Fines, jail time? Trump team resists oversight, Dems dig in


Associated Press

WASHINGTON

They’re talking at the Capitol about jailing people. Imposing steep fines. All sorts of extraordinary, if long-shot measures to force the White House to comply with Democratic lawmakers’ request for information about President Donald Trump stemming from the special counsel’s Russia investigation.

This is the remarkable state of affairs between the executive and legislative branches, unseen in recent times, as Democrats try to break through Trump’s blockade of investigations and exert congressional oversight of the administration.

“One of the things that everybody in this country needs to think about is when the president denies the Congress documents and access to key witnesses, basically what they’re doing is saying, Congress you don’t count,” said Rep. Elijah Cummings, chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee.

“We cannot – we simply cannot – have a presidency that is run as if it were a king or a dictator in charge,” said Cummings, D-Md.

Trump’s blanket refusal to engage in oversight – and Democrats’ unrelenting demand that he do so – is testing the system of checks and balances with a deepening standoff in the aftermath of Robert Mueller’s investigation.

Trump derides the oversight of his business dealings and his administration as “presidential harassment” and has the backing of most Republicans in Congress. With Mueller’s work completed, Trump wants closure to what he has long complained was a “witch hunt.”

“No more costly & time consuming investigations,” Trump tweeted.

Stunned by the administration’s refusal to allow officials to testify or respond to document requests, lawmakers have been left to think aloud about their next steps against the White House.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler, the House Judiciary Committee chairman, has given Attorney General William Barr a Monday deadline to comply with a subpoena demanding a redacted version of Mueller’s report, along with its underlying evidence, or face a contempt charge.

Barr could face another subpoena to appear before Nadler’s committee after skipping a hearing Thursday in a dispute over the rules for questioning him. Nadler, D-N.Y., also has subpoenaed testimony from former White House counsel Don McGahn.

Cummings is considering what to do on several fronts, including about testimony from Carl Kline, the White House’s personnel security director. Cummings said Kline declined last week to answer specific questions in a closed-session hearing about the security clearances granted for White House advisers Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, the president’s son-in-law and daughter. Also, the House Ways and Means Committee is being refused access to Trump’s tax returns.

Republicans are largely declining to join Democrats in pursuing the investigations any further.