Don McGahn Is Not the Most Critical Witness on Impeachment

In the last several days, Jerry Nadler has stated more and more clearly that his committee is conducting an inquiry on whether to file articles of impeachment. Six months after gaining the majority, this feels like a slow walk perhaps intended to time any impeachment vote based on how it will impact the election.

In its press release and complaint seeking to enforce its subpoena against Don McGahn last week, the House Judiciary Committee made an alarming claim: that Don McGahn was the most important witness in its consideration of whether to file for impeachment.

McGahn is the Judiciary Committee’s most important fact witness in its consideration of whether to recommend articles of impeachment and its related investigation of misconduct by the President, including acts of obstruction of justice described in the Special Counsel’s Report.

That claim suggests that the House Judiciary Committee has a very limited conceptualization of its own inquiry and perhaps an overestimation of how good a witness McGahn will be.

McGahn’s probably not as credible as HJC Dems think

I say the latter for two reasons. First, in the early days of the Russian investigation, McGahn overstepped the role of a White House Counsel. For example, even after his office recognized they could not talk to Jeff Sessions about the Russian investigation or risk obstruction, McGahn followed Trump’s orders to pressure Dana Boente on the investigation.

At the President’s urging, McGahn contacted Boente several times on March 21, 2017, to seek Boente’s assistance in having Corney or the Department of Justice correct the misperception that the President was under investigation.326

Curiously, McGahn and Boente’s versions of what happened are among the most divergent in the entire Mueller Report, which might suggest McGahn was less than forthright in testimony that, per footnotes, came in one of his earlier interviews.

Plus, as the Mueller Report acknowledges, the NYT story that triggered one of the key events in the report — where Trump asked McGahn to publicly rebut a claim that he had asked McGahn to fire Mueller, which led him to threaten to resign — was inaccurate in its claim that McGahn had functionally threatened to resign (which was clear in real time). 

On January 26, 2018, the President’s personal counsel called McGahn ‘s attorney and said that the President wanted McGahn to put out a statement denying that he had been asked to fire the Special Counsel and that he had threatened to quit in protest.784 McGahn’s attorney spoke with McGahn about that request and then called the President’s personal counsel to relay that McGahn would not make a statement.785 McGahn ‘s attorney informed the President’s personal counsel that the Times story was accurate in reporting that the President wanted the Special Counsel removed.786 Accordingly, McGahn’s attorney said, although the article was inaccurate in some other respects, McGahn could not comply with the President’s request to dispute the story.787

Put McGahn under oath, and Republicans will ask if he was a source for that story, and if he was, why he oversold what he did. At the very least they’ll beat him up for letting the “#FakeNews NYT” spread lies.

There are far better (tactically and Constitutionally) reasons to impeach

More troubling still, asserting that McGahn is the most important witness — and stating that he’d be a witness in “criminal obstruction” — you prioritize that cause for impeachment over others, causes that might elicit some Republican support or at the very least mobilize the Democratic base.

To my mind, the best cause for impeachment — in terms of cornering Republicans and mobilizing the Democratic base — pertains to Trump’s repurposing of otherwise allocated funding for his Wall. This was an issue about which Republicans themselves had problems. It highlights Trump’s impotence to deliver on his campaign promise that Mexico would pay for his wall. It goes to issues of efficacy on national security issues. And it highlights how Trump has abused authority — authority which goes to the core of separation of powers — to facilitate his attacks on Latino immigrants. Plus, depending on when impeachment was triggered, having focused on the power of the purse would provide a tool to rein Trump in if he survived the election.

Democrats should also focus on Trump’s abuse of the Vacancy Reform Act in his appointments to lead the Consumer Financial Protection Board, DOJ, DOD, and ODNI. Violating the spirit of Consumer Financial Protection Board gave Trump a way to gut an entity meant to protect consumers, something that Elizabeth Warren will be able to magnify better than anyone (all the more so if and when the economy starts to turn south). Appointing Big Dick Toilet Salesman Matt Whitaker to fire Jeff Sessions provides a different way to get to the Russian investigation, and may (if BDTS prevented Mueller from naming Trump in the Roger Stone indictment) focus more attention on the resolution of that case (which has the potential of being both a really damaging trial or a pre-trial pardon). The appointment of Patrick Shanahan as Acting Secretary of Defense provides a way to focus on ethics complaints about his tenure, to say nothing about Trump’s tolerance for familial abuse. And Trump must be held accountable for whatever predictable problems selecting a loyalist over Sue Gordon as Acting DNI will cause — and some of the predictable problems, which might involve North Korea, Iran, or cybersecurity, could be quite damning.

