Jerry Nadler says House Judiciary Committee will go to court over Don McGahn subpoena

The panel will also seek to obtain grand jury material related to former special counsel Robert Mueller's probe

By Shira Tarlo
Published July 25, 2019 10:21AM (EDT)
House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) (AP/J. Scott Applewhite)
House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) (AP/J. Scott Applewhite)

The House Judiciary Committee will go to court this week in an attempt to obtain requested grand jury material connected to former special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and enforce a subpoena issued to former White House counsel Don McGahn.

"The very next step, either tomorrow or Friday, is we're going into court to ask for the grand jury material and to enforce the subpoena against Mr. McGahn," said the panel's chairman, Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., on Wednesday. "That's particularly important, because the excuses that the White House gives for McGahn not testifying are the same excuses for all the other fact witnesses. And, if we break that, we'll break the logjam."

Nadler's announcement followed a busy news day on Capitol Hill. It came shortly after Mueller concluded his highly-anticipated public testimony before the House Judiciary and the Intelligence Committees about his nearly two-year investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, alleged ties between Trump's campaign and Moscow and whether the president himself obstructed justice.

McGahn had previously defied a subpoena to testify before the panel about Mueller's investigation. Nadler said at the time that President Donald Trump instructed McGahn to reject the subpoenas. The panel voted to hold McGahn in contempt of Congress for refusing to comply with the subpoenas.

McGahn was a key witness for the former special counsel throughout his investigation. In his final report, Mueller detailed ten instances of possible obstruction by Trump, including one in which Trump instructed McGahn to have Mueller fired in the summer of 2017 because of alleged "conflicts of interest." McGahn declined to do so, according to the report, deciding he would "rather resign than trigger what he regarded as a potential Saturday Night Massacre."

Trump has disputed McGahn's account several times. He claimed last month that he "was never going to fire Mueller" and never even "suggested firing" him.

"I don't care what [McGahn] says — it doesn't matter," Trump added at the time.

McGahn is just one of a number of former White House officials from whom the Judiciary panel is seeking testimony as part of its ongoing investigation into allegations of obstruction by the president.

Earlier this month, the committee authorized a blitz of subpoenas for testimony from current and former West Wing aides. The subpoena targets include Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law; Jeff Sessions, the former attorney general; Rod Rosenstein, the former deputy attorney general who appointed Mueller as the special counsel; Michael Flynn, the president's first national security adviser; John Kelly, the former White House chief of staff; and Corey Lewandowski, Trump's former campaign manager.

The committee also voted to authorize a subpoena for Keith Davidson, the attorney who previously represented adult film actress Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal in deals that buried their alleged sexual encounters with Trump in exchange for a hush-money payout.

Trump's former lawyer and "fixer" Michael Cohen arranged a $130,000 payment to Daniels and a $150,000 payment to McDougal to silence the women about their alleged affairs with Trump. Cohen is currently serving a three year prison sentence in part for the hush-money payment, which prosecutors say amounts to a campaign finance violation.

Other subpoena targets included two executives of American Media, Inc. — Dylan Howard and David Pecker — who testified about Trump's alleged hush-money payments.

The panel also authorized subpoenas to Rick Dearborn, an ally of Sessions who served on the Trump campaign and in the White House; Jody Hunt, Sessions' chief of staff, who took detailed notes of his boss's interactions with the president; and Rob Porter, Trump's former staff secretary.

Shira Tarlo

MORE FROM Shira TarloFOLLOW @shiratarlo