House Committee Warns of ‘Serious Consequences’ as Trump Tells Former Counsel to Ignore Subpoena

WHITE HOUSE — Patsy Widakuswara at the White House contributed to this report.

U.S. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler says the committee is “prepared to use all enforcement mechanisms at its disposal” if former White House Counsel Don McGahn does not comply with an order to show up for testimony Tuesday.

In a letter to McGahn released late Monday, Nadler objected to an order from the White House instructing McGahn not to testify, and to a Justice Department legal opinion stating that Congress cannot force him to appear.

“The committee has made clear that you risk serious consequences if you do not appear tomorrow,” Nadler wrote.

He said President Donald Trump was seeking to “block a former official from informing a coequal branch of government about his own misconduct,” and that the White House order did not excuse McGahn from his obligation to testify.

Nadler further dismissed the opinion from the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel as having “no support in relevant case law” with prior court rulings rejecting the arguments presented.

He said the committee wants to ask McGahn about “instances in which the president took actions or ordered you to take actions that may constitute criminal offenses, including obstruction of justice.”

McGahn’s attorney, William Burck, however, confirmed Monday evening that his client would not appear Tuesday before the House committee.

“Mr. McGahn remains obligated to maintain the status quo and respect the President’s instruction. In the event an accommodation is agreed between the Committee and the White House, Mr. McGahn will of course comply with that accommodation,” Burck said in a statement.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders explained in a statement that the Justice Department “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.”

The Justice Department, in its legal opinion, states: “We provide the same answer that the Department of Justice repeatedly provided for five decades: Congress may not constitutionally compel the President’s senior advisers to testify about their official duties.”

“They’re doing that for the office of the presidency for future presidents,” said President Donald Trump of the Justice Department legal opinion. “They’re not doing that for me.” 

​”I think we’ve been the most transparent administration in the history of our country,” replied Trump to a reporter asking why not just let McGahn testify so the public can have full answers to executive action regarding the Russia investigation. “We want to get on with running the country.”

Trump spoke on the White House South Lawn before boarding Marine One for Joint Base Andrews. From there, he headed to a political rally in Pennsylvania on Air Force One.

In a letter to Nadler, the current White House Counsel to the President, Pat Cipollone, stated that Trump has directed McGahn not to appear at Tuesday’s hearing. 

“This long-standing principle is firmly rooted in the Constitution’s separation of powers and protects the core functions of the Presidency, and we are adhering to this well-established precedent in order to ensure that future Presidents can effectively execute the responsibilities of the Office of the Presidency,” Cipollone writes.

The Democrats have been eager to hear from McGahn, including questioning him about potential obstruction of justice by Trump based on episodes outlined in the report of special counsel Robert Mueller from his investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.

Nadler, last week, stated he was prepared to have his committee vote to hold McGahn in contempt of Congress if the former White House counsel defied the subpoena.

One member of the committee is calling for an impeachment inquiry against the president to commence if McGahn does not testify Tuesday. 

“We simply cannot sit by and allow this president to destroy the rule of law, to subvert the Constitution,” Congressman David Cicilline of the state of Rhode Island said during an interview on U.S. cable news network MSNBC. 

McGahn’s name is mentioned on more than 65 pages of the 448-page Mueller report.

Monday’s pushback by the Justice Department and the White House is the latest instance of the executive branch trying to challenge for power the legislative branch of government with Trump betting the third branch – the judiciary – will back him up with rulings by federal judges, including the Supreme Court. 

“That’s a dangerous game to play, though, because the judiciary is also not going to want to see erosion of their power, even if they see congressional power getting eroded,” predicts Shannon Bow O’Brien, a government professor at the University of Texas. 


DOJ: Trump’s Former Senior Adviser Not Legally Obliged to Testify Before Congress

The Trump administration has instructed former White House counsel Don McGahn to defy a subpoena to testify before the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday. Lawmakers want to question McGahn, a key figure in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation or Russia’s interference with the 2016 U.S. presidential election. The Department of Justice agrees that as a former senior adviser to U.S. President Trump, McGahn is not legally required to appear before Congress. VOA’S Zlatica Hoke reports.


Conservative States Push Abortion Restrictions, Prompting Backlash

Recent moves by several U.S. states to impose strict new limits on abortion have encouraged abortion opponents that they might eventually be able to challenge a 1973 Supreme Court decision that established a constitutional right for women to seek an abortion. The effort has sparked a furious pushback from abortion rights supporters and could elevate the issue ahead of next year’s U.S. presidential election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.