Another impeachment cause that would invoke some of the same issues as the Russian investigation, but in a way that would be more awkward for the President, is Trump’s abuse of security clearances, starting with, but not limited to, Kushner’s (this is an issue where the Oversight Committee has done great work). An inquiry into why Trump gave Kushner clearance would provide a way to get to Kushner’s awkward role in foreign policy, particularly the possibility that he shared US classified information with Gulf oligarchs. If Kushner is found to have shared intelligence allowing Mohammed bin Salman to target Al-Waleed bin Talal or Jamal Khashoggi, it will invoke a slew of issues that will put Republicans in an awkward position (and have the salutary effect of focusing attention on Trump’s refusal to keep the Saudis honest).

Democrats would be idiots if they didn’t make an issue of Trump’s self-dealing, including but not limited to emoluments. It’s likely Republicans would defend the President on this point, but if they do, it can form the basis for legislation to more clearly prohibit such self-dealing going forward if Democrats do well in 2020. In addition, it goes to an issue that was absolutely key to Trump’s supporters, #DrainTheSwamp, but on which he has been (predictably) an utter failure.

Finally, Democrats should include Trump’s refusal to respond to violations of the Presidential Records Act in any impeachment inquiry. It is true that most Administrations have had problems adhering to PRA going back to Poppy Bush (Obama is to a large extent an exception, but Hillary’s avoidance of the Federal Records Act undermines that good record). But when pressed, most prior Administrations have been forced to admit the details of their failures to fulfill the law. Here, Trump has simply refused to respond to all questions about PRA violations. Some of these violations involve key players in the Russian investigation: Jared, KT McFarland, and Bannon. But these same people were involved in other scandals, such as the willingness to sacrifice US standards on nuclear security so that a bunch of Republicans can make $1 million per reactor (again, this would incorporate great work done by OGR).

This is a non-exclusive list. The point is, however, that HJC should frame their impeachment inquiry broadly, partly because some of Trump’s high crimes and misdemeanors have pissed off Republicans in the past, and partly because a failed impeachment trial can still frame Republican obstruction in a way that voters will care about.

Obviously, I think Trump’s conduct during the Russian investigation is important, and it’s all packaged up with a bow. But it’s not even just obstruction. Trump lied under oath in his written responses to Mueller. And Trump cheated to win an election. So even while pursuing impeachment on Russia, it needs to be more broadly conceived than the issues that Don McGahn can address. 

Other witnesses have more to offer than Don McGahn

So even in the emphasis on the Russia investigation, I think there is at least one better witness: Jay Sekulow. Sekulow has done a number of things that don’t qualify for attorney client privilege, such as his conversations directly with Michael Cohen to write a false statement hiding the President’s ties to Russia. That goes directly to Trump’s sworn lies.

Then there’s John Kelly. He was at DHS for the beginning of Trump’s abusive immigration policies. He knows details of Trump’s security clearance abuses (and might actually give a damn about them). He should know details of the PRA violations (and if not, should be accountable for why not). And he knows details of Kushner’s privatized foreign policy (and probably tried to control it). Kelly was a minor witness for Robert Mueller, but should be a key witness to any impeachment inquiry.

Finally, there’s the role of the Office of Legal Counsel and its head Steve Engel in all this. Some of OLC’s opinions enabling Trump’s abusive acts have been every bit as dodgy as John Yoo’s ones. It is the place of DOJ’s oversight committee to review the circumstances of those shitty opinions. While the government would likely fight this testimony particularly aggressively based on deliberative and attorney-client privileges, both John Yoo and Steven Bradbury have testified before, Yoo on an issue (torture) pertaining to abuse. Engel would still be able to testify about patterns of communication and the degree to which Trump dictated outcomes.

