Posts tagged with "Subpoena"

Whistleblower complaint remains in White House hands, despite demands by House Intel panel

September 19, 2019

Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire—who took over the post just over a month ago, on August 15, when Dan Coats stepped down— has refused to comply with a deadline to hand over a whistleblower complaint to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, CNN reports.

The committee had announced its intent to issue a subpoena on September 13, noting that the complaint had been deemed by the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community, Michael Atkinson, to be “credible and urgent.”

At that time, Representative Adam Schiff (D-California), Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee put out a statement that read: “A month ago, a whistleblower within the intelligence community lawfully filed a complaint regarding a serious or flagrant problem, abuse, violation of law, or deficiency within the responsibility or authority of the Director of National Intelligence. The Inspector General of the Intelligence Community found that complaint not only credible, but urgent. More than ten days since the Director was obligated to transmit the complaint to the intelligence committees, the Committee has still not received the disclosure from the Director, in violation of the law.

“A Director of National Intelligence has never prevented a properly submitted whistleblower complaint that the IC IG determined to be credible and urgent from being provided to the congressional intelligence committees. Never. This raises serious concerns about whether White House, Department of Justice or other executive branch officials are trying to prevent a legitimate whistleblower complaint from reaching its intended recipient, the Congress, in order to cover up serious misconduct.

“After Watergate exposed significant intelligence abuses, a critical bargain was struck: In exchange for the Intelligence Community’s willingness to reveal closely guarded national security secrets, the congressional intelligence committees and leadership promised to handle that information responsibly.  It was also of vital importance that intelligence officials have a lawful and protected means of bringing misconduct to the attention of Congress and the public. By withholding a credible whistleblower complaint that potentially deals with executive branch wrongdoing, the DNI is in violation of the applicable statute and has made itself a party to the concealment of potentially serious misconduct.”

However, on the night of September 17, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence sent letters to committee Chairman Adam Schiff, a California Democrat, and Ranking Republican Devin Nunes of California, saying the complaint “does not meet the definition of ‘urgent concern’ because it does not relate to ‘intelligence activity,’ “ CNN reported.

The complaint “involves confidential and potentially privileged matters relating to the interests of other stakeholders within the Executive Branch,” a copy of the letter, obtained by CNN, says, adding that complying with the committee’s requests “will necessarily require appropriate consultations.”

In the letter, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence reveals that the complaint does not involve anyone in the intelligence community but rather “stakeholders within the Executive Branch.” As a result, its lawyer argues, the complaint is not of “urgent concern” to the committee.

The office says it plans to work with the House intelligence Committee but given that executive branch members are involved, there are “confidential and potentially privileged matters” that “will necessarily require appropriate consultations.”

What’s more, Maguire has indicated that he will not appear at a scheduled congressional hearing on Thursday; his office says he “is not available on such short notice.”

In response, Schiff said: “The IC IG determined that the complaint is both credible and urgent, which is why the Committee must move quickly. The Committee’s position is clear—the Acting DNI can either provide the complaint as required under the law, or he will be required to come before the Committee to tell the public why he is not following the clear letter of the law, including whether the White House or the Attorney General are directing him to do so. He has yet to provide the complaint in response to the Committee’s subpoena, so I expect him to appear on Thursday, under subpoena if necessary.”

According to CNN, Schiff also argued that Maguire had acted outside the authority of his post by consulting with the Department of Justice about the complaint as he involved “another entity within the Executive Branch in the handling of a whistleblower complaint.

Schiff declined to say whether he has been contacted by the whistleblower or their legal representation, saying he wouldn’t want to jeopardize them.

However, a source familiar with the situation told CNN on Tuesday that legal counsel for the unknown individual is discussing next steps.

However, the options appear to be limited.

A source familiar with the case told CNN that the Intelligence Community Whistleblowers Protection Act likely only offers one real path forward: circumventing the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and giving the complaint directly to the committee.

That route is not likely to be taken, CNN said: At the end of the day, the statute doesn’t clearly allow the whistleblower to go straight to Congress.

