This week: House Democrats escalate battle over Mueller report

Greg Nash

House Democrats are poised to step up their fight with the Trump administration over access to special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on the 2016 election.

The resolution would hold Attorney General William Barr and former White House counsel Don McGahn in contempt of Congress for opting not to comply with congressional subpoenas.

It will also allow Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, to seek civil enforcement of the subpoena for Barr to release underlying evidence and special counsel Mueller’s unredacted report and for McGahn to provide documents and public testimony in court. It would also give Nadler the ability to go to federal courts to pursue civil enforcement of current and future subpoenas if the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group grants approval.

{mosads}The resolution, which was introduced by House Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), is scheduled to be marked up by the panel Monday evening.

Democrats say the move is necessary, accusing the White House of attempting to stonewall their investigations into the Trump administration.

“We will not allow this president and his administration to turn a blind eye to the rule of law,” McGovern said in a statement. “This resolution will allow Congress to hold the President accountable while this Democratic majority continues delivering on issues like health care and jobs.”

Republicans have largely blasted the move, alleging members across the aisle are attempting to undo the 2016 election because they don’t like the results, asserting they believe the vote should not take place since some of the information Democrats have subpoenaed relates to ongoing investigations.

“Well, I think you should actually look at what the witnesses said in the hearing a couple weeks ago, even the Democrat witness acknowledged, she was a scholar in law, that the attorney general would have to break the law to uphold the subpoena,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) told The Hill. “So it makes no sense and I think that it’s a very bad vote for the Democrats.”

The vote comes as Democrats grapple over whether they should move forward with an impeachment inquiry, with an increasing number of rank-and-file members placing pressure on leadership to comply with their calls.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) brushed off a question last week about if she was feeling pressure to move forward with impeachment, saying Democrats “know exactly what path we’re on.”

“We’re following the facts, we’ll take them where they lead us,” she said. “As we go down that path, we will be as strong as we can be. There is no controversy or ‘try this, try that.’ We are on a path.”

The House Oversight and Reform Committee is also expected to vote to hold Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in contempt over their decision not to comply with subpoenas for information, as well as an instruction to Justice Department attorney John Gore not to testify without an agency counsel present in relation to the panel’s investigation into the administration’s decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census. Some Democrats argue the question could have been a politically motivated move by the GOP to gain an advantage in redistricting.

Government funding

The House is scheduled to vote on its first of appropriation packages, also known as a minibus, on Wednesday.

The roughly $1 trillion five-bill package slated to hit the floor on Wednesday comes as part of House Democrats’ attempt to make moves to avert a government shutdown by combining the funding bills and passing them quickly.  

The measure is slated to include the two largest of the 12 annual appropriations bills — the defense bill and the labor, health and human services and education bill — in addition to combining energy and water, the State Department and foreign operations spending bill and funding for the legislative branch.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) announced the minibus strategy in a “Dear Colleague” letter last Monday.

While the package is expected to pass the Democratic-controlled lower chamber, it will likely face an uphill battle in the Republican-controlled Senate, where senators are expected to craft their own bills.

Top Senate Republicans are set to meet with administration officials this week as they try to plot a path toward avoiding a government shutdown starting in October.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) are sitting down Tuesday with acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Office of Management and Budget Director Russ Vought to discuss how to move government funding bills, three sources told Politico.

The GOP-only meeting comes as talks over reaching a deal to lift the defense and nondefense stalled after a meeting between administration officials, McConnell, McCarthy, Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.).   

Both sides remained far apart after the meeting about nondefense spending, a critical priority for Democrats in any negotiations.

Without a caps deal steep across-the-board cuts, known as sequestration, will go into effect.

Senate appropriations could start moving government funding bills through committee, and then sync them once a budget caps deal gets made. Shelby has previously indicated that the panel would try to start moving funding bills in June, even without a budget deal.

Mueller report hearing

The House Judiciary Committee is slated to hold a hearing entitled: “Lessons from the Mueller Report: Presidential Obstruction and Other Crimes” on Monday.

Former Nixon White House counsel John Dean, who served as a star witness during Watergate, is slated to testify before the panel as Democrats ramp up probes into Trump and the administration.

Dean’s testimony will be part of the first of what is expected to be several public hearings on the findings in the Mueller report despite the special counsel making it clear he does not want to appear before the committee.