I’ll grant you, there are good reasons why McGahn may be a good tactical witness. I suspect that, by the time he testified, McGahn might be prepared to Bigfoot his testimony, not least in an attempt to cleanse himself of the Trump taint. So at that level, he may be a willing, damning witness.

So calling McGahn the most important witness might just be a legal tactic, a means to tie HJC’s obstruction inquiry with witnesses who have been blocked from testifying. And the White House Counsel position (to say nothing of the former White House Counsel position) is one for which there is precedent (under Clinton and Bush) for coerced testimony.

But I hope to hell HJC doesn’t really believe he’s the most important witness.

63 replies
  1. pjb says:

    This is an excellent post. You lay out a very good non-exhaustive list of impeachable conduct. I had not even seen anyone comment on the Presidential Records Act violations. Does the PRA extend to the failure to have any US officials (or even interpreters) at his bilateral Putin chats or is that an entirely different category of malfeasance? I wonder if anyone has set forth an exhaustive list, in some order of relative importance (and why). I think that there would be a great educational benefit to anyone just to see such a list.

    • Bev says:

      I am not really certain it is his testimony that is so important for them to get rather how imperative it is to win this court case to get him and others to talk and appreciate the power of congress. They must convince the courts of his requirement to cooperate with congress to maintain the powers of the legislative branch. They must convince the courts that his testimony is imperative.

      • bmaz says:

        “Winning” this court case will take a very, very long time and it will not mean squat as to other court cases in the long run, nor get “others to talk and appreciate the power of Congress”. In fact, this weak ass shit is making people who understand litigation strategy outright laugh at Nadler and Congress.

        Does nobody actually read other comments before posting silliness like this?

        • FunnyDiva says:

          Some even listen to that Larry Tribe guy on CNN, because “he’s a law perfesser and on CNN and so must know what he’s talking about” and keep defending Pelosi&Co because “well, the Dems get to make their own roolz every session” and “well, it says ‘impeachment’ in that court filing”.
          No, it makes no sense to me either, but my hostess was going to forcibly end that shouting-match, so I gave it up in favor of a passive-aggressive post on EW. (which blog this other person claims to follow, so, I dunno…).

  2. Ruthie says:

    Your arguments here are, as usual, very persuasive. But I wonder if calling McGahn the most important fact witness is, at least in part, a result of Nadler’s undercover impeachment strategy. All the threads of various investigations may be allowed to hang out until the end. He’s just acknowledged that HJC is conducting a de facto impeachment investigation, and it’s possible the same logic applies to other investigations – it just hasn’t been stated explicitly. Here’s hoping.

    • Njrun says:

      Agree with this. I’m hoping Dems are making these claims about McGahn as some legal strategy to compel testimony, and not because they actually believe him. People are way too quick to lionize Trumpers who tell the truth 20 percent of the time, as if that makes them credible in general. He’s a lying liar who tried hard to avoid putting himself in legal jeopardy, and now is trying hard to cover up the president’s crimes.

    • Americana says:

      The SC just made a judgment for Trump so he could redirect money from the military to fund the Wall to the tune of $2.5 billon. Congress could argue Trump is overstepping his executive powers in allocating dedicated funds as an impeachment gambit but I think that’s not likely going to be persuasive in the Senate given this SC judgment and given the GOP sympathies about getting the Wall built.

      Aren’t they pursuing Trump’s multiple criminal acts of obstruction of justice because that’s the easiest case to make? I agree Trump’s abuse of Executive powers that put national security at risk are a possibly credible line of attack. Moves such as Trump’s abuse of security clearances, his attempts at trading quid pro quo over Russian sanctions, the failure to abide by the Presidential/Federal Records Act w/private phones and devices, the secret diplomatic cum business dealings by Kushner (including his attempt to create a backchannel to Russia inside the Russian embassy via Russian devices at Trump’s request) and Erik Prince (Seychelles Islands meetings) and the pursuit of IP3 approval via irregular channels should play a role in proving Trump’s corruption. Trump decapitating all these agencies that have oversight of critical government functions should play a role. Is the HJC suggesting the best point of focus in an impeachment should be obstruction just because so much ground has already been laid?