Research contact: @CNN

Brinksmanship: Unable to cut deal, Nadler soon may subpoena Mueller to testify before U.S. public

June 12, 2019

When and if former Special Counsel Robert Mueller testifies before Congress, his face will be familiar—but the story he tells won’t be, according to findings of a CNN poll fielded in May, which found that fully 75% of Americans have not read the Mueller report on Russian interference into the last presidential election and obstruction of justice by the Trump administration.

Most legislators have failed to read the 448-page document, either.

But that doesn’t include House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-New York)—who  told Democratic leaders at a closed-door meeting this past week that he could issue a subpoena to within two weeks to Mueller, if he is unable to reach an agreement to secure the former special counsel’s public testimony, according to two sources familiar with the meeting, Politico reported.

Nadler’s comments clarified whether the chairman had considered compelling Mueller’s attendance at a public hearing. The committee is still negotiating with Mueller, who, according to Nadler, is thus far only willing to answer lawmakers’ questions in private—a nonstarter for most House Democrats.

The sources cautioned the news outlet that the committee has not settled yet on a timetable for a potential subpoena to Mueller. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) hosted the meeting, and four other committee chairs were in attendance.

However, according to Politico’s sources, Nadler told reporters that he was “confident” Mueller will appear before his panel, and that he would issue a subpoena “if we have to.”

“We want him to testify openly. I think the American people need that,” Nadler added. “I think, frankly, it’s his duty to the American people. And we’ll make that happen.”

This week, the committee began to hear testimony related to the report, in an effort to educate the American public.

In addition, Nadler said that, with the threat of a civil contempt citation from the committee hanging over his head, Attorney General William Barr had agreed to release the underlying documents to the report, which had been requested by the House Judiciary Committee back in April.

However, on June 11, word came out that the White House would work with the Department of Justice to decide exactly how much (and what type of) material would be released—leaving the actual evidence that the committee would be permitted to see in question yet again.

Research contact: @politico

Trump claims executive privilege over full Mueller report; House Judiciary votes to hold Barr in contempt

May 9, 2019

At the instigation of the Justice Department on the evening of May 7, President Donald Trump claimed executive privilege over the full Mueller report.

The maneuver represented a last-ditch effort to shield hidden portions of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s unredacted report on Russian interference in the 2016 election, as well as the supporting evidence he collected, from Congress and the American people.

“This is to advise you that the president has asserted executive privilege over the entirety of the subpoenaed materials,” a Justice Department official, Stephen Boyd, wrote Wednesday morning, referencing not only the Mueller report but the underlying evidence that House Democrats are seeking.

The assertion came as the House Judiciary Committee was set to vote on Wednesday, May 8, on whether the House of Representatives should hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress for defying a subpoena for the same materials, The New York Times reported.

In response, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-New York) commented in a formal release, “Tonight, in the middle of good faith negotiations with the attorney general, the [DoJ] abruptly announced that it would instead ask President Trump to invoke executive privilege on all of the materials subject to our subpoena.

“This is, of course, not how executive privilege works,” Nadler noted. “The White House waived these privileges long ago, and the department seemed open to sharing these materials with us earlier today. The department’s legal arguments are without credibility, merit, or legal or factual basis.”

He said that the move could have alarming and risky repercussions, remarking, “Worse, this kind of obstruction is dangerous. The department’s decision reflects President Trump’s blanket defiance of Congress’s constitutionally mandated duties.

“In the coming days,” Nadler continued, “I expect that Congress will have no choice but to confront the behavior of this lawless administration.  The committee will also take a hard look at the officials who are enabling this cover-up.  In the meantime, the committee will proceed with consideration of the contempt citation as planned.  I hope that the Department will think better of this last minute outburst and return to negotiations.”

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders released a blistering statement: “The American people see through Chairman Nadler’s desperate ploy to distract from the President’s historically successful agenda and our booming economy. Neither the White House nor Attorney General Barr will comply with Chairman Nadler’s unlawful and reckless demands,” she wrote, according to The Times.

She added: “Faced with Chairman Nadler’s blatant abuse of power, and at the Attorney General’s request, the President has no other option than to make a protective assertion of executive privilege.”

Shortly after 1 p.m. on May 8, after negotiations had once again tanked, Nadler said before the committee vote, “This is information we are legally entitled to receive and we are Constitutionally obligated to review .… The Trump administration has taken obstruction of Congress to new heights.”

