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 NadlerOcasio-Cortez, Bush push to add expanded unemployment in .5T spending plan Angelina Jolie spotted in Capitol meeting with senators House panel advances immigration language for reconciliation bill 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) MuellerSenate Democrats urge Garland not to fight court order to release Trump obstruction memo Why a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel 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 TrumpCapitol fencing starts coming down after 'Justice for J6' rally Netanyahu suggests Biden fell asleep in meeting with Israeli PM Aides try to keep Biden away from unscripted events or long interviews, book claims 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 SessionsOvernight Hillicon Valley — Apple issues security update against spyware vulnerability Stanford professors ask DOJ to stop looking for Chinese spies at universities in US Overnight Energy & Environment — Democrats detail clean electricity program MORE, said Tuesday in the hearing.