Some Judiciary Committee Democrats, concerned about the Trump administration escalating its stonewalling into their investigation of potential obstruction of justice and abuses of power by the president and his associates, want the full House to approve their probe.
“I believe we are at a point now that we should issue a resolution of investigation,” senior Judiciary member Shelia Jackson Lee said Thursday.
“That resolution would come to the Rules Committee and ultimately to the floor of the House, which would then instruct the Judiciary Committee to have a full fledged investigation, which could not be challenged or would be difficult to be challenged by the president’s whimsical comments of who can testify and who cannot,” the Texas Democrat said.
The Judiciary Committee launched its probe into the Trump administration in March, sending out requests for information to 81 individuals and entities, but has received limited responses.
Jackson Lee’s comments, made during a press conference before Democrats began what they estimated to be a 12-hour reading of Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller’s report, came the day after the White House sent Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler a letter asking the panel to end its investigation.
White House Counsel Pat A. Cipollone accused Judiciary Democrats of trying to “replow the same ground the special counsel has already covered.” If the panel continues its investigation, Cipollone said the White House would “resist the overbroad demands” the committee outlined in its March letters to 81 individuals and entities associated with Trump.
Many of those information requests were addressed to current and former administration officials but should have been directed at the White House, which may exert executive privilege over some of the information, Cipollone said.
Cipollone’s letter follows a previous one he sent Nadler saying the White House was the legal custodian over documents the panel subpoenaed from former White House counsel Don McGahn and that those materials may be covered by executive privilege.
The White House has also asserted exerted executive privilege over the full, unredacted Mueller report and underlying investigatory materials at the request of Attorney General William Barr, whom the panel voted to hold in contempt of Congress for not complying with its subpoena for the full report.
“We have an executive, we have an Article II body that is doing something that most members of Congress or the American people have never confronted because Founding Fathers established a coordinated, collaborative process, even when we were at odds with each other,” Jackson Lee said.
House rules allow for a resolution of investigation to be brought before the Rules Committee, which would refer it to the floor for a vote of the full body.
“The resolution of investigation gives the force of the whole House and instructions to the Judiciary Committee to do a litany of things that we believe is part of our duty of educating the public, members of Congress and proceeding in the way that will be in consistency with the fact that we’re doing other work,” Jackson Lee said. “We cannot have an administration that seeks to undermine the order of three branches of government. And this would be a procedure that would work to frame our investigation.”
She noted that the panel wouldn’t need to pursue the resolution of investigation “if we can have our hearings and have the Article II body respond as it should and not pretend that blanket executive privilege can be utilized.”
No decisions have been made yet about when or if to file a resolution of investigation, Jackson Lee said.
“This is something that has to be discussed and deliberated on and that will be the case,” she said.
Judiciary vice chair Mary Gay Scanlon and panel member Sylvia R. Garcia also attended the press conference — Scanlon organized the reading of the Mueller report — and seemed to endorse the idea of a resolution of investigation.
“When you have the full weight of the House behind it, then it does give an additional weight in the courts,” Scanlon said.