House Democrats leave empty chair for McGahn at hearing

The House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday left an empty chair for Don McGahn despite the former White House counsel’s absence from a public hearing.

Committee Chairman Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerMcConnell locks in schedule for start of impeachment trial Pelosi: Trump's impeachment 'cannot be erased' House to vote Wednesday on sending articles of impeachment to Senate MORE (D-N.Y.) in his opening remarks blasted McGahn for failing to appear before his committee, defying a congressional subpoena.

Nadler also highlighted the testimony McGahn gave to special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerSchiff: Trump acquittal in Senate trial would not signal a 'failure' Jeffries blasts Trump for attack on Thunberg at impeachment hearing Live coverage: House Judiciary to vote on impeachment after surprise delay MORE, according to Mueller's investigative report, in which he detailed episodes that were investigated for possible obstruction of justice, including attempts by President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump's newest Russia adviser, Andrew Peek, leaves post: report Hawley expects McConnell's final impeachment resolution to give White House defense ability to motion to dismiss Trump rips New York City sea wall: 'Costly, foolish' and 'environmentally unfriendly idea' MORE to fire Mueller amid the 22-month investigation. 

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"Our subpoenas are not optional. Mr. McGahn has a legal obligation to be here for his scheduled appearance. If he does not immediately correct his mistake, this committee will have no choice but to enforce the subpoena against him," Nadler said.

Nadler also threatened on CNN Monday night that he will move to hold McGahn in contempt for failing to comply with his subpoena, which would mark an escalation in the battle as House Democrats seek to conduct oversight on a White House that has signaled plans to fight against their inquiries.

McGahn declined to appear, stating that he would comply with Trump's instructions against testifying before Congress. The White House cited a Department of Justice legal opinion in arguing that he is immune from congressional testimony.

McGahn is viewed as a star witness for Democrats, particularly because of the extensive testimony he provided to the Mueller probe.

"Mr. McGahn refused to follow blindly into unethical behavior. Mr. McGahn told the president that the DOJ ethics officials had weighed in and that Mr. Sessions would not un-recuse himself, and he advised the president not to have any contact with Mr. Sessions on the matter," Nadler, referring to Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsICE subpoenas Denver law enforcement: report Bottom Line DOJ inquiry tied to Clinton, touted by Trump winds down with no tangible results: report MORE, said Tuesday in the hearing.