Rep. Connolly: Trump Has Triggered a 'Constitutional Crisis' by Refusing Congressional Subpoenas

By Susan Jones | April 25, 2019 | 5:35 AM EDT

(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

(CNSNews.com) - Rep. Gerald Connolly (D-Va.) says the Trump White House has triggered a "constitutional crisis" by refusing multiple subpoenas issued by the House Oversight Committee for various administration staffers to come testify before the committee.

"We're fighting all the subpoenas," President Trump told reporters on Wednesday. "Look, these aren't, like, impartial people. The Democrats are trying to win 2020...the only way they can luck out is by constantly going after me," Trump said.

 

Connolly said the Trump White House won't get away with this:

"And that's why I said I think he has actually triggered a constitutional crisis. We're in it," Connolly told MSNBC's Chris Matthews on Wednesday:

The legislative branch is a separate, but equal co-branch of government. Article 1 is about Congress' power. That's why they wrote it as Article 1, not Article 2 or Article 14.

And if you read The Federalist Papers, Madison clearly saw Congress as the preeminent branch of government. You ignore Congress' demands at your peril, your legal peril, your constitutional peril.

And if he wants to get into that battle by having an across-the-board defiance of legitimate constitutional requests by Congress, then the fat is in the fire.

Connolly said he believes the courts will back up Congress in its fight with the White House:



"Even this Supreme Court has to think long and hard about taking on the entire legislative branch of government," Connolly said. "If our system of constitutional checks and balances means anything, even to Mr. Kavanaugh, it means you have to uphold the right of Congress to demand."

Connolly told Matthews the "jury's out" on impeachment. "But I think we're moving closer to impeachment because of the Mueller report itself and what he just did in the last 48 hours."

The Trump White House has directed multiple administration employees to ignore congressional subpoenas. They include Stephen Miller, Trump's immigration adviser; Carl Kline, the former White House personnel security director; and John Gore, principal deputy assistant attorney general.

In addition, President Trump has indicated he may invoke executive privilege to prevent former White House Counsel Don McGahn from testifying.

"You asked earlier, what's the power of Congress?" Connolly told Matthews. "And I would say to you, there's -- there's the obvious power that everybody is familiar with, but then there are latent powers that have not been deployed. But they are immense."

Connolly noted that "there is already talk about fining people $25,000 a day for not complying with a subpoena."

"The need for them to lawyer up. Their reputations, their careers can be profoundly damaged. And, ultimately, people can go to jail over noncompliance," Connolly warned.

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the Oversight and Reform Committee chairman, has accused the Trump White House of waging an "obstruction campaign."

"This is a massive, unprecedented, and growing pattern of obstruction," Cummings said in a message posted on the Oversight Committee website.

Yesterday, President Trump declared to the entire country that he would obstruct Congress and order all White House officials to defy lawful subpoenas from Congress. Today, the Trump Administration went even further by expanding this policy to employees at federal agencies—even when the subpoenas are bipartisan and supported by Republican Members of Congress.

The subpoena that was issued to Mr. Gore was adopted by our Committee on a bipartisan basis. Neither the White House nor the Department of Justice has asserted any privilege that would relieve Mr. Gore of his legal duty to comply.

Both President Trump and Attorney General Barr are now openly ordering federal employees to ignore congressional subpoenas and simply not show up—without any assertion of a valid legal privilege. These employees and their personal attorneys should think very carefully about their own legal interests rather than being swept up in the obstruction schemes of the Trump Administration.

Cummings wants to question John Gore about the 2020 Census and the administration’s intention to include a citizenship question. He wants to question Carl Kline about White House security clearances. And he wants to question Stephen Miller about Trump's immigration policies.

Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) told CNN's Wolf Blitzer on Wednesday that people who refuse subpoenas can be held in contempt of Congress. "That's a serious thing," he said. "It could destroy their future career. So, they need to weigh carefully whether they really want to take a bullet for the White House and be held in contempt."

Khanna said Trump waived executive privilege when he allowed Don McGahn to spend 30 hours talking to Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team: "So for him to claim executive privilege now is wrong. I think this will get settled. What happened in Watergate is, public opinion shifted. And public opinion at least demanded that people come to these committees.

"House Democrats aren't going to roll over," Khanna said. "I know Elijah Cummings. He's going to fight back."

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