Washington, DC, United States – The US House Judiciary Committee voted on Thursday to authorise subpoenas for several individuals mentioned in Special Counsel Robert Mueller‘s Russia report, including the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner.
The panel also authorised subpoenas for documents and testimony related to President Donald Trump’s immigration policy.
“The Committee on the Judiciary has a constitutional obligation to investigate credible allegations of misconduct,” said Representative Jerrold Nadler, the Democrat chairman of the committee.
Mueller will appear before the committee in as a star witness in its investigation of Trump next week. He issued a 448-page report after conducting a nearly two-year investigation into Russia’s interference in the US 2016 presidential election. A redacted version of the report was publicly released in April.
Mueller’s investigation was unable to establish a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia despite finding significant contacts between Trump associates and Russians.
Mueller declined to make a judgment on whether Trump obstructed justice. The report, however, outlined 10 instances in which Trump tried to impede the investigation.
Attorney General William Barr and former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein subsequently determined Trump had not broken the law.
The Judiciary Committee has been attempting to follow up on Mueller’s report, but the White House has so far stonewalled those efforts.
Former White House Counsel Don McGahn, who provided crucial information to Mueller about Trump’s obstruction, has refused to honour a subpoena from the committee. The House is preparing to file suit in federal court to compel McGahn’s testimony.
Former White House Communications Director Hope Hicks and former Deputy Counsel Annie Donaldson, under direction from White House lawyers, refused to answer questions in appearances before the committee.
In addition to Kushner, the committee on Thursday authorised subpoenas for former White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, former Deputy Chief of Staff Rick Dearborn, former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, Assistant Attorney General Jody Hunt, former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, former White House staff secretary Robert Porter and former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski.
The committee also subpoenaed David Pecker, the CEO of American Media, publisher of the National Enquirer, a celebrity gossip tabloid that paid former Playboy model Karen McDougal to keep quiet about an alleged affair with Trump. Keith Davidson, a Los Angeles lawyer who negotiated the deal, and Dylan Howard, the content officer for American Media, were also subpoenaed.
Republicans decried the committee action as yet another attempt to undermine the president.
“It is really a faux impeachment, a fake impeachment to satisfy the Democrats’ hardcore base,” said Republican Steve Chabot.
“The vast majority of the American people do not support this ‘impeachment in drag’ that continues to fester up from the Judiciary Committee,” added Republican Matt Gaetz.
The White House did not immediately respond to the House panel’s vote.
Democrats on the committee also expressed outrage over top Trump administration refusals to answer questions and demands for information about its immigration policies, including family separation and “zero tolerance” for migrants at the US southern border.
The panel authorised subpoenas for documents and testimony related to the administration’s controversial policies.
“We have given the administration ample time to respond to these serious reports of egregious conduct,” Nadler said. “This committee cannot sit idly by. There must be oversight and accountability.”
The inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a report earlier this month detailing dangerous overcrowding and prolonged detention of migrants and asylum seekers by in prison-like facilities in the Rio Grande River Valley.
There have also been reports of unsanitary conditions as detention facilities housing child migrants.
Jennifer Costello, acting inspector general for DHS, is scheduled to testify before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform on Friday.
On Wednesday, a House oversight subcommittee heard emotional testimony from Yazmin Juarez, whose 21-month-old daughter, Mariee, died last year after being released from US immigration custody.
“We came to the United States, where I hoped to build a better and safer life for us,” Juarez told the panel. “Instead, I watched my baby girl die slowly and painfully – just a few months before her second birthday,” she added.
Juarez told the committee that Mariee experienced coughing and diarrhoea while in custody at a facility in Dilley, Texas.
“Mariee wasn’t the only sick child,” she said. “I saw a lot of children with red eyes. Children crying and coughing a lot. It was obvious Mariee was going to get sick there.”
She is now suing the government over Mariee’s death.
“When I walked out of the hospital [the day of Mariee’s death], all I had with me was a piece of paper the doctors made with Mariee’s handprints. That’s all I had left, her handprints.”
At least six children in the last year have died after being detained by US immigration officials.
“We have had children dying in American custody for months now,” said Democrat Veronica Escobar on Thursday’s House Judiciary hearing. “We have an obligation to get to the truth.”
The Trump administration “simply must be reined-in,” Democrat Ted Deutch said.