Instructing witnesses not to appear, raising bogus privilege claims, blocking a legally required delivery of his tax returns to the House Ways and Means Committee chairman — President Trump seems eager to duplicate the conduct that was the basis for Article 3 of the impeachment of President Richard M. Nixon.
As Pelosi was making her observation, Trump upped the ante, issuing a bogus declaration of executive privilege over the full Mueller report in advance of the House Judiciary Committee’s vote on whether to hold Attorney General William P. Barr in contempt. In a lengthy written statement, Chairman Jerrold Adler (D-N.Y.) declared:
In response to our latest good-faith offer, the Department abruptly announced that if we move forward today, it would ask President Trump to invoke what it refers to as a protective assertion of executive privilege on all of the materials subject to our subpoena. Just minutes ago, it took that dramatic step.Besides misapplying the doctrine of executive privilege—since the White House waived these privileges long ago, and the Department seemed open to sharing these materials with us just yesterday—this decision represents a clear escalation in the Trump Administration’s blanket defiance of Congress’s constitutionally mandated duties.
Meanwhile, Barr continues to duck testifying and being questioned by committee counsel.
Nadler underscored how preposterous the invocation of executive privilege is for a document designed to provide not a prosecutorial judgment but evidence for Congress to act:
This is information we are legally entitled to receive and we are constitutionally obligated to review. And I would remind the Members that the Mueller report is no ordinary, run of the mill document—it details significant misconduct involving the President, including his campaign’s willingness and eagerness to accept help from a hostile foreign government, numerous misstatements if not outright lies concerning those acts, and 11 separate incidents of obstructive behavior by the President that more than 700 former prosecutors have told us warrant criminal indictment. If Congress is not entitled to the full unredacted Mueller report, one must wonder what document we would be entitled to.
The administration is saying you cannot indict a president and Congress cannot get the full information it needs to determine whether impeachment is advisable. Noting that Trump is also stonewalling on his tax returns, Nadler warned: “This is unprecedented. If allowed to go unchecked, this obstruction means the end of congressional oversight. As a co-equal branch of government, we should not and cannot allow this to continue. I urge my colleagues, whether or not you care to see the full Mueller Report—and we all should want to see the complete Report—to stand up for the institution we are proud to serve.”
But Republicans think they serve Trump. They are entirely unwilling to look beyond naked partisan concerns, to adhere to their oaths and to take seriously the assault that Trump wages on the Constitution. If the committee votes to hold Barr in contempt, the matter will go to the floor of the House.
For a report that is supposed to entirely exonerate Trump, he and his minions are going to extreme lengths to conceal its complete contents, to prevent the attorney general from testifying and even to try to keep Mueller from testifying. If he did not obstruct justice before, he certainly is obstructing Congress now. The House should exercise all of its powers to end Trump’s autocratic spasm. Our democracy is at stake.