Here’s the one trick Trump can deploy to fight subpoenas from Congress: Duke University law professor
Special counsel Robert Mueller’s final report for the Russia investigation arrived in March, and Attorney General William Barr released it publicly in redacted form on April 18. But Trump-related investigations continue; House Oversight Committee Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland has already subpoenaed the president’s financial records — a subpoena that Trump responded to with a civil lawsuit naming Cummings as a defendant. And Duke University law professor Lisa Kern Griffin addresses Trump’s legal battles with a Democrat-controlled House of Representatives in an interview with Washington Post reporter Philip Bump.
Griffin told Bump that while the House has “the power to subpoena records and testimony in order to exercise its legitimate oversight function” and can “issue a contempt citation” if a subpoena is defied, it “takes time for those things to be enforced.” Bump notes that current subpoenas aimed at Trump will expire when the next Congress is seated in January 2021; they can be renewed but almost certainly won’t be if Republicans retake the House in November 2020.
According to Griffin, “The current rules and case law are not well-equipped to deal with pure, cold stonewalling, which seems to be the White House’s posture with respect to all questions or information now.” And she told Bump that that the “intent” of Trump and his allies is “to try to run out the clock until the end of the Congress itself and, of course, up until the election in 2020.”
Democratic House committees also have the power to request Trump-related testimony from Mueller or former White House Counsel Don McGahn. On Tuesday, the Washington Post reported that the Trump White House planned to use executive privilege to fight a McGahn subpoena.
Trump as president has been quick to make claims of executive privilege, and Griffin told Bump, “the issues that Congress wants to talk to Don McGahn about involve either no privilege or areas where privilege has already been waived. So I don’t anticipate that any assertions of privilege will be meaningful with respect to Don McGahn’s testimony.”
Seeking financial information on Trump, Democrats have requested records from Deutsche Bank, which made loans to the Trump Organization in the past. And financial institutions, Griffin notes, are likely to be cooperative with Democrats.
“Banks are in the habit of complying with valid subpoenas,” Griffin told Bump. “They receive them from law enforcement all the time. I think (Democrats) are more likely to achieve cooperation with entities outside of the executive branch and issues that can’t possibly touch on executive privilege.”