Washington, DC – Escalating a battle with US President Donald Trump, the House of Representatives voted 229 to 191 on Tuesday to authorise civil lawsuits against Trump administration officials who refuse to comply with congressional subpoenas.
The resolution specifically targets Attorney General William Barr and former White House Counsel Don McGahn who have both defied congressional subpoenas related to Special Counsel Robert Mueller‘s inquiry on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
“We need answers on many questions left unanswered by the Mueller report which makes clear that the Russians waged an all-out attack on our democracy, and documented – the Mueller report did – 11 instances of obstruction of justice from the White House itself,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in remarks on the House floor.
The measure gives House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler and the chairs of other House committees the ability to take swift legal action in federal court to enforce subpoenas without first obtaining full House votes.
In a rare compromise on Monday, Nadler said he would hold off on suing Barr for now after the Department of Justice agreed to hand over some key underlying evidence from Mueller’s report.
Nadler said he would give the Justice Department time to comply, but “if important information is held back, then we will have no choice but to enforce our subpoena in court and consider other remedies”.
The panel chairman told reporters later on Tuesday, however, that he would move as quickly as possible to go to court to force McGahn to comply with the committee’s subpoena.
The judicial process could take as little time as a couple of weeks or as much as several months and may involve appeals to the DC Circuit Court or the US Supreme Court
“Given the current political climate and the level of issues that are at stake I suspect that the judges to whom these cases are assigned will move with absolute alacrity,” Gene Rossi, a former federal prosecutor now in private practice with a Washington law firm, previously told Al Jazeera.
Republicans criticised the Democrat’s measure Tuesday as simply a political effort to damage Trump heading to the 2020 presidential election.
“Fundamentally, it is an impeachment effort in everything but name,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said.