The committee voted along partisan lines to hold Barr in contempt of Congress  (24 Democrats versus 16 Republicans). The contempt citation now will go before the full House chamber for a vote, where Democrats hold a 38-seat majority. The timing of that vote will be up to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California),

Research contact: @HouseJudiciary

House Judiciary Committee says it has ‘no choice;” but to start contempt proceedings against Barr

May 7, 2019

On May 6, the House Judiciary Committee announced that, on Wednesday, May 8, the panel would create a markup of a contempt report, in response to Attorney General William Barr’s failure to comply with a duly issued subpoena to provide Congress with the full, unredacted version of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigative report along with underlying evidence.

During the markup procedure, members will debate and vote on a resolution; as well as on a supporting report. Should the committee vote to accept the report and hold the attorney general in contempt, the resolution and report will move to the floor for a full vote in the House to authorize legal proceedings.

“The contempt report provides an explanation of the committee’s urgent need for the Special Counsel’s report and underlying evidence, and the history of the committee’s efforts to negotiate with the Attorney General, among other details,” the committee’s formal statement said..

“Even in redacted form, the Special Counsel’s report offers disturbing evidence and analysis that President Trump engaged in obstruction of justice at the highest levels. Congress must see the full report and underlying evidence to determine how to best move forward with oversight, legislation, and other constitutional responsibilities,” commented House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler  (D-New York).

He added, “The Attorney General’s failure to comply with our subpoena, after extensive accommodation efforts, leaves us no choice but to initiate contempt proceedings in order to enforce the subpoena and access the full, unredacted report. If the Department presents us with a good faith offer for access to the full report and the underlying evidence, I reserve the right to postpone these proceedings.”

The proceedings come after Nadler, in his most recent attempt, sent a letter on May 3 to Attorney General William Barr with a counter-offer to immediately gain access to the redacted portions of Special Counsel Mueller’s report and underlying materials. Nadler requested that the Department reconsider its refusal to allow all members of Congress and appropriate staff to view redacted portions of the report in a secure location, not including the grand jury material. Nadler asked that the department work jointly with Congress to seek a court order to provide grand jury material. For the production of underlying documents, Nadler offered to prioritize those materials specifically cited in the report.

A copy of the contempt resolution and report is available here.

Research contact: @HouseJudiciary

Subpoenaed for his financial records, Trump sues; intends to be a ‘no show’

April 23, 2019

“I won’t show you mine, no matter how many other politicians show you theirs.” That’s the attitude of President Donald Trump–who started the week by suing House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Marylandd) in a last-ditch bid to block a congressional subpoena of his financial records, The Washington Post reported..

The lawsuit—which was brought on behalf of Trump and his company, The Trump Organization —seeks a court order to prevent Trump’s accounting firm Mazars USA from complying with what his lawyers, William Consovoy and Stefan Passantino, claim is an improper use of subpoena by congressional Democrats because it has “no legitimate legislative purpose.”

“Democrats are using their new control of congressional committees to investigate every aspect of President Trump’s personal finances, businesses, and even his family,” the filing by Trump claims. “Instead of working with the President to pass bipartisan legislation that would actually benefit Americans, House Democrats are singularly obsessed with finding something they can use to damage the President politically.”

The filing, in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, further escalates a clash between the White House and the Democratic-controlled House over congressional oversight.

Mazars said last week that it “will respect the legal process and fully comply with its legal obligations.”

Lawyers for the president and the Trump Organization previously wrote in a letter to Mazars’ counsel that an expected committee subpoena “would not be valid or enforceable.”

In the complaint filed Monday, Trump’s lawyers argue that the subpoena of Mazars “lacks a legitimate legislative purpose,” The Washington Post reported.

“With this subpoena, the Oversight Committee is instead assuming the powers of the Department of Justice, investigating (dubious and partisan) allegations of illegal conduct by private individuals outside of government,” it says. “Its goal is to expose Plaintiffs’ private financial information for the sake of exposure, with the hope that it will turn up something that Democrats can use as a political tool against the President now and in the 2020 election.”

