Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons and one novel. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.com.
When asked in April whether he was opposed to the special counsel testifying before Congress — an event now scheduled for July 17 — Attorney General Bill Barr clearly told lawmakers, “I have no objection to Bob Mueller personally testifying.”
But now he has changed his tune.
Speaking to reporters on Monday, Barr said Democrats were trying to make a “public spectacle” by subpoenaing Mueller to testify about the Russia investigation.
“I’m not sure what purpose is served by dragging him up there and trying to grill him,” Barr said. “I don’t think Mueller should be treated that way or subject himself to that, if he doesn’t want to.”
Barr also said the Justice Department would support Mueller if he sought to violate the subpoena that Congress issued for his testimony. In a press conference announcing the end of his work in the department, Mueller indicated that he hoped that he wouldn’t have to speak publicly about the investigation, and he resisted requests by lawmakers to testify on camera. However, once he was officially subpoenaed, he said he would comply, and there’s no indication that he has changed his mind.
Barr’s claim that Mueller would have legal grounds to refuse a subpoena is highly dubious. Lawmakers have every right to ask Mueller about his report and the investigation behind it. Mueller has said that his report should serve as his testimony, but lawmakers will inevitably have questions about what he decided to include and not include in the report and about how it should be interpreted. Mueller will likely refuse to answer some questions on various grounds — and Democrats are unlikely to want to hold him in contempt for holding back — but the idea that he could outright reject a subpoena because he “doesn’t want to” testify is senseless. And Barr must know that.
Federal government employees who do important work for the American people are subject to Congressional subpoena, just like anybody else. They can’t get out of that because they don’t want to participate in a “public spectacle.” Lawmakers have every right to make a public spectacle out of hearings if they choose, just as President Donald Trump has the right to make himself a public spectacle every day. That doesn’t mean Mueller has the right to defy a subpoena.
The transparently bogus nature of Barr’s claims lends an air of desperation to his remarks. Why is he so willing to encourage Mueller not to testify on such feeble grounds?
The most obvious explanation is simply that he fears Democrats may achieve their purpose. They’ll use the hearings to highlight key findings of the Mueller report, and that will be bad for Trump. They may even be able to elicit some new information from Mueller, potentially exposing the rift between him and attorney general and harming Barr’s credibility.
But there’s another reason Barr might be nervous about Mueller’s testimony. Perhaps surprising to some, many Republicans are actually eager to have Mueller testify. They want to go after Mueller for his supposed bias against the president, and they want to feed the ridiculous narratives constructed in right-wing media suggesting that the whole Russia investigation was actually a conspiracy against Trump all along.
Barr has played into these narratives too, saying the Trump campaign was “spied” on by the Obama administration and that it may have been done for nefarious purposes. The attorney general may be worried that Mueller will stand up to these theories and deftly smack them down, undercutting narratives that Barr thinks play in Trump’s favor.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler can go to court to force two key members of Trump’s inner circle to comply with congressional subpoenas, after the House voted Tuesday to approve that maneuver.
The House voted 229 to 191 along party lines to let Congress enforce subpoenas against Attorney General William Barr and former White House counsel Don McGahn, who have refused to follow legally binding subpoenas from the House Judiciary Committee by turning over documents related to former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.
“Mr. Speaker, when a congressional committee issues a subpoena, compliance is not optional,” Nadler said in a speech on the House floor urging House members to vote for the resolution. “We expect witnesses to testify when summoned. We expect the Administration to comply with subpoenas and to provide us with the materials we require to do our jobs.”
Refusing to comply with a subpoena is an affront to the rule of law.
Congressional subpoena powers are key to enforcing the constitutional mandate of Congress to carry out oversight and conduct investigations. And by refusing to comply, Barr and McGahn are creating a bad precedent that could hinder the legislative branch from doing its job for years to come.
But both Barr and McGahn’s trampling of the rule of law is consistent with the behavior of the man both have worked for.
Trump has been systematically trying to obstruct congressional investigations to try to avoid facing any repercussions for his lawless and corrupt conduct — including the conduct Mueller investigated, as well as other unethical things Trump has done while in the White House.
Trump has ordered everyone from McGahn, to former White House Communications Director Hope Hicks, to a former White House official in charge of security clearances not to comply with legally binding congressional subpoenas.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Trump’s attempt to stonewall congressional oversight amounts to obstruction of justice. And it’s led dozens of Democratic members of Congress to call for impeachment proceedings against Trump.
Tuesday’s vote, however, allows Congress to enforce its oversight agenda without launching an impeachment inquiry.
If Trump and his aides continue to obstruct investigations, however, an impeachment inquiry could be the next step.
Published with permission of The American Independent.
IMAGE: Former White House counsel Don McGahn.
Reprinted with permission from Alternet.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) on Sunday joined criticism of the New York Times for publishing an article about former White House Communications Director Hope Hicks that frames her decision whether or not to comply with a congressional subpoena “as some Lifetime drama called ‘Hope’s Choice.’”
Ocasio-Cortez’s statement follows similar outrage from critics of the Trump administration who accused the Times of whitewashing Hicks’ role in the White House, as well as her reported refusal to comply with a lawful congressional subpoena.
It’s a legal question not an existential question https://t.co/Wu6cwvb0Wm
— Molly Jong-Fast (@MollyJongFast) May 26, 2019
What’s with the pic? https://t.co/iPbLhPAnvM
— Mehdi Hasan (@mehdirhasan) May 26, 2019
NYT has been acting as Hope Hicks’ publicist for 4 yrs—it’s pathetic https://t.co/HZBcge7xO1
— Eric Boehlert (@EricBoehlert) May 26, 2019
Quoting criticism from journalist Soledad O’Brien on Sunday, Ocasio-Cortez also took issue with the Times’ “glamour shot” of Hicks.
“Yup. Where’s the ‘no angel’ take now?” asked Ocasio-Cortez. “In the immediate aftermath of shootings, media routinely post menacing photos of people-of-color victims [and] dredge up any questionable thing they’d ever done. But when Hope Hicks considers not complying w a subpoena, it’s glamour shot time.”
“This is a [former] admin official considering participating in a coverup led by the President,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted. “Treat her equally.”
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