House Democrats still haven’t used their strongest weapon to force President Donald Trump’s top officials to testify before Congress — but they insist their fight against the White House is proceeding as planned.
The Democratic majority has issued subpoenas and contempt citations the White House has ignored, but so far they haven’t sued the Trump administration to make current and former officials available for questioning, reported Politico.
“Right now, we’re kind of in a wind-up phase,” Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA), who sits on the Judiciary Committee. “When litigation is filed, then the game begins.”
The slow pace is frustrating some progressive lawmakers and activists, but Democratic leadership say they’re building a record of Trump administration flouting of legal requirements to help persuade a court to rule against the White House.
“Unfortunately, this is the process that we must adhere to,” said Rep. Jared Huffman (D-CA), who supports an impeachment inquiry. “It is in accordance with the rule of law, which ironically the executive branch is trampling. But we can’t get down in the mud and trample our Constitution and our laws along with the administration.”
The incremental approach is also necessary, House Democrats say, because their legal team is already overstretched, and they fear the fallout from a court ruling against the legislative branch.
“This is very serious business, so when we go to court, we absolutely have to win,” said Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA), who sits on the Judiciary Committee. “So that’s why we’re making sure we have bulletproof cases when we do go to court.”
The House will vote this week to hold Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in criminal contempt of Congress for defying subpoenas related to adding a citizenship question on the 2020 census.
Barr has already been held in civil contempt for failing to respond to a subpoena related to special counsel Robert Mueller’s report, and so far House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) seems to have the support of other Democrats.
“The chairman has a plan, I’m deferring to him,” said Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-LA), a member of the committee. “I think it’s moving.”