Research contact: @washingtonpost

House Democrats say they will subpoena the full, unredacted Mueller report

April 2, 2019

House Democrats say they intend to vote this week to subpoena Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s complete, 300-page report, as well as underlying evidence, and other materials—rejecting as insufficient Attorney General William Barr’s promise to provide a redacted version of the report “by mid-April,”  Mother Jones reported on April 1.

According to a story by posted in late March by Business Insider, Barr is taking the peculiar and unheard-of step of giving precedence to the sitting president to review and redact a document summarizing an investigation into his own administration’s culpability in Russian interference into the U.S. elections and obstruction of justice.

The president is expected to invoke executive privilege on parts of the report. Barr also has said that the report will be scrubbed to exclude grand jury testimony; information that could compromise intelligence “sources and methods”; material that could affect ongoing Justice Department investigations; and information that might “infringe on the personal privacy” or reputation of “peripheral third parties,” Mother Jones noted.

House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-New York.) announced on Monday that the panel will meet Wednesday morning to consider a resolution that would authorize the subpoenas. Democrats say they need to review the entire report as part of their own investigation into Trump’s Russian ties and alleged obstruction of justice.

Nadler and other Democrats set an April 2 deadline for Barr to turn over the whole report—without redactions—and to start handing over underlying evidence. It is extremely doubtful that they would meet that target date,

According to Mother Jones, Nadler, who has not said when he may issue subpoenas the committee okays on Wednesday, also said he will also seek authorization to subpoena documents from a number of ex-White House aides: former senior adviser Steven Bannon; former White House Communications Director Hope Hicks; former Chief of Staff Reince Priebus; former White House Counsel Don McGahn; and Ann Donaldson, McGahn’s former deputy. Nadler said those people “may have received documents from the White House relevant to the Special Counsel investigation, or their outside counsel may have, waiving applicable privileges under the law.” 

Research contact: dfriedman@motherjones.com

‘Let’s just get the goods’: Pelosi rallies dispirited Democrats

March 27, 2019

As spirits flagged following the completion of the Mueller report—and the announcement by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell that he would block a resolution to release the full document to Congress—House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) sought to rally her caucus behind closed doors Tuesday morning.

Be calm. Take a deep breath. Don’t become like them. We have to handle this professionally, officially, patriotically, strategically,” Pelosi said during a closed-door meeting with House Democrats, referring to Republicans.

“Let’s just get the goods,” she said of Mueller’s report, according to an account released by Politico.

Pelosi’s comments came after the chairs of six key House committees  sent a letter on March 25 to Attorney General William Barr—who had provided them only with a four-page letter that outlined the “highlights” of the report and ruled out any consideration of charges of obstruction of justice.

It is vital for national security purposes that Congress be able to evaluate the full body of facts and evidence collected and evaluated by the Special Counsel,” the chairs said in the letter, advising Barr that, “We look forward to receiving the report in full no later than April 2, and to begin receiving the underlying evidence and documents the same day.”

The signatories of the letter included Representatives Jerrold Nadler (Judiciary Committee), Adam Schiff (Intelligence), Richard Neal (Ways and Means), Elijah Cumming (Oversight), Maxine Waters (Financial Services) and Eliot Engel (Foreign Affairs).

According to Barr, Mueller was unable to establish that Trump associates conspired with Russians during the 2016 presidential campaign, and he left unresolved the key issue of whether President Donald Trump obstructed justice.

“The president was not exonerated,” Pelosi told Democrats, according to Politico, referring to Trump’s claim on Sunday, March 24, that Mueller’s report amounted to a “total exoneration.”

Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee have suggested that the panel would move to issue a subpoena for the Mueller report if Barr refuses to turn it over by next Tuesday. Lawmakers said that they expect Barr to send Congress a heavily redacted version of the highly anticipated report.

They also highlighted the fact that Barr declined to recommend a criminal prosecution against Trump for obstruction of justice, noting his previously held view that a president could not obstruct justice.

“We have not seen the report. We’ve only gotten a summary that was created by a man who was appointed by the president, who clearly said before his appointment that he didn’t believe a sitting president could be charged, if you will, with obstruction of justice,” said Representative Val Demings (D-Florida), a member of the Judiciary Committee.

Research contact: @heathscope