The Trump administration is showing that it has “gone to the mattresses” in the upcoming battle against efforts of House Democrats to harass and intimidate members of the administration. Earlier in the week, the Administration informed Carl Kline, the civil servant who approved Jared Kushner’s security clearance, that he could not give testimony to House Democrats unless he was accompanied by a White House lawyer. The White House has announced that it intends to refuse to let from White House counsel Don McGahn testify, citing executive privilege. Another shoe dropped today when the administration informed House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings that John Gore, the head of the Justice Department’s Civil Right Division, would not be made available to give a deposition on the issue of the citizenship question that will appear on the 2020 Census unless he is represented by government counsel.
Stephen Boyd, the department’s top Hill liaison, wrote in the letter, which The Daily Beast obtained, that Gore will not appear as long as Chairman Elijah Cummings blocks him from bringing along lawyers from the Justice Department.
“We are disappointed that the Committee remains unwilling to permit Department counsel to represent the interests of the Executive Branch in the deposition of a senior Department official,” Boyd wrote. “Accordingly, Attorney General Barr’s determination that Mr. Gore will not appear at the Committee’s deposition unless a Department attorney may accompany him remains in effect.”
The committee wants to question Gore about his role in the Trump administration’s effort to add a question to the 2020 Census about citizenship. The committee authorized a subpoena of Gore earlier this month. His refusal to participate in a deposition may result in an effort by the committee to hold him in contempt.
“In keeping with longstanding Department of Justice policy, neither Mr. Gore nor anyone else in the Department will be forced to testify in their capacity as a DOJ official on DOJ matters without DOJ counsel,” said Kerri Kupec, a department spokesperson.
Cummings, predictably, showed just how little he understands about much of anything beyond walking around and acting important.
“This is a massive, unprecedented, and growing pattern of obstruction,” he said. “Yesterday, President Trump declared to the entire country that he would obstruct Congress and order all White House officials to defy lawful subpoenas from Congress. Today, the Trump Administration went even further by expanding this policy to employees at federal agencies—even when the subpoenas are bipartisan and supported by Republican Members of Congress.”
Either Cummings is just a fat, addled buffoon who reads whatever some moron on his staff writes, or he’s a brazen liar.
The administration made it quite clear in the case of both Cline and Gore that they will honor the subpoena if Cummings had the integrity to honor the historic process. Both men are being questioned about official acts and policies. The administration has every right to ensure its equities are protected. In particular, they have a right to ensure that there are witnesses to what was said and how the questioning was conducted so Cummings and Schiff and others can’t go on MSNBC or CNN and make stuff up.
In cases where the White House is asserting privilege, there is no issue with the subpoenas being ignored and the the House Democrats don’t like it they can fight it to the Supreme Court.
Unlike what some Vichy Republicans are saying, Trump does not have any obligation to cooperate with hostile Congressional investigations (see my post). He doesn’t have any obligation to assume good faith in the face of obvious bad faith efforts. As I said in the linked post, Trump knows this fight is over in November 2020. If he loses, it doesn’t matter. If he wins it doesn’t matter. If the Democrats lose the House…entirely possible…it really doesn’t matter. What he can’t afford to do is go into a tough election year with toads like Cummings and Schiff and Nadler setting the agenda for Trump’s reelection campaign.