In the past few weeks, a growing number of Democratic lawmakers have called to begin impeachment proceedings against President Trump.
This intensifying drumbeat stems in part from the Trump administration’s repeated defiance of congressional subpoenas. At least two of the four subpoenas issued by the House Judiciary Committee in 2019 have been ignored. It is unclear whether or how fully two other subpoenas — to former White House aide Hope Hicks and ex-White House counsel Donald McGahn’s chief of staff Annie Donaldson (the New York Times reported this week Hicks had given the committee only “four documents containing email chains”) — have been complied with.
But amid this defiance, congressional Republicans have taken a starkly different position toward compliance with said subpoenas, examples of which you can watch in the video above.
In July, Rep. Matt Gaetz (Fla.) joined 10 other House Republicans to introduce articles of impeachment against then-Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein for not fully complying with subpoena requests for classified Justice Department documents.
Now, Gaetz says House Democrats are “trying to force” Attorney General William P. Barr to break the law by requesting the redacted grand jury material in special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s report, seemingly ignoring that Barr can legally petition the court to release grand jury material to the committee.
In supporting the 2018 impeachment resolution against Rosenstein, Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) said “it’s all about transparency.”
Eight months later, Meadows slammed a Democratic subpoena for the unredacted Mueller report, saying it was about the 2020 election, not transparency.
In October, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) supported a subpoena threat against Rosenstein, after a New York Times report that Rosenstein considered wearing a wire to record Trump.
“When you’re the guy who in reality is running the Justice Department and the chairman of the committee that has jurisdiction over your agency asks you to come, you are obligated to come,” Jordan said on Oct. 14.
And when former FBI lawyer Lisa Page initially defied a congressional subpoena in July, Rep. Douglas A. Collins (R-Ga.) said: “These subpoenas do not come with an RSVP. They’re supposed to show up.”
Now, Collins is admonishing Judiciary Democrats for “abusing” their subpoena power.
It is worth noting that Democrats have long been critical of Republican subpoenas, at times abstaining from votes or halting hearings altogether via parliamentary maneuvering. House Judiciary Committee member Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) even told Rosenstein to stop complying with subpoena requests in June 2018 (“I think he actually needs to start saying no,” Swalwell told CNN at the time).
But since Trump’s election, House Democrats have been far less likely to suggest congressional subpoenas are optional, according to a review by The Fix. Indeed, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), then the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, called on Page to comply with the committee’s subpoena in July.
Now, as Democrats mull an impeachment inquiry, the question of whether defying congressional subpoenas constitutes a constitutional crisis — as Nadler and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) have asserted — is a central component of whether Democrats will ultimately start impeachment proceedings.
“I think we’re on the threshold of [a constitutional crisis],” House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) said on MSNBC on May 13 (Schiff has yet to call for impeachment proceedings against Trump). “Where we would be in a full-blown crisis is if we get to court, the court rules against Trump and Trump says, ‘I don’t care, I’m still not going to comply.’ ”