Nadler tees up post-recess showdown with Trump

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerSchumer: 'Nothing is off the table' if GOP moves forward with Ginsburg replacement Top Democrats call for DOJ watchdog to probe Barr over possible 2020 election influence House passes bill to protect pregnant workers MORE is teeing up a post-recess showdown with President TrumpDonald John TrumpUS reimposes UN sanctions on Iran amid increasing tensions Jeff Flake: Republicans 'should hold the same position' on SCOTUS vacancy as 2016 Trump supporters chant 'Fill that seat' at North Carolina rally 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 PelosiSunday shows preview: Justice Ginsburg dies, sparking partisan battle over vacancy before election Trump is betting big on the suburbs, but his strategy is failing 'bigly' Trump orders flags at half-staff to honor 'trailblazer' Ginsburg 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. LewandowskiHow Trump can win reelection: Focus on Democrats, not himself Trump Jr. distances from Bannon group, says he attended 'single' event Bannon, three others charged with defrauding donors of 'We Build The Wall' campaign 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's policies on refugees are as simple as ABCs Ocasio-Cortez, Velázquez call for convention to decide Puerto Rico status White House officials voted by show of hands on 2018 family separations: report 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.