“Our subpoenas are not optional,” Nadler said at Tuesday’s hearing. “Mr. McGahn has a legal obligation to be here for his scheduled appearance. If he does not immediately correct his mistake, this committee will have no choice but to enforce the subpoena against him.”
Nadler said Tuesday that he was prepare to go to court to obtain McGahn’s testimony.
McGahn’s attorney William Burck told the committee on Monday that McGahn would not appear after the White House directed him not to testify, arguing he is immune from having to appear before Congress over his role as an adviser to the President.
“Under these circumstances, and also conscious of the duties he, as an attorney, owes to his former client, Mr. McGahn must decline to appear at the hearing tomorrow,” Burck wrote.
Democrats want to hear from McGahn because he was a key witness in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into obstruction of justice. Nadler outlined McGahn’s role in the report in his opening statement, arguing Tuesday that Trump would have been charged with obstruction if he was not President.
“I believe that each of these incidents, documented in detail in the Mueller report, constitutes a crime,” Nadler said. “But for the Department of Justice’s policy of refusing to indict a sitting President, I believe he would have been charged with these crimes.”
McGahn’s absence is the latest instance in which the Trump administration has stonewalled congressional Democrats’ investigations into the President, a blockade that has prompted some Democrats to argue it’s time to open an impeachment inquiry.
When Barr didn’t appear earlier this month over a dispute about whether staff attorneys could question him, Democrats played up the theatrics, with Rep. Steve Cohen of Tennessee bringing a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken and a ceramic chicken.
There was no chicken at Tuesday’s proceedings. But that didn’t stop Republicans from charging that Democrats were engaging in political theatrics.
“Here we go again — the theater is open,” said Georgia Rep. Doug Collins, the top Republican on the committee. “Even gaveling in today’s hearing without a witness is theatrical. … I just am glad to see today that we don’t have chicken on the dais.”
Collins argued that Nadler “rushed to maximize headlines” by issuing a subpoena instead of trying to bring in McGahn to testify voluntarily.