Nadler tees up post-recess showdown with Trump

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerPelosi: Lewandowski should have been held in contempt 'right then and there' Nadler's House committee holds a faux hearing in search of a false crime Lewandowski says he's under no obligation to speak truthfully to the media MORE is teeing up a post-recess showdown with President TrumpDonald John TrumpAlaska Republican Party cancels 2020 primary Ukrainian official denies Trump pressured president Trump goes after New York Times, Washington Post: 'They have gone totally CRAZY!!!!' MORE as the New York Democrat pushes for impeachment behind the scenes.

Nadler has fired off a wave of new subpoenas compelling former administration and Trump campaign officials to testify shortly after the House returns to Capitol Hill in September.

He’s also seeking to challenge the White House’s claims of executive privilege as he pursues witness testimony from former White House counsel Don McGahn.

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The House's Office of General Counsel filed a motion in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on Monday arguing for an expedited decision on the lawsuit that seeks to enforce a subpoena for McGahn’s testimony.

Democrats hope that if they win on the McGahn subpoena, it would trigger a domino effect and compel other reluctant witnesses to testify. They hope their testimonies could spark a new wave of support for impeachment.

And while the timing could take months, this effort comes at a critical time for the party.

More and more Democrats have come out in favor of launching an impeachment inquiry, but Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiTimeline: The Trump whistleblower complaint DC statehood push faces long odds despite record support Ukraine could badly damage both Donald Trump and the Democrats MORE (D-Calif.) does not support the effort, and those backing impeachment number far less than a House majority.

As former special counsel Robert Mueller's report is fading from the political conversation, Pelosi has continued to favor focusing on a Democratic agenda while continuing investigations in the House.

On Friday, Pelosi cautioned that impeachment lacks public support.

“The public isn’t there on impeachment,” she told Democrats during a caucuswide conference call, according to a source on the call. “It’s your voice and constituency, but give me the leverage I need to make sure that we’re ready and it is as strong as it can be.”

Nadler is facing pressure from members of his panel, a majority of whom support an inquiry, and he represents a New York district where constituents are likely to back an aggressive impeachment effort.

If his committee is able to puncture some holes in the White House armor with its subpoenas, Pelosi could come under new pressure to back impeachment.

Pelosi's office, asked about the coming showdown, said the Speaker supports Nadler's investigations.

Nadler has issued subpoenas for former Trump campaign manager Corey LewandowskiCorey R. LewandowskiThe Hill's Morning Report — Trump's new controversy Cruz endorses GOP candidate for Senate in New Hampshire Democrats press Nadler to hold Lewandowski in contempt MORE and former White House officials Rob Porter and Rick Dearborn to testify at a joint hearing on Sept. 17. All three are tied to a key episode of possible obstruction by Trump described in Mueller’s report.

Lewandowski, who has never served in the Trump administration and therefore is outside the White House’s current claims of immunity, has publicly stated that he will testify before the committee but that he would do so with the goal of throwing punches for the president.

“I am an open book. I want to go and remind the American people that these guys are on a witch hunt, right?” Lewandowski, who is considering a New Hampshire Senate run, told Fox News Radio earlier this month.

Porter and Dearborn are likely to face pressure from the Trump administration not to testify. The White House has successfully blocked other subpoenaed administration officials from testifying.

One Judiciary committee source, asked about the likelihood of Porter and Dearborn testifying, replied, “We are hopeful, but I am not sure how realistic that is.”

The White House has argued that under the standard of immunity, confidentiality protections offered to the executive branch apply to current and former aides. This effectively prevents them from disclosing what took place during their time in the administration, the White House contends.

While both Republican and Democratic administrations have invoked the immunity concept, legal experts say there is virtually no case law on the subject. Some predict the White House is likely to lose if it's challenged in court.

It is far from clear when a decision will be made in the McGahn lawsuit that seeks to both challenge the White House claims of immunity and obtain testimony from the former White House counsel.

“Even if this is expedited, I would be surprised if we had a final ruling — and that includes the final appeals courts — before the new year,” Elie Honig, a former federal prosecutor, said of the McGahn case.

While Nadler has said he has tried to give reasonable accommodations to witnesses before turning to the courts, Honig noted that the committee will also have to make its case for why the court should expedite a decision in the McGahn lawsuit, particularly since Democrats have not appeared to move quickly on the matter themselves.

“It is kind of hard to tell a court this version that we need to expedite when it has been three months since they subpoenaed McGahn and three weeks since they filed the lawsuit against McGahn,” Honig told The Hill. 

Nadler and other House Democrats backing impeachment hope a hearing with Porter, Lewandowski and Dearborn will highlight Trump’s conduct after he learned he was under investigation by Mueller for possibly obstructing his investigation of Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election.

According to the Mueller report, the president asked Lewandowski to deliver a message to then-Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsTrump reignites court fight with Ninth Circuit pick Democrats press Nadler to hold Lewandowski in contempt Pelosi: Lewandowski should have been held in contempt 'right then and there' MORE asking him to reverse his decision to recuse himself from the Russia probe, a request that came two days after Trump ordered McGahn to remove the special counsel. McGahn refused to carry out the order.

Lewandowski, who did not “want to deliver the President’s message personally,” instead asked Dearborn to deliver a message dictated by the president to Sessions, the report says. Dearborn did not follow through with the request, telling investigators it made him feel “uncomfortable.”

And after reports about Trump’s removal requests were reported in the news, the president ordered Porter to tell McGahn to create a false record that would contradict the former White House counsel’s account, the reports says.

While Republicans have accused Democrats of rehashing the Mueller report, Democrats say this is a clear example of Trump interfering in Mueller’s probe and that the American people should hear about the episode firsthand from the witnesses involved.