      From the above link:

      The money Trump identified includes $3.6 billion from military construction funds, $2.5 billion in Defense Department money and $600 million from the Treasury Department’s asset forfeiture fund.

      The case before the Supreme Court involved just the $2.5 billion in Defense Department funds, which the administration says will be used to construct more than 100 miles (160 kilometers) of fencing.

        • Americana says:

          I was thinking of Ruthie’s sentence “All the threads of various investigations may be allowed to hang out until the end.”

          Trump presents such a target-rich environment, there are multiple lines of attack possible in impeachment. So what evidence of Trump’s criminality will make for the most coherent, persuasive impeachment? Is it best to present a multi-pronged approach or focus on a more limited line of attack like the obstruction of justice that led to the SC investigation which would seem to be a sure thing? (Trump’s obstruction of justice hasn’t stopped though and Trump is still undermining the DOJ and intelligence communities.)

          Trump is a corrupt POTUS interested in self-aggrandizement via international actions by the U.S. that he initiates. He’s an inept POTUS who lacks foreign policy knowledge but who allows his own financial interests to dominate U.S. choices in the international sphere and he’s leading a cadre of like-minded folks.

        • Rayne says:

          The investigation into Nixon’s impeachment wasn’t confined to one angle of approach. There were five articles drafted though only three passed the House.

          I’ve already begun examining what was similar to the Nixon impeachment inquiry, in case you didn’t read them:

          History’s Rhyme: Nixon’s Articles of Impeachment — focus on Obstruction of Justice

          History’s Rhyme, Part 2a: ‘Abuse of Power’ Sounds So Familiar — Abuse of Power (may include Public Corruption)

          History’s Rhyme, Part 3: How Nixon’s Impeachment Unfolded — Watergate and Nixon’s near-impeachment timeline

          History’s Rhyme, Part 4: Contempt Then, Contempt Now — focus on comparing charges of Contempt of Congress between Nixon and Trump.

          Though I haven’t yet finished this series and Trump continues to commit impeachable offenses, there’s more than enough already to begin. The problem remains the moderate members of the House Democrats who are unwilling to stick their necks out even though their oath of office requires them to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same.”

          Which is why I will have yet another Whip It post encouraging constituents to call their representatives to insist on an impeachment inquiry.

        • Americana says:

          Thanx, Rayne, I’ll read your links today.

          I wasn’t suggesting the Trump impeachment sh/couldn’t be multi-pronged but, rather, that it would present unique challenges given the scope of Trump’s criminal self-dealing and the timelines for his various quid pro quo payoffs. Even if some of his deals are in midstream and not all the facts are known (thinking IP 3 here), it’s clear to me how dangerous they are. I could rage on but I’d better not… ‘cuz it’s endless.

          Any tips/tactics for cold-calling Republicans? We’ve got all our Dems on board but none of our Republicans. Considering I rarely pose questions in telephone town halls that Republicans wish to answer, the diplomacy of any phone calls I make about impeachment might be questionable. Plus, you’ve got to get to the point right away w/legislators. In longer conversations, it’s easier for me to eventually bring Republicans around to acknowledging Trump’s criminality. Not sure I can achieve that in a short phone call. I’m hoping to get some zinger questions in at a town hall sometime this summer because my feeling is the more public the better for this kind of groundwork.

        • Rayne says:

          Calling your representative is the same no matter their party affiliation. They are supposed to represent ALL constituents in their district.
          — Call only your own representative;
          — Write a draft of what you want to say;
          — Be polite to the poor staffer/intern who answers the phone;
          — Be prepared for them to ask your name, address;
          — Ask for what you want succinctly:
          Ex: “I believe Donald Trump has violated his oath of office by obstructing justice repeatedly, abusing his power, acting with contempt of court and Congress, and violating both laws and treaties. I ask Rep. [name] to support an impeachment inquiry. Thank you.”

          You may/may not receive a letter or email in reply. And that’s it. Should take five minutes, tops.

