The House voted along party lines on Tuesday to allow lawsuits filed in federal court against Attorney General William Barr and former White House Counsel Don McGahn, amid an effort to enforce subpoenas for documents and testimony related to the Trump administration, according to Bloomberg.
The 229-191 resolution stops short of holding Barr and McGahn in contempt of Congress. Instead, a five-member panel House leadership will be required to sign off on litigation instead of the entire chamber, according to Bloomberg.
Legal experts told The Hill that the measure up for a vote on Tuesday doesn’t reach the threshold for contempt, though it does have the same goal of obtaining documents and testimony currently being withheld from Congress.
“We’re calling it contempt for short, because the courts obviously would have to find the executive branch in contempt in order to sort of render the orders to comply,” said Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), a member of the House Oversight and Judiciary Committees. “So it’s, generally speaking, not contempt.” –The Hill
The Tuesday resolution allows House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) to go immediately to the House counsel to seek a court order against Barr and McGahn. That said, Nadler is unlikely to do so now that his committee struck a deal with the DOJ to provide unredacted portions of the Mueller report as well as the special counsel’s “most important files” sought by the committee.
That said, Nadler announced after the House vote that he would move against anyone who hasn’t complied with subpoenas, including McGahn.
As The Hill noted on Tuesday, McGahn – who is now a private citizen, could face a legal challenge from Democrats trying to force him to testify.
The resolution includes a separate provision that empowers House committee chairs to pursue legal action to enforce subpoenas in the course of their investigations. Chairs will be required to get permission from top lawmakers before any court filings are made.
The measure also allows committees to move more quickly in enforcing their subpoenas, while not forcing lawmakers to take a stance on whether certain Trump administration officials should be held in contempt – taking pressure off any vulnerable lawmakers ahead of the 2020 election. –The Hill
The House vote reflects Nancy Pelosi’s middle-ground approach as the House Speaker attempts to avoid launching impeachment proceedings out of concern that the GOP-controlled Senate will block them, handing Trump a win going into 2020.