House Homeland Security chair raises possibility of subpoena for DHS chief

House Homeland Security chair raises possibility of subpoena for DHS chief
© Greg Nash

House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie ThompsonBennie Gordon ThompsonDemocrats call for increased security after 'send her back' chants Here are the 95 Democrats who voted to support impeachment House votes to kill impeachment effort against Trump MORE (D-Miss.) on Wednesday left the door open to subpoenaing Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenTrump quietly rolled back programs to detect, combat weapons of mass destruction: report Trump's family separation policy has taken US to 'lowest depth possible,' says former immigration lawyer Four heated moments from House hearing on conditions at border facilities MORE to appear before his committee if she does not agree on a date to testify in the coming weeks.

Thompson, who wrote in a letter Tuesday that Nielsen had denied a request to testify before the committee next week, told reporters that he will give the secretary until the end of February before taking further action to require that she testify.

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“I’m not reluctant to issue the subpoena,” Thompson said. “I’m going to give the secretary the opportunity to look at her calendar, work it out and come to the committee, but I'm not reluctant to use it.”

The Hill has reached out to the Department of Homeland Security for comment.

The chairman said he had sought the secretary’s testimony on Feb. 6, but that his staff was told that she was not available for that date.

And Thompson said that as lawmakers work in the coming weeks to pass a government funding bill to avoid another shutdown over border security, it’s important for members to hear from Nielsen about the situation at the border.

“I can think of no better person to come before the committee to talk about that than the secretary because the majority of the conversation that a lot of members are having — both on the committee, off the committee — is around those issues,” Thompson said, referring to border security.

“So we need to hear from the principal in charge of the agency to see how we're doing,” he added.

Other cabinet members have also refused to testify at the request of Democratic chairpersons.

The Treasury Department earlier this month refused to have Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin testify before the House Ways and Means Committee during a hearing on the impact of the government shutdown.

And House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) also said last week that the Department of Health and Human Services isn't allowing secretary Alex Azar testify before the committee about the Trump administration’s migrant family separation policy.