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April 23, 2019

CAFE Brief 04/23: McGahn’s subpoena, Trump’s lawsuit, and Prince’s perjury

Events in Washington have kicked into high gear with Don McGahn receiving a congressional subpoena, Trump suing to hide his financial statements, and Erik Prince facing potential perjury charges. Let’s dive in!


WASHINGTON, DC – APRIL 04: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) reads from a paper during her weekly news conference at the U.S. Capitol April 4, 2019 in Washington, DC. Pelosi answered a range of questions centered primarily around the investigative report by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, and House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal’s (D-MA) request to the IRS for the past six years of President Donald Trump’s tax returns. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

McGahn subpoenaed

Former White House Counsel Don McGahn was subpoenaed on Monday by the House Judiciary Committee, ordering him to testify on May 21st. The Committee also requested a variety of documents by May 7th, including materials related to the firing of Michael Flynn and James Comey, the resignation of Jeff Sessions, and the 2016 Trump Tower meeting. In a statement reproduced by The Washington Post, Chairman Jerry Nadler called McGahn “a critical witness to many of the alleged instances of obstruction of justice and other misconduct described in the Mueller report.”

Congressional response

On Monday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wrote a letter to House Democrats decrying Trump’s “highly unethical and unscrupulous behavior,” but also tamping down on calls for immediate impeachment proceedings. “While our views range from proceeding to investigate the findings of the Mueller report or proceeding directly to impeachment, we all firmly agree that we should proceed down a path of finding the truth,” Speaker Pelosi stated, noting that “facts regarding holding the president accountable can be gained outside of impeachment hearings.” Democrats discussed their next steps in a conference call Monday evening, with Pelosi stressing a focus on fact-finding rather than impeachment proceedings according to The Washington Post.

Debating impeachment

In an interview for The Washington Post, constitutional law scholar Philip Bobbitt says it’s “plausible” that President Trump committed impeachable offenses. The Post’s Greg Sargent writes, “this is notable…because he has long maintained that impeachment must be reserved only for the most extraordinary cases.” Bobbitt argues Congress should begin “pre-impeachment hearings” on the framework of Mueller’s findings.

Schiff’s opinion

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff wrote an op-ed for The Washington Post outlining why he believes it is important for Congress to not only continue Mueller’s investigation, but also expand upon it. Schiff cites the “enormous counterintelligence and national security risks” missing from Mueller’s report as the main area of inquiry. To do so, Schiff proposes calling Mueller, FBI Director Christopher Wray, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats to testify about the ongoing counterintelligence investigation.

WASHINGTON, DC – APRIL 17: The U.S. Capitol dome is reflected on the plaza of the East Front of the U.S. Capitol, April 17, 2019 in Washington, DC. The results of the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller will be made public on Thursday in a nearly 400-page report. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Trump’s lawsuit

President Trump filed a lawsuit against his own accounting firm, Mazars USA, and House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings and Chief Investigative Counsel Peter Kenny in an attempt to stop Mazars from complying with the Committee’s subpoena. As The Washington Post explains, Trump is asking the court to prevent lawmakers from using their power for anything other than creating legislation. Responding to Trump’s suit, Chairman Cummings said, “There is simply no valid legal basis to interfere with this duly authorized subpoena from Congress.”

  • Reminder: In a memo to his Committee, Cummings said the subpoena was warranted because the financial statements provided to the Committee by Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen,“raise[d] grave questions about whether the president has been accurate in his financial reporting.”

Security Clearance probe

The Daily Beast reported that the House Oversight Committee’s plan to interview former White House Personnel Director Carl Kline is at “an impasse.” Kline and the White House insist on having a White House lawyer present during the deposition “because of potential executive privilege issues.” According to a letter written by Kline’s lawyer, Bob Driscoll, the parties are also at odds over the “scope of appropriate questions.” The Deputy Counsel to the President, Michael Purpura, has sent a formal letter to Driscoll informing him that the White House has instructed Kline not to appear at the deposition unless a White House lawyer is present at the interview. Driscoll has in turn informed the Committee that Kline would “promptly and eagerly” appear once the “interbranch dispute can be worked out.”

  • Reminder: Cummings wishes to question Kline about the White House security clearance process and, specifically, about reports that he approved clearances over the objections of career officials and intelligence officers. The Washington Post identified Jared Kushner as one of the individuals whose security clearance was initially denied before Kline overturned the decision.

Prince’s falsehoods

Congressional Democrats are reportedly examining if the false statements Erik Prince made to the House Intelligence Committee in 2017 are “egregious enough” to warrant a criminal referral for perjury charges, according to The Washington Post. The discrepancies at issue involve Prince’s Seychelles meeting with Russian financier and Putin ally Kirill Dmitriev, just days before Trump’s inauguration. CNN compares Prince’s sworn testimony and public statements to the statements he made to Mueller’s team.

What else?

  • The end of the Mueller probe has heralded the return of President Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani to national television. The New York Times summed up Giuliani’s Sunday show appearances with the following quote from the former NYC Mayor: “There’s nothing wrong with taking information from Russians” (legally speaking at least).

  • Florida resident John J. Kless was arrested and charged with leaving threatening, racist phone messages at the offices of Sen. Cory Booker, Rep. Rashida Tlaib, and Rep. Eric Swalwell. The New York Timesprovides the details of his calls.

  • Attorneys for Russian gun rights activist Maria Butina argued in a sentencing memo filed Friday that she should receive no jail time on top of the nine months she has served and that their client has accepted that “deportation will be part of the resolution of her case.” As reported by the The Washington Post, prosecutors argued in their own memo that Butina should be sentenced to 18 months in prison because the value of the information she provided to Russia is “immense.”

  • The judge in the case of Bijan Kian, business partner of Michael Flynn, has decided to stick with the July 15th trial date, despite the defense’s claims that prosecutors haven’t turned over investigative documents in over a month, according to Politico.

  • Judge Amy Berman Jackson has set August 12th as the trial date for former Obama White House Counsel Gregory Craig, as indicated in a scheduling order filed Friday.

Stay Informed,

Adrienne Cobb & the CAFE team

We hope you’re enjoying the CAFE Brief. Email us at [email protected] with your suggestions of articles and analysis of legal and political news. We look forward to your feedback as we continue to expand CAFE content.