battles with Congress


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The White House has repeatedly rebuffed House Democrats’ oversight demands, from requests for President Donald Trump’s taxes to testimony from the former White House counsel. Democrats have gone so far as to issue subpoenas in some cases, but Trump has vowed to fight each one.

Here are the major battles being waged and where they stand:

MUELLER REPORT

Democratic demand: The House Judiciary Committee issued a subpoena for the unredacted Mueller report and all underlying evidence.

White House pushback: The Justice Department has refused, citing laws blocking the disclosure of grand jury information. Democrats issued a subpoena for the report on April 19 and the Justice Department defied a May 1 deadline, citing efforts to work with Congress to provide a largely unredacted report to a select group of senior lawmakers. The committee voted on May 8 to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress for Continue reading “Trump investigations: A list of ongoing battles with Congress”

Nadler: Trump claim of executive privilege could delay Mueller testimony


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The Justice Department’s sweeping effort to block congressional access to the Mueller report could complicate Democrats’ efforts to bring special counsel Robert Mueller in as a witness, a top Democrat told POLITICO on Wednesday.

Noting that Mueller is still an employee of the Justice Department, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler said a likely claim of executive privilege — which the Justice Department threatened to pursue late Tuesday — could succeed in delaying the House’s efforts to access Mueller’s report and hear his testimony.

“It could while he’s still an employee of the Department. But that’s only for a couple weeks,” Nadler said.

Nadler said he hasn’t received a definitive assurance about when Mueller intends to leave the Justice Department but that “by all accounts it’s very short.” He indicated that he’s banking on Mueller’s departure to ease his path to testifying to the Judiciary Committee.

It’s unclear whether Continue reading “Nadler: Trump claim of executive privilege could delay Mueller testimony”

DOJ makes offer to Dems in bid to avert Barr contempt vote


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The Justice Department offered on Tuesday to allow more congressional staffers access to a less-redacted version of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report — an attempt to head off a Wednesday vote to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress for defying a Democratic subpoena for Mueller’s entire findings and evidence.

The concessions also included allowing a select number of senior lawmakers — just 12 have been allowed access to the less-redacted version — to keep their handwritten notes on the report.

But importantly, the offer does not include allowing additional lawmakers to view the document, and those who can would still be forbidden from discussing it or sharing their notes with colleagues — leaving a key demand from Democrats unresolved.

According to two sources familiar with Tuesday’s negotiating session, the Justice Department offered to allow each of the lawmakers to bring two staffers — instead of just one Continue reading “DOJ makes offer to Dems in bid to avert Barr contempt vote”

Don McGahn won’t comply with House Democrats’ subpoena


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Former White House Counsel Don McGahn will not comply with a congressional subpoena for documents related to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, after the White House instructed him not to abide by House Democrats’ demands.

Current White House counsel Pat Cipollone told McGahn’s attorney that the White House provided McGahn documents related to the Mueller probe but retains control of the material.

“The White House records remain legally protected from disclosure under longstanding constitutional principle, because they implicate significant executive branch confidentiality interests and executive privilege,” Cipollone’s letter stated.

The House Judiciary Committee gave McGahn a Tuesday deadline to turn over the documents.

Trump earlier in May said he didn’t want McGahn to testify before Congress.

According to Mueller’s report, McGahn told investigators that Trump instructed him to tell Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to fire Mueller. McGahn considered quitting in protest.

Article originally published on POLITICO Magazine