US Senator Convening Meetings to Warn Business, Academia of China Threat

U.S. Senator Mark Warner said on Sunday that he has been organizing meetings between U.S. intelligence officials and the country’s business and academic communities to urge caution in their relationships with China.

“I have been convening meetings between the intelligence community and outside stakeholders in business and academia to ensure they have the full threat picture and hopefully, make different decisions about Chinese partnerships,” Warner said in a statement.

Accusing China of undermining U.S. security, Warner, a Democrat, said the meetings were aimed at increasing awareness about tactics used by China against the United States.

In a series of classified briefings with U.S. companies, the country’s intelligence heads have warned about potential risks of doing business with China, the Financial Times reported earlier on Sunday.

The briefings to educational institutions, venture capitalists and technology firms have been given by Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, along with officials from the FBI and the National Counter-Intelligence and Security Center, the FT reported, citing officials who attended the briefings.

The development comes as the United States and China have been engaged in trade tensions for months over issues including technology, cyber security, tariffs, industrial subsidies and intellectual property rights.

On Thursday, the United States added Huawei Technologies Co Ltd to a trade blacklist, immediately enacting restrictions that will make it extremely difficult for the company to do business with U.S. counterparts.

The move came amid concerns from the U.S. that Huawei’s smartphones and network equipment could be used by China to spy on Americans, allegations the company has repeatedly denied.

The decision was slammed by China, which said it will take steps to protect its companies.


Trump Attacks Fox News in Latest Sign of Strain

President Donald Trump criticized Fox News again Sunday in the latest hint that he is souring on what has been his favorite and most faithful news outlet.

As part of a flurry of afternoon tweets, Trump took the conservative network to task for interviewing Democratic presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg, the 37-year-old mayor of South Bend, Indiana.

“Hard to believe that @FoxNews is wasting airtime on Mayor Pete, as Chris Wallace likes to call him. Fox is moving more and more to the losing (wrong) side in covering the Dems,” Trump wrote, alluding to the Fox interviewer.

Trump added: “Chris Wallace said, ‘I actually think, whether you like his opinions or not, that Mayor Pete has a lot of substance…fascinating biography.’ Gee, he never speaks well of me.”

Trump again mocked Buttigieg, referring to him as Alfred E. Neuman, the goofy, gap-toothed cover boy with protruding ears of U.S. humor magazine Mad.

“Alfred E. Newman will never be president,” Trump wrote, using a more anglicized spelling of the name.

Sunday’s comments were Trump’s most forceful of late against Fox, until now the president’s preferred U.S. news outlet and the one that most often gets to interview him.

Another Trump interview was scheduled on the network for late Sunday.

Trump has been critical of Fox’s coverage of candidates in the crowded race for the Democratic presidential nomination in the 2020 election that will pit one of them against Trump.

Last month, Trump took a swipe at Fox after it hosted a town hall meeting with Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

“So weird to watch Crazy Bernie on @Fox News,” Trump tweeted.

Trump said the audience “was so smiley and nice. Very strange,” and alleged that it had been packed with Sanders supporters.

The president’s ties with the most Trump-friendly U.S. television network have hit a rough patch since the departure from his administration of two former big names at Fox.

These are Bill Shine, a former Fox News executive who served for nine months as White House communications director — Trump’s fifth — and former Fox news anchor Heather Nauert, who was spokeswoman at the State Department.

Nauert had been promoted to a senior State post and then considered for a while as a potential candidate to replace Nikki Haley as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

 


Trump Assails Republican Lawmaker Who Called for Impeachment

U.S. President Donald Trump on Sunday assailed Congressman Justin Amash as “a total lightweight” after the Michigan lawmaker became the first Republican to call for Trump’s impeachment.

The U.S. leader said he was “never a fan” of the five-term member of the House of Representatives, claiming he “opposes me and some of our great Republican ideas and policies just for the sake of getting his name out there through controversy.”

Trump said Amash “is a loser who sadly plays right into our opponents hands!”

Amash, echoing numerous Democratic lawmakers, claimed that Trump “engaged in impeachable conduct” by attempting to obstruct special counsel Robert Mueller’s 22-month investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Some Democratic lawmakers in the House have called for Trump’s impeachment, although House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has not given her approval for the start of any impeachment hearings, while leaving open the possibility as several House committees conduct new investigations of Trump’s business affairs, taxes and his more than two-year tenure in the White House.