        • Americana says:

          I was fascinated to read the first opinion column by a very far right guy Joe Walsh which appeared in the NYTs that advocates Trump should face a primary challenger. I may not have a great feeling Trump’s base is breaking up but I’m beginning to see some headway in the higher ranks of the pro-Trump pack w/this condemnation of Trump by Walsh. I’d love to see some podcast interviews w/Joe Walsh and a couple of other conservatives who’ve adamantly come down against Trump’s re-election… It’d be productive to argue the facts of the timeline of Trump’s crimes and ask these conservatives why they waited until now to disavow Trump.

          Joe Walsh is now a radiohead after having been dinged by my fave comedian Sacha Baron Cohen in a sketch on gun rights. (Here’s the gun rights link just for some belly laughs: )

          Here’s Walsh’s column advocating for a challenger to Trump:

          From the above link:

          We need someone who could stand up, look the president in the eye and say: “Enough, sir. We’ve had enough of your indecency. We’ve had enough of your lies, your bullying, your cruelty, enough of your insults, your daily drama, your incitement, enough of the danger you place this country in every single day. We don’t want any of this anymore, and the country certainly can’t stand four more years of it.”

        • bmaz says:

          Seriously? This is what “fascinates” you?

          You offer little but overly long run on drivel. You might note that you are the only frequent commenter here that consistently gets that message sent publicly to them. Yes, it is you. You can fix this equation, or we will.

        • Americana says:

          Walsh’s op ed bores you? An original Tea Party member of Congress wrote a scathing condemnation of Trump and you don’t see that as indicating the levee might be breaking in our favour?

          You don’t see us being able to use that admission by Joe Walsh in some strategic way? I was thinking of that op ed being able to be used in phone calls to GOP members of Congress about impeachment.

  3. anaphoristand says:

    While I generally agree as to the importance of flushing out the full breadth of presidential abuses of power in any prospective impeachment, I think there are several good reasons to frame McGahn’s testimony as the most critical. The most straight forward is, as you allude to, that doing so helps HJC’s legal case to secure his testimony. Insofar as the McGahn subpoena is the one they’ve gone to court to enforce (where a victory would establish precedent in enforcing all other subpoenas for witness testimony), stressing the central nature of his testimony to any impeachment probe strengthens their legal hand. Obstruction of justice is likely the most clear cut criminal offense committed by the President in-office, and there are solid public opinion, constitutional, and bicameral impeachment proceeding strategic reasons to build the overall case around criminal offense(s) which, but for his present office and a pair of idiotic OLC opinions, would likely see Trump’s facing an actual prison sentence. Lastly, there’s the historical echo of former White House Counsel John Dean, and the pivotal role his testimony played in ultimately bringing down Nixon. If HJC does its job well, in the public imagination, McGahn’s eventual testimony will see Dean’s sitting there in the chair along with him.

    • bmaz says:

      You have to be kidding me:

      “McGahn subpoena is the one they’ve gone to court to enforce (where a victory would establish precedent in enforcing all other subpoenas for witness testimony”

      You are drinking the idiotic Koolaid pablum Nadler is peddling. Each subpoena is a separate action, and will be fought as such, including appeals at every step, all the way to SCOTUS. Anybody who thinks a win on McGahn is the magic key to all subpoenas is stark raving mad.

      • anaphoristand says:

        Perhaps you’re right. I have indeed taken Nadler at his word. The legal grounds on which McGahn et al are basing their defiance of congressional subpoenas does seem outlandish to me, and I’d presumed that once it’s defeated in court, the grounds for appeal (or for other presumptive witnesses to continue mounting the same defense) would erode rather quickly, but IANAL. If you are indeed correct, then my estimations of Nadler’s competence will have proven pretty sadly misguided.

        • bmaz says:

          I would like to be wrong, but don’t think I am. We’ll see how it goes. Hard to see even the McGahn case itself being concluded with finality anytime this year, and likely well into next year. McGahn and DOJ have every reason in the world to string it out, and they will. In the meantime, Nadler and HJC don’t even have enough lawyers to handle their current court caseload and have literally been asking for volunteer help from law firms and former Obama lawyers. Nadler is nowhere close to running the brilliant master plan he claims.

        • Old Antarctic Explorer says:

          So why is the House low on funding for the inquiry? Can the committee get money on its own or does the Senate have to approve additional expenditures? Or is Pelosi the roadblock?

