WASHINGTON — Democrats pushed a resolution through the House on Tuesday that will make it easier to sue President Donald Trump’s administration and potential witnesses, paving the way for legal action against those who defy subpoenas in Congress’ Russia probe and other investigations.
The House resolution, approved 229-191, empowers committee chairs to sue top Trump administration officials to force compliance with congressional subpoenas, including those for Mueller’s full report and his underlying evidence. They now no longer need a vote of the full House.
The Judiciary Committee chairman, Rep. Jerry Nadler, of New York, urged his colleagues to support the legislation “so we can get into court and break the stonewall without delay.”
After the vote, Nadler said he would go to court “as quickly as possible” against former White House counsel Don McGahn, who at the behest of the White House has defied subpoenas for documents and his testimony.
The chairman also said he is prepared to go to court to enforce subpoenas against former White House communications director Hope Hicks and Annie Donaldson, a former McGahn aide, if they don’t show up for scheduled interviews this month.
And Nadler added new names to the list, saying he is also interested in hearing from Assistant Attorney General Jody Hunt, who served as former Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ chief of staff, and former White House aide Rick Dearborn. Both are mentioned frequently in the Mueller report.
“Either work with us and comply with subpoenas or we’ll see you in court,” said Rep. James McGovern, D-Mass., the chairman of the Rules Committee.
House leaders have signaled they will hold off on suing Attorney General William Barr, for now, after the committee struck a deal with the Justice Department to receive some underlying materials from Mueller’s report. Nadler has called these some of Mueller’s “most important files” and said all members of the committee will be able to view them. They include redacted portions of the report pertaining to obstruction of justice. Some staff have already started viewing the files.
However, Nadler said the committee will likely sue for access to the report’s secret grand jury information.
The chairmen of several oversight committees said after the vote that Tuesday’s action extends beyond the Russia investigation into other aspects of Trump’s administration, including their subpoena for the president’s tax returns.
“This is not just about Russia, this is a broad, coordinated campaign to stall more investigations across the board,” said Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., the chairman of the Oversight Committee. “We are here in a fight for the soul of our democracy and we will use every single tool that is available to us to hold this administration accountable.”