Trump has vowed to fight all efforts at subpoenas for information about his conduct and administration policies. Some of the disputes about access to Trump and White House records are already being fought in legal battles, with more likely to come.

Mueller concluded that Trump and his campaign did not collude with Russia to help him win the election, but said it could not reach a decision on whether he obstructed justice. Subsequently, Attorney General William Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein decided obstruction charges were not warranted against Trump.

Amash, after reading the Mueller report, contended in a string of Twitter comments on Saturday that Barr “has deliberately misrepresented Mueller’s report,” saying that Barr “intended to mislead the public” about Mueller’s findings.

Amash said, “Contrary to Barr’s portrayal, Mueller’s report reveals that President Trump engaged in specific actions and a pattern of behavior that meet the threshold for impeachment. In fact, Mueller’s report identifies multiple examples of conduct satisfying all the elements of obstruction of justice, and undoubtedly any person who is not the president of the United States would be indicted based on such evidence.”

A long-standing Justice Department policy says that sitting U.S. presidents cannot be charged with criminal offenses, but can be charged after they leave office.

Amash said, “Impeachment, which is a special form of indictment, does not even require probable cause that a crime [e.g., obstruction of justice] has been committed; it simply requires a finding that an official has engaged in careless, abusive, corrupt, or otherwise dishonorable conduct.”

The congressman said that he thinks “few members of Congress” have read the Mueller report and that “their minds were made up based on partisan affiliation.”

Senator Mitt Romney, a Utah Republican and sometimes Trump critic, told CNN on Sunday that he thinks Amash’s stance was “a courageous statement,” but said that while he was “troubled” by Trump’s conduct as described in the Mueller report, he does not think it rose to the level of the need for impeachment.

Even if the Democratic-controlled House impeached Trump, the Republican-controlled Senate would almost certainly reject removing Trump from office. Romney said, “The Senate is certainly not there yet.”

Trump said that if Amash “actually read the biased Mueller Report, ‘composed’ by 18 Angry Dems who hated Trump, he would see that it was nevertheless strong on NO COLLUSION and, ultimately, NO OBSTRUCTION… Anyway, how do you Obstruct when there is no crime and, in fact, the crimes were committed by the other side?”

 

 

 

 

 


Jimmy Carter Finds Renaissance in 2020 Democratic Scramble

Former President Jimmy Carter carved an unlikely path to the White House in 1976 and endured humbling defeat after one term. Now, six administrations later, the longest-living chief executive in American history is re-emerging from political obscurity at age 94 to win over his fellow Democrats once again.

A peanut farmer turned politician then worldwide humanitarian, Carter is carving out a unique role as several Democratic candidates look to his family-run campaign after the Watergate scandal as the roadmap for toppling President Donald Trump in 2020.

“Jimmy Carter is a decent, well-meaning person, someone who people are talking about again given the time that we are in,” Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar said in an interview. “He won because he worked so hard, and he had a message of truth and honesty. I think about him all the time.”

Klobuchar is one of at least three presidential hopefuls who’ve ventured to the tiny town of Plains, Georgia, to meet with Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, who is 91. New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker and Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana, also have visited with the Carters, including attending the former president’s Sunday School lesson in Plains.

Carter had planned to teach at Maranatha Baptist Church again Sunday, but he is still recuperating at home days after being discharged from a Georgia hospital where he had hip replacement surgery following a fall as he was preparing for a turkey hunt.

“An extraordinary person,” Buttigieg told reporters after meeting Carter. “A guiding light and inspiration,” Booker said in a statement.  Klobuchar has attended Carter’s church lesson, as well, and says she emails with him occasionally. “He signs them ‘JC,”‘ she said with a laugh.

It’s quite a turnabout for a man who largely receded from party politics after his presidency, often without being missed by his party’s leaders in Washington, where he was an outsider even as a White House resident.

To be sure, more 2020 candidates have quietly sought counsel from Trump’s predecessor, former President Barack Obama. Several have talked with former President Bill Clinton, who left office in 2001. But those huddles have been more hush-hush, disclosed through aides dishing anonymously. Sessions with Carter, on the other hand, are trumpeted on social media and discussed freely, suggesting an appeal that Obama and Clinton may not have.