        • bmaz says:

          It is above and beyond their normal budgeting. They have some leeway, but, yes, Pelosi is a problem.

        • bmaz says:

          Here is a sample of what I am talking about. Just this morning, DOJ has filed an objection to Nadler’s attempt have the Mueller and McGahn cases designated as “related cases”. That doesn’t mean the cases are joined, just that they are put in front of the same judge. And this is going to have to be litigated. That’s how you goober up things with delay, and it is just the start. Frankly, the DOJ argument has some merit, but who knows what Beryl Howell will do.

        • BobCon says:

          I think what’s wrong about the assumption that Trump would fold when a major ruling went against hims is that he is not operating with any sophisticated strategy. It’s pure scorched Earth strategy, and I would not be surprised if he goes to extreme lengths to Stonewall.

      • JamesJoyce says:

        I smell bag job by the Robert’s court all the way.

        Let us be real here.

        Dred Scott is the precedent.

        SCOTUS with throw all Americans under the bus, via eviscerating separation of powers.

        White men always speaks with forked tongue.

        Preemptive shaming beats death and war..

        Maybe Roberts will listen, unlike Taney and his fellow justices from slave states..

        Does anybody think the interests which support Trump give a
        rats ass about anything other than power and money, like addicted crack heads being addicts?

        Americans actually could understand history if they shut off there TV and read a book instead.

        Maybe a book about IL DUCE?

        Good Day….

  4. bmaz says:

    I think that Nadler’s glib assertion on TV and the couple of sentences he inserted into that petition are ridiculous. At a minimum, there should be a resolution voted out of HJC opening a formal inquiry. If you include Nadler, there are currently 17 votes, of 21 needed, for that in HJC, and the other four could be had if an actual vote was set. Until then, it is faux inquiry, and will be subject to relentless litigation and appeals. On every individual case. It is an asinine strategy.

    • Frank Probst says:

      I don’t get the “we’re calling it an impeachment inquiry even though it’s not an Impeachment Inquiry!” strategy, either. Just open a formal inquiry. Trump and the GOP will shriek about government overthrow for a week (if that), and then they’ll have to move on to the next dumpster fire they’ve created. Then the HJC can get on with its investigation. If the Dems are going to keep bitching about “gaslighting”, they shouldn’t be doing it themselves.

    • Quake says:

      Any chance you and EW could hire yourselves out to the house judiciary committee to help out on their impeachment inquiry? They really need people with your respective skill sets.

      • Theresa N says:

        I was thinking the same as I read this post. JHC! The level of detail that Marcy goes into boggles the mind. Her grasp of the increasingly vast universe of information is fascinating. Her logic, ability to connect, interpret & summarize information is jaw dropping. Why isn’t she sitting in the middle of the HJC working on this? How do we get Marcy in the HJC? She just put together an excellent action plan for them to follow. Also, this post frightens me that the HJC might be screwing things up and my hope for the US continues to dwindle.

  5. Eskimo says:

    Another blissful shot in the arm from Marcy Wheeler to keep us awake. Quel bonheur ☀️ Gopus delendus est ⚡️

  6. AGoodEsq says:

    What about the assertions of executive privilege for campaign-related activities and for the time between the election and the inauguration? Much like Highlander, there can be only one POTUS. These blanket assertions seemed not only laughable on their face, but highly obstructive as well. Not to mention all the dancing around whether Trump was actually invoking privilege or not. Way too cute by half, and highly improper – hard to believe (although not in retrospect) White House counsel signed off on some of this crap.

  7. Savage Librarian says:

    Marcy, thanks so much for pointing this out about McGahn as a witness. For some time now I have been perplexed as to why HJC thinks he is such a great catch. You certainly elucidate why others would make much better witnesses. I agree wholeheartedly with you.

    In the Mueller hearings there was an obsessive focus on obstruction. So, I’m wondering if having McGahn as a witness is a follow-up to that. But I think HJC has a much bigger obligation to the American people. And you have given them a roadmap they should follow. Let’s hope they plan to do that.