“We want to follow up with fact witnesses, obviously, but we’ll start off with a series of hearings with some of the Republican prosecutors who have said that based on what’s in the Mueller report, they would have filed indictments,” Nadler told reporters Wednesday.

Despite Dean being unable to provide first-hand accounts of the Mueller investigation, Democrats say he will be an optimal witness due to his ability to provide historical context of obstruction of justice.

Democrats have faced issues in getting the administration to cooperate with their calls for former and current officials to appear before the committee, with Barr opting not to appear before the committee in May and McGahn having been blocked from testifying.

Republicans have blasted the Democratic-controlled panel from scheduling the hearing, with ranking member Doug Collins (R-Ga.) warning Nadler may violate decorum rules, going as far as objecting to the hearing’s title.

“This appears to be part of a strategy to turn the Committee’s oversight hearings into a mock-impeachment inquiry rather than a legitimate exercise in congressional oversight. Conducting such hearings inevitably sets this Committee on a collision course with the longstanding Rules of the House, which you have apparently alluded to as recently as this week,” Collins wrote in a letter to Nadler.

‘Medicare for All’ hearing

The House Ways and Means Committee has teed up a hearing on “Medicare for All” to take place on June 12.

While the House Rules and Budget committees have both held hearings on the proposal, which would shift the U.S. to a single-payer health care system, earlier this year, Wednesday’s hearing marks the first hearing that will take place with a committee that has jurisdiction over health care.

The hearing provides a huge win for progressives, who have been pushing members of the Democratic caucus to get behind the proposal. Several presidential hopefuls and key senators have begun announcing their support for Medicare for All Plans.

Republicans have been eager to hold the hearing before the powerful committee, with the GOP widely using the proposal in their attacks on Democrats ahead of 2020, citing it as an example of Democrats moving further to the left.

“Republicans—the party of Medicare Advantage, the Medicare prescription drug benefit, the Children’s Health Insurance Program and the original law protecting coverage at work for people with pre-existing conditions—stand ready to work with you to fix the broken status quo. A public accounting of H.R. 1384 is necessary to inform the working families and seniors we represent to the risks of their health coverage under this proposal,” Reps. Kevin Brady (R-Texas) and Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) wrote in a letter earlier this year.


Acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan is set to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee this week as Senate Republicans push to pass emergency funding for the U.S.-Mexico border.

The panel, chaired by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), is set to hold a hearing on asylum legislation and a “legislative fix to the crisis at the southwest border.”

Graham rolled out legislation last month would overhaul the U.S. asylum system, including increasing the number of days a family can be held together from 20 to 100. Democrats have balked at changes to the Flores settlement, which limits the amount of time a minor can be held in custody to 20 days.

In addition to changing the Flores settlement, Graham’s legislation would require asylum claims to be filed in Mexico or a home country, instead of in the United States. It would also provide funding for 500 new immigration judges and allow for unaccompanied minors from Central America to be set back to their home countries, similar to unaccompanied minors from Canada or Mexico.

But lawmakers are likely to ask McAleenan about the current situation along the U.S.-Mexico border.

The administration has requested $4.5 billion in emergency border funding, including more than $3 billion in humanitarian aid. But the funding was yanked out of a disaster aid bill that passed last month and has stalled on Capitol Hill amid deep partisan divisions.


McConnell has teed up several judicial nominations and two State Department nominations for the Senate floor this week.

The Senate will take up six district judicial nominations: Sarah Daggett Morrison for the Southern District of Ohio, Pamela Barker for the Northern District of Ohio, Corey Landon Maze for the Northern District of Alabama, Rodney Smith for the Southern District of Florida, Thomas Barber for the Middle District of Florida and Jean-Paul Boulee for the Northern District of Georgia.

Senators will also vote on David Stilwell to be an assistant secretary of State and Edward Crawford to be the U.S. ambassador to Ireland.

Tags appropriations bills budget caps Charles Schumer Contempt vote Devin Nunes Doug Collins Government shutdown Jerrold Nadler Kevin Brady Kevin McCarthy Lindsey Graham Medicare for all Mick Mulvaney Mitch McConnell Mueller investigation Mueller report Nancy Pelosi Richard Shelby Robert Mueller Russian interference in the 2016 United States elections Special Counsel investigation Steny Hoyer Steven Mnuchin United States Department of Justice Wilbur Ross William Barr
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