National Politics

Dem: Officials who ignore subpoenas do so 'at their peril'

Congressman says fines, jail time could be ordered

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Trump administration officials who don't cooperate with subpoenas issued by House Democrats as part of their impeachment inquiry will do so "at their peril," Democratic Rep. Jim Himes said Wednesday after the White House indicated that it won't cooperate with the investigation.

"You know, a subpoena is very serious document. It literally means under penalty if you don't show up, there is a penalty -- jailing and fines and that sort of thing. So subpoenas will be received by all of the people that the Congress wants to talk to. They will ignore those subpoenas at their peril," Himes, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, told CNN's Alisyn Camerota on "New Day."

"So I imagine that we will eventually get to talk to these people," the Connecticut Democrat added.

On Tuesday, House Democrats issued a subpoena to US Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland after the State Department directed him not to testify before Congress shortly before a scheduled hearing. The move scrambled Democrats' impeachment investigation, raising questions about whether they will be able to obtain testimony from other witnesses. The subpoena demanded Sondland turn over documents by Monday, October 14, and appear for a deposition on Wednesday, October 16.

In a letter sent Tuesday to congressional Democrats, President Donald Trump's lawyers said the President and his administration won't cooperate in the ongoing impeachment inquiry, arguing the proceedings amount to an illegitimate effort to overturn the 2016 presidential election results.

So far, Democrats have issued a number of subpoenas in their probe, including to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the White House, the Pentagon and Rudy Giuliani, Trump's personal attorney who is at the center of the inquiry.

Gregg Nunziata, a former Justice Department official who served in the George W. Bush administration, said on the same program Wednesday that "we should be concerned with a White House that is attempting to delegitimize Congress' oversight powers."

Nunziata said the White House's claim that it does not need to comply with the investigation because the House has not held a formal vote on it is "not a serious argument." The former official said, however, that although the Constitution doesn't require it, the House should hold a vote to establish the inquiry.

Himes also said on Wednesday that the committee "may need (to issue) a subpoena" to former US Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, who is set to testify later this week, if she doesn't appear before Congress.

Yovanovitch, who is still a State Department employee, has become a key player in the impeachment investigation as she was recalled months earlier than expected in May 2019, and was accused by Giuliani without evidence of trying to undermine the President and blocking efforts to investigate Democrats like former Vice President Joe Biden.

There is no evidence of wrongdoing by Joe Biden or his son, Hunter.

Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, a 2020 Democratic presidential contender, said Wednesday that he doesn't think the administration's "stonewalling will hold up" and that the courts will force them to turn over documents to allow lawmakers to continue with the inquiry.

"I mean Donald Trump has believed from the day he walked into the White House that he's above the law. And nobody is above the law," Bennet said. "So he's going to slow us down. He's going to delay us, but in the end, he won't stop us from doing the people's business here."


LOCAL AND REGIONAL NEWS

THIS WEEK'S CIRCULARS