    In a snarkier tone, I have to wonder if Trump and Barr have redefined the words “execute” and “to the best of my
    ability” in their oaths of office. After all, “execute” also means “put to death according to law.” And maybe “to the best of my ability” has been adversely redefined by Trump and Barr.

    (Oath or Affirmation:—“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”)

  8. John Paul Jone says:

    I wonder if Nadler just saw one of those wonderful NYT graphics, with big circles (McGahn) showing big co-operators, and small circles (Bannon) showing small co-operators and he thought, Yeah, I want a big circle for Christmas. In other words, it’s not a strategy at all, but just floundering forwards, like trying to walk in shallow end of the swimming pool; he should try actual swimming.

    • timbo says:

      It’s the best Nadler can do, given that the House Leadership ain’t supporting an official inquiry?

      • P J Evans says:

        House Leadership needs to get out of its comfortable chairs and look at the real world, where people need impeachment inquiries started about six months ago.

  9. dwfreeman says:

    The Democrats can’t even convince a super majority of their caucus that Trump’s impeachment is an imperative on whatever articles and issues they choose to seek it. At least Nadler’s committee is moving forward on an inquiry using the available packaged Mueller Report referral and its obstruction allegations as the basis of getting a more definitive picture of his corrupt behavior, which will almost certainly reveal leads or questions on other subject matter.

    In this case, you investigate where the most money and time has already been invested.

    Whether McGahn is the most effective witness available and thus capable of delivering the best evidence of presidential impropriety — in underscoring efforts to block Mueller’s work –he does offer the prospect of opening a window on Trump behavior heretofore only alleged by a somewhat compromised Michael Cohen in public testimony.

    Once one door is opened it will undoubtedly lead to opening many others. You never get to see the full White House on any public guided tour. And you don’t get the full picture unless and until you get someone who had internal access to the Oval Office. I’d say McGhan is a good place to start in fully examining Trump’s tower of babel.

    But if you want a full and more in-depth list of potential committee interview candidates, the Center for American Progress and its Moscow Project initiative offers a good one. By the way check out its exhaustive interactive coverage of the Trump-Russia case including a just completed 13-episode podcast feature on subject, appropriately titled, The Asset. Well worth listening to.

    Here’s a story that might soon break big time with SDNY investigating potential money-laundering and theft, or what happened to all that money that was collected by the Trump Inaugural Committee and then suddenly disappeared into thin air. Vanity Fair has a new story on it focused on a treasure trove of documents Stephanie Winston Wolkoff just turned over to investigators under government subpoena related to her work with Trump family businesses. Supposedly $35 million was collected by the committee that allegedly paid out $26 million to Wolkoff. This is apparently good work if you can get it.

    • bmaz says:

      Nadler and his committee (HJC) are NOT “moving forward on an inquiry”.

      That is rubbish. He is trying to get rubes to think they are by blithely mouthing a couple of words. Pelosi does not concede that there is any formal impeachment inquiry, in fact, she flat denies it and only talks about regular oversight investigation by many committees. If I was a judge, I would outright laugh at this flimsy bullshit. At a minimum, there needs to be a formal resolution by the HJC specifying that there is a formal inquiry being opened.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        Is Nadler dependent on her to get the resources needed to properly staff an inquiry, impeachment related or not?

        If he is, then his getting a proper budget and staff would be an indicator of whether the Democratic leadership means any of this accountability shit.

        SAD, because Trump is such an exception to every rule – and to adequate governance – that Pelosi could tell the donor class that it’s a one-off.

        • BobCon says:

          For any serious staffing upgrade, he is dependent on Pelosi. He may have a few slots he is authorized to fill at his discretion, but House Judiciary hired over 100 for Watergate, and he doesn’t get that without Pelosi.

          She has other hurdles she can throw in his way if she wants. Ironically, she is using institutional power more aggressively on the side of conservative members who challenge her than for the benefit of liberals who were key to her election to Speaker in the first place.

