WASHINGTON (AP) — A House chairman on Monday subpoenaed former White House Counsel Don McGahn as
Democratic leaders moved to deepen their investigation of President Donald Trump but at the same time
bottle up talk among their rank-and-file of impeaching him after the damning details of special counsel
Robert Mueller’s report.
Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler was one of six powerful committee leaders making their case on a
conference call with other House Democrats late in the day that they are effectively investigating
Trump-related matters ranging from potential obstruction to his personal and business taxes. House
Speaker Nancy Pelosi urged divided Democrats to focus on fact-finding rather than the prospect of any
Nadler and the other chairmen made clear they believe Trump did obstruct justice, according to people on
the call. McGahn would be a star witness for any such case because he refused Trump’s demand to set
Mueller’s firing in motion, according to the report.
"The Special Counsel’s report, even in redacted form, outlines substantial evidence that President
Trump engaged in obstruction and other abuses," Nadler said in a statement released as the
conference call got underway. "It now falls to Congress to determine for itself the full scope of
the misconduct and to decide what steps to take in the exercise of our duties of oversight, legislation
and constitutional accountability."
The subpoena angered Republicans even as it functioned as a reassurance to impatient Democrats.
Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia, the top Republican on the Judiciary panel, pointed out that McGahn sat for
30 hours of interviews with Mueller and said Nadler was asking for some items that he knows cannot be
Trump himself insisted he wasn’t worried.
"Not even a little bit," he said when asked Monday whether he was concerned about impeachment.
However, his many tweets seeking to undermine the report’s credibility indicate he is hardly shrugging
"Only high crimes and misdemeanors can lead to impeachment," he said Monday on Twitter.
"There were no crimes by me (No Collusion, No Obstruction), so you can’t impeach. It was the
Democrats that committed the crimes, not your Republican President!"
On the other end of the scale, Pelosi’s approach disappointed some Democrats who are agitating for
impeachment proceedings. Rep. Val Demings of Florida said on the call: "As a 27-year law
enforcement officer, and while I understand we need to see the full report and all supporting documents,
I believe we have enough evidence now."
McGahn was a vital witness for Mueller, recounting the president’s outrage over the investigation and his
efforts to curtail it.
The former White House counsel described, for instance, being called at home by the president on the
night of June 17, 2017, and directed to call the Justice Department and say that Mueller had conflicts
of interest and should be removed. McGahn declined the command, "deciding that he would resign
rather than trigger what he regarded as a potential Saturday Night Massacre," the Mueller report
Once that episode became public in the news media, the president demanded that McGahn dispute the reports
and asked him why he had told Mueller about it and why he had taken notes of their conversations. McGahn
refused to back down, the report said.
Nadler’s announcement was one of several leadership moves aimed at calming a struggle among Democrats to
speak with one voice about what to do in light of Mueller’s startling account of Trump’s repeated
efforts to fire him, shut down his probe and get allies to lie.
After Mueller’s report was released last week, the most prominent of the Democratic freshmen, Rep.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, signed on to Rep. Rashida Tlaib’s resolution calling for an
investigation into Trump’s conduct and the question of whether it merits a formal impeachment charge in
"Mueller’s report is clear in pointing to Congress’ responsibility in investigating obstruction of
justice by the President," Ocasio-Cortez tweeted.
On Monday, Pelosi’s letter made clear there was no Democratic disagreement that Trump "at a minimum,
engaged in highly unethical and unscrupulous behavior which does not bring honor to the office he
holds." But she acknowledged the party’s officeholders have a range of views on how to proceed.
She counseled them repeatedly to go after facts, not resort to "passion or prejudice" in the
intense run-up to the 2020 presidential and congressional elections. She is the de facto leader of her
party until Democrats nominate a candidate to challenge Trump, so her words echoed on the presidential
"We all firmly agree that we should proceed down a path of finding the truth," Pelosi wrote.
"It is also important to know that the facts regarding holding the president accountable can be
gained outside of impeachment hearings."
As the conference call got underway, Nadler’s subpoena announcement was made public, an indication that
the facts-first approach was moving ahead. Pelosi, calling from New York City, spoke briefly. Then she
put a show of leadership force on the line — six committee chairmen, some of the most powerful people in
Congress — to give more details, according to people on the call.
Nadler went first. Others who followed were Oversight and Reform Chairman Elijah Cummings, intelligence
committee Chairman Adam Schiff, Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot Engel, Financial Services Chairwoman
Maxine Water and Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal.
The call lasted about 90 minutes and included about 170 Democrats, according to a party official.
There’s more coming to keep Trump’s reported misdeeds in public. Congressional panels are demanding the
unredacted version of the Mueller report and its underlying material gathered from the investigation.
Attorney General William Barr is expected to testify in the House and Senate next week. Nadler has
summoned Mueller to testify next month, though no date has been set.
In the face of the intense run-up to the 2020 election, Pelosi implicitly suggested Democrats resist
creating episodes like the one in January in which Tlaib was recorded declaring the House would impeach
"We must show the American people we are proceeding free from passion or prejudice, strictly on the
presentation of fact," Pelosi wrote.
Associated Press Writers Eric Tucker, Mary Clare Jalonick and Will Weissert contributed to this report.
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