The House Oversight Committee is warning Trump aides that it's not in their best interests to ignore congressional subpoenas at Trump's behest.
Trump has spent the days since special counsel Robert Mueller's report dropped last week obstructing numerous congressional investigations into his conduct.
He's forbade both current and former aides and officials from complying with subpoenas from multiple House committees — all in an effort to protect himself from any repercussions for his actions.
But one House committee chairman is warning aides that it is not in their best interest to follow Trump's orders and ignore legal documents compelling their testimony or documents.
"These employees and their personal attorneys should think very carefully about their own legal interests rather than being swept up in the obstruction schemes of the Trump Administration," House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-MD) said in a statement on Wednesday.
Cummings' admonishment comes after Trump has forbade at least three current or former aides from complying with congressional subpoenas as part of investigations into the administration's security clearance granting processes, its attempt to rig the 2020 Census with a racist citizenship question in order to benefit Republicans in House redistricting, and Trump's obstruction of justice in Mueller's probe.
Trump's Treasury Department also ignored yet another deadline the House Ways and Means Committee set to turn over Trump's personal tax returns. Experts say the law is clear that the committee can compel Treasury to turn over the documents, but nevertheless they are obstructing.
"This is a massive, unprecedented, and growing pattern of obstruction," Cummings said in his statement, adding that, "Both President Trump and Attorney General [William] Barr are now openly ordering federal employees to ignore congressional subpoenas and simply not show up — without any assertion of a valid legal privilege."
Aside from Cummings, Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA), another member of the House Oversight Committee, said Wednesday that Trump's actions to obstruct justice have raised the stakes for impeachment and have placed the country in "the midst of a constitutional crisis," according to CNN reporter Lauren Fox.
Connolly is one of a growing number of Democrats in the House who say Mueller's report has increased the likelihood of Trump's impeachment. And Trump's attempts to obstruct congressional inquiries into his conduct are only likely to further fuel the impeachment flames.
Experts say that Trump's attempts to block subpoenas are almost certainly not legal. Yet because challenging his obstruction in court takes time, Trump could be hoping to run out the clock on these investigations to avoid facing any consequences for his actions.
Democrats, however, are looking for ways to speed up the efforts to get Trump aides to comply with their legal subpoenas, including considering fining or even jailing those who do not comply, according to Bloomberg News. The suggestion came from House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY), whose subpoenas the Trump administration is also ignoring.
Brookings Institute fellow Margaret Taylor told ABC News that both of those tactics are legal — though rarely used given subpoenas are not often ignored.
"There is something called Congress' inherent contempt power, which basically if you get right down to it would mean sending out the Capitol Police to basically get someone and put them in a holding space on Capitol Hill," Taylor said. "That hasn't been used for decades and decades and decades."
Congress could invoke “inherent contempt power” if officials don't comply with a subpoena to testify, Brookings Institute fellow Margaret Taylor says, which means "sending out the Capitol Police to basically get someone and put them in a holding space" https://t.co/MyIZZvaziK pic.twitter.com/Ztopkt5ukq
— ABC News Live (@ABCNewsLive) April 24, 2019
Trump's attempts to obstruct congressional investigations are pervasive, overt, and likely illegal — and Democrats in Congress are preparing to fight back.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.