Ted Lieu: If Don McGahn Doesn't Testify, Judiciary Committee Will Hold Him In Contempt


Rep. Ted Lieu told CNN Friday morning that if former White House counsel Don McGahn doesn't appear before the House Judiciary Committee on the May 21, "we'll move to hold him in contempt. McGahn in the most cited witness in the Mueller Report and earlier this week the White House instructed McGahn not to comply with a subpoena issued by the House Judiciary Committee.

"If the Trump administration is going to completely deny every single congressional subpoena, then every option has to be on the table," Lieu said.

BRIANNA KIELER, CNN HOST: California Congressman Ted Lieu is joining me, he is a Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee. Don McGahn has been subpoenaed by your committee to appear on the 21st.

REP. TED LIEU: If Don McGahn doesn't appear on the 21st, we'll move to hold him in contempt, the same which we moved to hold Attorney General Bill Barr in contempt. But what does this mean? When I'm at the grocery store or the post office, people don't walk up to me and say, "What's the deal with contempt?" What they want to know is why is the Trump administration hiding information and what are they covering up? That's what this boils down to. What is the administration trying to hide from the American people?

CNN HOST: So what is the real effect of this? You heard Jeremy saying basically in the immediate future there isn't one. If what people are concerned about is getting information, how does this move towards that end or is this just about political messaging?

LIEU: Right. You can't believe how complicated this is, so the way the process works is after we hold a person in contempt in the committee, we then send it to the House floor and then the House floor has to take a vote and the House votes that person in contempt, and then it triggers two things. We get to litigate the issue in federal court, and Congress also has inherent contempt powers where we can start imposing fines on individuals who violate subpoenas without having to go to court.

CNN HOST: You do have at your disposal, though Congress, as you heard Jeremy report, has not used it in some time. You have at your disposal an enforcement mechanism in the sergeant-at-arms. I was speaking with Congresswoman Jackie Spier and she brought up the idea of using that mechanism. Do you support that?

LIEU: So my view is if the Trump administration is going to completely deny every single Congressional subpoena, then every option has to be on the table. Congress is Article I in the Constitution and James Madison in his Federalist papers 51 said the legislative branch predominates. We're actually the strongest branch and we'll have to exercise our powers and make sure we get the information for the American people. All options have to be on the table, but I do think fines are a pretty significant option. That should be something that could get us the documents that we need if we have to go there.

CNN HOST: Options are on the table. So you are actively considering jailing the attorney general?

LIEU: I'm not actively considering that.

CNN HOST: So then how is it on the table?

LIEU: Supreme court has upheld -- If we can't get information about criminal conduct, then the question has to be asked, well, we do have an option here to try to get information.

CNN HOST: You're not getting information. You're already not getting information.

LIEU: You're absolutely right, which is why we're doing these series of escalating steps, and my view, is yes, we should have all options on the table. Impeachment is also one of those options, and I think that might be something we before considering using the sergeant-at-arms.

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