Unlike Clinton, impeached after an affair with a White House intern, Carter has no (hash)MeToo demerits; he and Rosalynn, married since the end of World War II, didn’t even like to dance with other people at state dinners. And unlike Obama, popular among Democrats but polarizing for conservatives and GOP-leaning independents, Carter is difficult to define by current political fault lines.

Outspoken evangelical Christian

He’s an outspoken evangelical Christian who criticizes Trump’s serial falsehoods, yet praises Trump for attempting a relationship with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Carter touts his own personal relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, another Trump favorite. “I have his email address,” Carter said last September.

For years, Carter has irked the foreign policy establishment with forthright criticism of Israel and its treatment of Palestinians.

He confirms that he voted for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, a democratic socialist, over Hillary Clinton in Georgia’s 2016 presidential primary. In 2017, Carter welcomed Sanders, who’s running again this year, to the Carter Center for a program in which the two men lambasted money in politics. Carter called the United States “an oligarchy.”

Yet Carter has since warned Democrats against “too liberal a program,” lest they ensure Trump’s re-election.

‘Ahead of his time’

Klobuchar credited Carter with being “ahead of his time” on several issues, including the environment and climate change (he put solar panels on the White House), health care (a major step toward universal coverage failed mostly because party liberals though it didn’t go far enough) and government streamlining (an effort that angered some Democrats at the time). But she also alluded to how his presidency ended: a landslide loss after gas lines, inflation-then-unemployment, and a 14-month-long hostage crisis in Iran. “Their administration was not perfect,” she said.

It’s enough of an enigma that Carter is the only living president not to draw Trump’s ire or mockery, even if Republicans have lambasted Carter for decades as a liberal incompetent. Trump and Carter chatted by phone earlier this spring after Carter sent Trump a letter on China and trade. Both men said they had an amiable conversation.

Nonetheless, 2020 candidates cite Carter’s juxtaposition with Trump.

“There was a feeling that people had been betrayed in our democracy by someone who wasn’t telling the truth,” she said, referring to President Richard Nixon’s resignation in 1974.

Buttigieg said he and Carter “talked about being viewed as coming out of nowhere” and how Carter ran two general election campaign entirely on the public financing system that now sits unused as candidates collectively raise money into the billions.

​Klobuchar recalled Carter telling her that “family members would disperse to different states and then they would all come back on Friday, go back through the questions they had gotten.” Then “he would talk about how he would answer them” so they’d all be prepared on their next trips, she said.

It was “a different era,” Klobuchar added, recalling that Carter said he felt “hi-tech because they had a fax machine on his plane.” Indeed, Klobuchar, born in 1960, wasn’t old enough to vote for Carter until he sought a second term. Booker, 50, recalls voting for Carter, but in a grade-school mock election. Buttigieg, 37, wasn’t even born when Carter left office.

Nonetheless, Klobuchar said she regularly meets Iowans who remember Carter and his family members campaigning in 1975 before his rivals and national media recognized his strength, and she said she sometimes references on the campaign trail how her fellow Minnesotan and Carter’s vice president, Walter Mondale, remembers their term: “We obeyed the law. We told the truth. We kept the peace.”

Whatever the reasons for the renewed attention, Carter allies say they hope the 2020 campaign is part of bolstering his reputation as a president.

“People are tired of hearing that he was a better ex-president than president,” said DuBose Porter, a former Georgia Democratic chairman who has known the Carters for decades. “Of course he’s done amazing things at the Carter Center, but he did great things for the country, and we’re proud of it.”


Ex-CIA Chief Brennan to Brief House Democrats on Iran

House Democrats will hear from former CIA director John Brennan about the situation in Iran, inviting him to speak next week amid heightened concerns over the Trump administration’s sudden moves in the region.

Brennan, an outspoken critic of President Donald Trump, is scheduled to talk to House Democrats at a private weekly caucus meeting Tuesday, according to a Democratic aide and another person familiar with the private meeting. Both were granted anonymity to discuss the meeting.

The invitation to Brennan and Wendy Sherman, the former State Department official and top negotiator of the Iran nuclear deal, offers counterprogramming to the Trump administration’s closed-door briefing for lawmakers also planned for Tuesday on Capitol Hill. Democratic lawmakers are likely to attend both sessions.

Brennan a Trump critic

The Trump administration recently sent an aircraft carrier and other military resources to the Persian Gulf region and withdrew nonessential personnel from Iraq, raising alarm among Democrats and some Republicans on Capitol Hill over the possibility of a confrontation with Iran.

