House Democrats Move To Enforce Subpoenas
Washington, DC -- The House is giving its committees some teeth to enforce subpoenas against the Trump administration. A Democratic resolution authorizes committee chairs to take the administration to court to enforce subpoenas that are not honored.
The vote on Tuesday afternoon was 229-191.
Former White House counsel Don McGahn recently ignored a subpoena to testify and provide documents related to Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation. The White House ordered McGahn not to cooperate.
The House did not vote on moving forward with a criminal contempt citation against either Barr or McGahn, as the resolution is only focused on civil court action to enforce House subpoenas.
The vote comes a day after House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler announced his deal with the Justice Department to give the committee access to Mueller documents. Nadler is seeking notes authored by former White House officials and notes of the FBI's interviews with witnesses, although the White House will likely have an opportunity to weigh in on congressional access to at least some of the documents lawmakers have demanded -- a signal that a longer, more complicated process could be on the horizon.
In addition to the subpoenas for Barr and McGahn, the resolution also includes language empowering committees to go to court to enforce subpoenas in the future while bypassing a floor vote, a potential prelude to more litigation pitting the Trump administration against House Democrats.
Already, the House is fighting a number of lawsuits against the Trump administration as well as the Trump Organization, including related to the Affordable Care Act, Trump's border wall and subpoenas to banks and accounting firms.
House Democratic aides expect that the House will move swiftly to go to court to try to force McGahn to testify after he skipped an appearance under subpoena last month.
A Justice Department official said the department views Tuesday's vote as only dealing with court action, and not related to contempt.
But more contempt fights -- and likely lawsuits -- are looming. House Oversight Chairman Elijah Cummings announced Monday evening that his committee would vote Wednesdayto hold Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in contempt of Congress over that panel's subpoenas in its investigation into adding a citizenship question on the 2020 Census.
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