Jerry Nadler Says ‘Our Subpoenas Are Not Optional’ As Don McGahn No-Shows House Judiciary Committee

Donald Trump's former lawyer could be held in contempt of Congress and thrown in jail.

Jerry Nadler (D-NY) speaks during a hearing in which former White House Counsel Don McGahn was subpoenaed to testify
Alex Wong / Getty Images

Donald Trump's former lawyer could be held in contempt of Congress and thrown in jail.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler said that Congressional subpoenas are “not optional” after former White House attorney Don McGahn failed to turn up at a scheduled hearing, The New York Post reports.

For months now, congressional Democrats in both the House and the Senate have been trying to get various individuals associated with the Mueller report onto Capitol Hill to answer questions after the report, delivered to Congress in heavily-redacted form, left several matters unresolved. And those congressional Democrats have been stymied by the Trump administration at every turn.

The latest person to ignore a subpoena was former Trump attorney Don McGahn. He was scheduled to appear before the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday to answer questions, but he failed to show up.

That was not unexpected. As NBC News reported on Monday, none other than Donald Trump himself ordered his former attorney not to testify. Specifically, current White House counsel Pat Cipollone wrote a letter to Nadler stating that McGahn is “absolutely immune” from compelled congressional testimony.

Similarly, McGahn’s own attorney, William Burck, also informed the committee that McGahn wouldn’t be showing up, stating that his client is “obligated to maintain the status quo and respect the President’s instruction.”

Nadler, a New York Democrat, is having none of that. Speaking to a McGahn-less room, Nadler made it clear that a congressional subpoena is not something that can be ignored. You can watch the video of his remarks below.

As Politico notes, Nadler is prepared to go before a court in order to force McGahn to testify.

“Let me be clear: this committee will hear Mr. McGahn’s testimony, even if we have to go to court to secure it.”

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He also promised that Congress will “hold this president accountable, one way or the other,” although what he meant by that is unclear.

Also unclear is what will happen to McGahn now that he’s refused to testify. If a court were to order him to testify and he still defied that order, he could be held in contempt of Congress and, theoretically anyway, be held in jail and fined a daily sum that increases until he testifies.

However, for that to happen, Congress would have to refer the case to the Justice Department, which would then have to prosecute the case in a criminal court.

In fact, Congress may be forced to impeach Donald Trump just to get McGahn and any other Trump administration officials who have defied subpoenas to testify. But as Politico reported on Monday, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is reluctant to move forward on impeachment.