Trump's promise to resist oversight by Congress sets up clash that could last years

Noah Bierman and Chris Megerian, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Political News

In another inquiry, Attorney General William Barr is blocking a top official at the Justice Department from testifying about the administration's decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census, in response to a subpoena that all the Democrats and one Republican on the Oversight Committee approved.

"This is a massive, unprecedented and growing pattern of obstruction," Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, D-Md., the committee chairman, said in a statement.

"Yesterday, President Trump declared to the entire country that he would obstruct Congress and order all White House officials to defy lawful subpoenas from Congress. Today, the Trump administration went even further by expanding this policy to employees at federal agencies -- even when the subpoenas are bipartisan and supported by Republican members of Congress."

Cummings has said the White House has refused to "produce a single piece of paper or a single witness in any of the committee's investigations this entire year."

Rep. Adam B. Schiff, D-Calif., chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said Trump's resistance would only drag out the investigations.

When it comes to Russia-related matters, Schiff said, Congress needs to be "mindful of not wanting to reinvent the wheel" and repeat work already done by the special counsel. But he also said that Mueller "gives us a pretty good roadmap."

Rep. Gerald E. Connolly, D-Va., a member of the Oversight Committee, said he wasn't concerned about Trump's criticism that Democrats would never be satisfied and were only interested in investigating, not legislating.

"This is the prevaricator in chief, who wants people like you to be distracted from the real underlying issues here," he said. "I ignore it. We have a constitutional duty here."


Democratic leaders have tried to keep the lid on talk about impeachment, but Connolly said that had become harder to do because of the Mueller report.

"It's not something you can ignore. It's deeply troubling," he said. "Now we have to ask ourselves, what is our responsibility to the rule of law, to protecting the country against abuse of power?"

But even as Democrats stew, Trump's stonewalling could work.

Fights over congressional subpoenas can grind on for years. When Republicans were investigating the "Fast and Furious" gun-tracking operation, they held then-Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. in contempt and sued for documents in 2012. The two sides eventually reached a settlement, but not until last year, three years after Holder left the Justice Department and two years after President Barack Obama left office.

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