  10. x174 says:

    perhaps McGahn is the most efficient way to pursue the start towards a formal inquiry when only 121 (and growing) congress critters are firmly on board at this stage. clearly, there are numerous avenues in which to pursue further (and potentially more damaging) investigations into the past and present malfeasance of our dog shit president (DSP); so, yeah, thanks for that sickening stroll down memory lane. compared to pelosi, at least Nadler seems to be keeping the torch of impeachment alive. i think at this stage–with all of DSP’s incendiary and blatantly destructive behavior towards the us of a–pelosi is starting to look more and more like an enabler. but i’m willing to see what the democrats strategy is come september. if there has been no significant developments by October-November, it seems that the Dems can safely be assumed to be DOA.

    • bmaz says:

      The total amount of 121 is interesting, but not nearly as important as the magic number needed in HJC to pass a formal resolution, which is 21. That number is currently at 17 if you include Nadler, who privately says he would be on board. That is where the real pressure should be applied. HJC Dems not yet stating desire for a formal inquiry.

      • x174 says:

        thanks for the details. i for one am looking forward to trump’s fall–one way or the other

        • bmaz says:

          The House Dems have been frustratingly slow and feckless, even though some progress has been made. We’ll see how things go when they return from their summer break I guess.

  11. BobCon says:

    I suspect part of the reason for a narrow, obstruction-based focus in Judiciary is trying to avoid boxing in a presidential nominee on a larger set of issues before anyone wins the nomination.

    One problem I have is that we all know some of the issues that any Dem will use. Tax fraud is potent. Emoluments is too. Any Democrat will be campaigning against the plutocracy, and it makes no sense to avoid opening up a broader challenge on core issues now, with an option to add more later.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Tax fraud and money laundering seem especially likely for this president. They exemplify the cheating that he has bragged about for years. Adequately proven, those crimes would be especially unpopular among new immigrant citizens, the working and middle classes, pretty much everyone.

    • Vicks says:

      To mix up a few metaphors; just throw all of Trump’s shit up against the wall, see what has legs, and run with it.
      Doing the right thing can be hard.
      Really, really hard, but every day this a-h*le remains in office it weakens our country and people (and soon bald eagles) are being mistreated and dying.
      Lay out the facts of whatever crimes they can nail him on.
      To the public. ASAP.
      When it come time to vote, let the cowards in the senate decide what they fear more, Trump’s twitter machine or finding out the hard way that god doesn’t have special rules for conservatives
      Unless of course we are the idiots and after 2 plus years of hearing about one disgusting violation after another there really hasn’t been any ongoing investigation into his inauguration fund, David Pecker’s secret safe, cash real estate deals with Russian Oligarchs, debt parking, tax fraud, BALD EAGLES!! and why the f Betsy DeVos has a job.
      And of course the list laid out in the emptywheel comment above…

  12. Jesse says:

    Dana Boente. Forgot about him entirely despite reading everything I could and watched interviews with the guy just several months ago. This whole ordeal is so hard to hold in one’s mind. Thank you Dr. Wheeler for using your professional skills and personal superpowers on this overwhelming many years long ordeal.

  13. horses says:

    Absolute headfake.

    Every American knows what a crook is, because they’ve been ripped off. Most can’t follow legal minutiae. There’s a reason we don’t teach civics.

    Eliot Engel is the stalking horse. He recently supported impeachment.

    It’s what I’d do, if I were still in it.

      • horses says:

        Engel’s job is proving emoulements violations, yes?

        He’s getting bank records, yes?

        That Asshole wants to talk about everything other than how he got his money, yes?

        If I was calling the shots I’d lull him into thinking the game was about obstruction of justice and hit him with his own bank statements.

        Still impeachable and he’d never suspect it. And Engel is from the Bronx. Pure poetry.

  14. Alan K says:

    It sucks, but it seems that the House has dragged their feet just long enough. Any witness / records they request will be fought in the courts just long enough for GOP to win the argument in the MSM that “it is too close to the election, let the voters have their say”.

    If the “precedent” of Obama’s supreme court nominee trashing can be invoked, that will be around January 2020. So all Trump team has to do is tie up everything in the courts for the next 4 months.

    • bmaz says:

      That is exactly what is going on. And I think that will be very easy to do without a formal impeachment inquiry resolution being voted out of, at a minimum, the HJC. I think they can likely string the current cases out even longer than January. This Nadler stuff just is not going to work without a real “formal inquiry”.

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