House Judiciary Committee to subpoena a dozen Mueller witnesses — and force confrontation with DOJ

House Judiciary Committee to subpoena a dozen Mueller witnesses — and force confrontation with DOJ
FBI Director Robert Mueller testifies during a House Appropriations Committee hearing on the FBI Budget, on Capitol Hill on March 19, 2013 in Washington, D.C. (UPI/Kevin Dietsch via Creative Commons)

The House Judiciary Committee is preparing to issue a dozen subpoenas to key witnesses named in the Mueller report—and it’s not messing around. This group includes the biggest names, and most critical testimony, of the whole Trump/Russia affair. With this fresh batch of subpoenas, the Judiciary Committee is going right to the heart of the whole issue—and forcing a confrontation with the DOJ that isn’t likely to be resolved this side of impeachment.

Included in the list are names that are absolutely, positively going to trigger the loudest possible claims of executive privilege, names that are so central to everything Trump, that the refusals to appear are an absolute given. Names such as White House adviser, son-in-law, and provider of hit lists to Saudi dictators Jared Kushner, who is about as likely to appear voluntarily before the committee as he is to find Middle East peace.

The no-way, no-how list also includes former chief of staff John Kelly, former national security adviser (and still in the midst of being sentenced) Michael Flynn, former Attorney General Jefferson Sessions, and newly former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. It is hard to imagine any of these men sitting down for a single minute before the House Judiciary Committee without Attorney General William Barr spending every dime of Trump’s wall money to block the path. Also on the big nope list is the current assistant attorney general and former chief of staff to Sessions, Jody Hunt, along with Kelly’s former deputy Rick Dearborn.

There are also some names that might find it a little harder to resist—even if Barr is offering the DOJ’s help to anyone willing to join the Screw Justice League. That includes former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, who has no “privileged” reason for not talking about events in 2016. Though Lewandowski might have his own reasons to discover the Fifth Amendment.

But perhaps best of all are the three names at the bottom of the list. Because not even Barr can think of a reason they shouldn’t talk, and what they have to say should be … entertaining.

Those three would be:

  • Keith Davidson, one-time lawyer to both Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, who negotiated with Michael Cohen for hush money and made a deal with American Media, Inc., owner of the National Enquirer, to bury the women’s stories.
  • Dylan Howard, vice president of American Media and “entertainment reporter,” who handled payments from Cohen and helped see that those stories stayed buried.
  • David Pecker, longtime friend of Trump, CEO of American Media, co-conspirator on the whole “catch and kill” operation, and someone who was actively involved in hiding Trump’s dirty laundry long before the campaign began.

Donald Trump may be claiming that anyone who ever worked for him, even indirectly, is covered by an unliftable blanket of privilege. And William Barr may be offering to extend that protection to anyone. Really. Anyone. But the Judiciary Committee clearly doesn’t agree. Those involved in the Trump/National Enquirerscandal are going to have a hard time coming up with a reason not to talk. So is Lewandowski.

And the fact that the committee is putting names such as Kushner, Kelly, and Sessions on the list is a clear sign that committee Chair Jerry Nadler knows this is going to run smack into Trump and Barr … and that he wants that confrontation. If the House is waiting for a mass of contempt votes to build before moving to court, this certainly looks like it’s going to generate that mass.

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