Trump in recent days downplayed any potential for conflict. But questions remain about what prompted the actions, and many lawmakers have demanded more information.

Trump and Brennan have clashed openly, particularly over the issues surrounding the special counsel’s probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election. Brennan stepped down from the CIA in 2017.

The president last year said he was revoking the former spy chief’s security credentials after Brennan was critical of Trump’s interactions with Russian President Vladimir Putin at a summit in Helsinki. Top national security officials often retain their clearance after they have left an agency as a way to provide counsel to their successors. It’s unclear if Brennan actually lost his clearance.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had been asking the administration for a briefing for all lawmakers on the situation in Iran, but she said the request was initially rebuffed. The administration provided a classified briefing for top leaders of both parties last week.


Michigan GOP Lawmaker: Trump Conduct Is ‘Impeachable’ 

A Republican congressman from Michigan on Saturday became the first member of President Donald Trump’s party on Capitol Hill to accuse him of engaging in “impeachable conduct” as detailed in special counsel Robert Mueller’s lengthy investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

But Rep. Justin Amash stopped short of calling on Congress to begin impeachment proceedings against Trump, which many Democrats have been agitating for.

Often a lone GOP voice in Congress, Amash sent a series of tweets Saturday faulting both Trump and Attorney General William Barr over Mueller’s report. Mueller wrapped up the investigation and submitted his report to Barr in late March. Barr then released a summary of Mueller’s “principal conclusions” and released a redacted version of the report in April.

​Mueller’s findings

Mueller found the evidence was insufficient to establish a criminal conspiracy between Trump’s presidential campaign and Russia, but he left open the question of  whether Trump acted in ways that were meant to obstruct the investigation. Barr later said there was insufficient evidence to bring obstruction charges against Trump.

Trump, who has compared the investigation to a “witch hunt,” claimed complete exoneration from Mueller’s report.

Amash said he reached four conclusions after carefully reading the redacted version of Mueller’s report, including that “President Trump has engaged in impeachable conduct.”

“Contrary to Barr’s portrayal, Mueller’s report reveals that President Trump engaged in specific actions and a pattern of behavior that meet the threshold for impeachment,” the congressman tweeted. He said the report “identifies multiple examples of conduct satisfying all the elements of obstruction of justice, and undoubtedly any person who is not the president of the United States would be indicted based on such evidence.”

The Justice Department, which Barr leads, operates under guidelines that discourage the indictment of a sitting president.

A representative for Amash did not immediately respond to an email request to speak with the congressman.

‘Case closed’

Trump and Republican lawmakers generally view the matter as “case closed,” as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., recently declared on the floor of the Senate.

On the other hand, Democrats who control the House are locked in a bitter standoff with the White House as it ignores lawmakers’ requests for the more complete version of Mueller’s report, the underlying evidence and witness testimony. Some Democrats want the House to open impeachment hearings, but Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has resisted, saying impeachment must be bipartisan.

Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., a freshman who opened her term by profanely calling for Trump to be impeached, applauded Amash.

“You are putting country first, and that is to be commended,” Tlaib tweeted.

Tlaib is seeking support for a resolution she’s circulating calling on the House to start impeachment proceedings.


Report: Trump May Pardon Some Linked to War Crimes

U.S. President Donald Trump has asked for files to be prepared on pardoning several U.S. military members accused of or convicted of war crimes, including one slated to stand trial on charges of shooting unarmed civilians while in Iraq, The New York Times reported Saturday. 

Trump requested the immediate preparation of paperwork needed, indicating he is considering pardons for the men around Memorial Day on May 27, the report said, citing two unnamed U.S. officials.

Assembling pardon files normally takes months, but the Justice Department has pressed for the work to be completed before that holiday weekend, one of the officials said. 

One request is for Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher of the Navy SEALs, scheduled to stand trial in coming weeks on charges of shooting unarmed civilians and killing an enemy captive with a knife while deployed in Iraq. 

Also believed to be included is the case of Maj. Mathew Golsteyn, an Army Green Beret accused of killing an unarmed Afghan in 2010, the Times said.

Reuters could not immediately identify a way to contact Gallagher or Golsteyn. 

The newspaper reported that the cases of other men are believed to be included in the paperwork, without naming them. 

The Department of Justice declined to comment on the report, while the White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

Legal experts cited in the report said that pardoning several alleged or convicted war criminals, including some who have not yet gone to trial, has not been done in recent history, and some worried such pardons could erode the legitimacy of military law. 



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