Former Rep. Liz Holtzman served in Congress on the Judiciary Committee when the House voted to impeach President Richard Nixon.
President Donald Trump is attempting to claim executive privilege over documents and testimony from the White House requested by Congress. Holtzman explained that Nixon attempted to do something similar, saying that the information the special counsel sought from him was about "national security." In that case the courts rejected Nixon. Congress then sought what they are seeking now, but went about it a whole different way.
"So what we did, we didn’t bring contempt proceedings," Holtzman said. "One of the articles of impeachment, the third article of impeachment was the president’s actions to obstruct the impeachment by refusing to turn over materials."
She went on to highlight that the coverup in the Watergate scandal was what ultimately sunk Nixon. It could in this case as well. As special counsel Robert Mueller pointed out in his report, there were ultimately at least 10 examples of obstruction. Trump's coverup could be what brings him down.
"The coverup of the abuses of power and the coverup with the impeachment," Holtzman explained. "The wholesale refusal of the president in this case to turn over a single document, a single document to the House Judiciary Committee, which is looking at the Mueller report is just thumbing his nose at the Constitution, at the rule of law he’s saying, 'You know, I’m the king, you want to do something about it. Try.'"
Congress can hold contempt proceedings for Attorney General Bill Barr but they haven't thrown anyone in jail for contempt in about 100 years, she explained. Instead, she encouraged Congress to "clean out the rats, get clean sheets" and make sure people understand people might actually go to jail.
"So Congress has that power," she said. "Although I’m sure that will be tested in the courts, the courts will deal with it. The issue is for the American people. If they see that what the president of the United States is doing is covering up trying to force Congress from seeing the witnesses, keep Congress from getting the documents, keep the American people from seeing the witnesses, from reading the documents, from hearing about the documents -- the American people see this as coverup, Trump’s goose is cooked. That’s how this has to be presented."
Watch her comments below: