New calls for President Donald Trump’s impeachment came from House Democrats, after former White House counsel Donald McGahn failed to appear before Congress despite a subpoena.
Donald McGahn skipped a hearing on May 21 about the Mueller report.
In an extraordinary move, President Trump has vowed to block all subpoenas of his current and former staff.
House Judiciary Committee chairman Jerry Nadler said after the failed hearing: “Our subpoenas are not optional.”
“Let me be clear: this committee will hear Mr. McGahn’s testimony, even if we have to go to court to secure it,” he said.
The Trump administration claims that the report by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, into allegations of Russian collusion and obstruction of justice, cleared him of wrongdoing, and that there are no further questions to answer.
It also claims that staff cannot legally be compelled to testify, but Jerry Nadler said he would hold Donald McGahn in contempt and pursue other means of compelling testimony.
“We will hold this president accountable, one way or the other,” he said.
On May 2, President Trump responded on Twitter, arguing that he had “allowed everyone to testify” to Robert Mueller’s team, and accusing the Democrats of seeking a “do-over” of the special counsel investigation.
Democratic Party leaders have so far held off pressure from their lawmakers to begin impeachment proceedings, and the party is divided over the merits of the move, but the pressure is growing as the president stonewalls congressional inquiries.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi scheduled a party meeting on May 22 to discuss the issue.
Both the Department of Justice and White House released statements on May 20 arguing that Donald McGahn was under no obligation to give evidence.
According to a letter sent to House Judiciary Committee, Donald McGahn was “absolutely immune from compelled Congressional testimony”. Donald McGahn, who served as White House counsel for nearly two years under President Trump before his resignation in October 2018, said he would respect the president’s instruction not to appear.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders accused Democrats of pushing for “a wasteful and unnecessary do-over” of the Mueller report.
Citing the justice department guidance, Sanders said: “The former counsel to the president cannot be forced to give such testimony, and Mr. McGahn has been directed to act accordingly.”
In the wake of Donald McGahn’s failure to appear, Jerry Nadler announced he had issued subpoenas to former White House Communications Director Hope Hicks and Annie Donaldson, McGahn’s former chief of staff.
According to a New York Times report, Democratic lawmakers and aides were examining possible rules changes to allow the House to fine people held in contempt, as well as other means to break the impasse.