Nadler: Subpoenas needed to stop ‘tyrannical’ Trump
Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (left) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. | J. Scott Applewhite/AP

WASHINGTON—Congress must issue and enforce subpoenas against “tyrannical” GOP President Donald Trump – for everything from the entire Mueller report and its background materials to Trump’s tax returns – the chair of the committee that would handle impeaching Trump says.

In a long interview May 9 on the PBS Newshour, Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., stopped short of uttering the “I” word – impeachment. However, the boss of the entire Democratic-run House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., edged closer to it herself. She told the Washington Post the day before that Trump is violating his oath of office.

And Trump’s defiance of subpoenas “could be an impeachable offense,” Pelosi added, just as defiance of congressional subpoenas for Watergate evidence became the third impeachment count against Richard Nixon, 45 years ago.

The developments came as what Nadler called “a constitutional crisis” is escalating between Trump and Congress, and not just the Democratic-run House, either. The GOP-led Senate Intelligence Committee subpoenaed Donald Trump Jr., to talk more, behind closed doors, about the 2016 negotiations and deal involving a proposed Trump Tower in Moscow.

“We may have no choice” but to issue subpoenas and pursue them through the courts “however long it takes,” Nadler said. “We have to make the point that no person is above the law and no president is above the law. It” – Trump’s conduct – “is tyrannical.”

“We cannot let the president” decide what to turn over, or not turn over, to Congress, Nadler explained. “If we do, we might as well shut up shop and go home and admit the president is a dictator.”

Lies about the Trump Moscow deal, from both Trump and his aides, are part of the Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report about Russian manipulation of the 2016 election, in Trump’s favor, and whether Trump obstructed justice in trying to stop probes – notably Mueller’s – into the Russians’ actions.

Mueller stated that because of a prior Justice Department memo barring a sitting president from indictment, he could not indict Trump for obstruction. But, contrary to Trump’s claims, Mueller did not exonerate him, either.

The report lists at least ten instances of potential Trump obstruction of justice.

The Mueller report led the House Judiciary Committee, which Nadler chairs, to issue the subpoenas, for the whole, un-redacted report, its backup materials and for Trump’s hand-picked Attorney General, William Barr, to testify about it. Barr refused a prior invitation to talk with the lawmakers.

“We are in a constitutional crisis because of the administration’s contempt for law and their refusal to obey the law,” Nadler explained.

On May 8, the Judiciary panel also voted to hold Barr in contempt of Congress. Trump has invoked executive privilege to prevent Barr, and present and former top aides, from testifying. Nadler noted, however, that once the administration cooperated with Mueller, and once it turned over some material to the panel, it effectively dropped that “privilege” defense.

Referring back to Watergate, Nadler noted the Supreme Court, by an 8-0 vote then, limited the president’s power to invoke executive privilege and refuse to turn over evidence – in that case, Nixon’s tapes — for a criminal case.

Nadler stated the Mueller report battle isn’t the only instance where Trump is in contempt of Congress.

Another instance of Trump’s contempt is the administration’s decision to try to wreck the Affordable Care Act through a Trump Justice Department brief with the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals calling the health care law entirely unconstitutional.  Traditionally, DOJ defends federal laws in federal courts.

Two others, Nadler said, are Trump’s deliberate ripping of little kids away from their asylum-seeking parents at the U.S.-Mexico border, and Trump’s failure to follow a 1924 federal law and turn over his tax returns to the chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass. Neal’s panel is expected to issue its own subpoena for them.

A third panel, Oversight, subpoenaed financial records from Trump’s accountants, to see if Trump lied about his net worth. The two sides have already gone to court over Trump’s order to defy that subpoena. After a May 7 hearing, federal Judge Amit Mehta said he would quick rule on the case.

By refusing to obey the subpoenas, “now, he (Trump) is trying to establish the presidency as a dictatorship,” Nadler said. “And he’s turned the Justice Department, which is supposed to enforce the law, into his personal” attorney.

And in prior probes, including Watergate, the Iran-contra controversy and the investigation of President Bill Clinton’s sexual relations with a White House intern – and lies about that – the executive branch turned over whatever Congress sought, Nadler added.

New York may come to Neal’s aid. The Democratic-run State Senate passed legislation letting state officials turn over Trump’s state tax returns to the Ways and Means panel. State tax returns mimic the federal returns to a great extent. The heavily Democratic, and more-progressive, New York State Assembly is expected to follow suit. Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) plans to sign the measure.

Meanwhile, Pelosi, who has been reluctant to impeach Trump – as progressives both within her Democratic caucus and in the party as a whole demand – told the Washington Post Trump seems to be breaking his oath of office.

“We do have a responsibility to our own oath of office: To protect and defend the Constitution. He takes the same oath. I don’t think he takes it seriously, so it tells me something,” Pelosi said.

The full oath reads: “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States and will, to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”


Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award-winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but tough when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.