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 NadlerNadler apologized after repeatedly calling Hope Hicks 'Ms. Lewandowski' at hearing Hope Hicks: Trump campaign felt 'relief' after WikiLeaks released damaging info about Hillary Clinton House hearing marks historic moment for slavery reparations debate 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 MuellerKamala Harris says her Justice Dept would have 'no choice' but to prosecute Trump for obstruction Dem committees win new powers to investigate Trump Schiff says Intel panel will hold 'series' of hearings on Mueller report 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 TrumpConway defends herself against Hatch Act allegations amid threat of subpoena How to defuse Gulf tensions and avoid war with Iran Trump says 'stubborn child' Fed 'blew it' by not cutting rates MORE to fire Mueller amid the 22-month investigation. 

ADVERTISEMENT

"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 SessionsTrump: Appointing Sessions was my biggest mistake Nikki Haley blasts Roy Moore's Senate bid: 'He does not represent our Republican Party' Time magazine: Trump threatened reporter with prison time MORE, said Tuesday in the hearing.