Here’s the thing about congressional subpoenas. They’re a highly powerful tool, but they’re not a magic wand. House Democrats can’t simply issue a subpoena, and expect swift and automatic compliance. House Democrats have to approach the subpoena process in a judicious manner, so that if and when they’re challenged legally on it, they’ll win that legal battle. Accordingly, House Democrats just dropped their first big subpoena on the Trump regime today – and you can expect more such subpoenas at any minute.
One of the keys to winning a subpoena battle in court is to convince the judge that you reasonably tried to obtain the testimony or evidence through less drastic measures before issuing the subpoena. House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings knows this, and so he’s gone through the necessary steps of asking nicely when it’s come to obtaining more information about the Trump White House and its security clearance scandal. Now those steps are out of the way, and Cummings has made his first hammer-dropping move on the matter.
Elijah Cummings had the committee vote this afternoon to subpoena Carl Kline, who was in charge of the security clearance process, and who allegedly approved several high profile clearances at Donald Trump’s instruction, even after White House security experts and the U.S. intel community had flagged those people as security risks against the United States. But Kline is just step one.
In investigations like this, you have to work your way from the bottom up. Cummings already has the voluntarily cooperation of whistleblower Tricia Newbold, which has led to the subpoena of Kline. In turn, Kline’s testimony could open the door to subpoena the people who were controversially given security clearances, two of whom are reportedly members of Donald Trump’s family.
Meanwhile, a different investigative committee, the House Judiciary Committee, is holding a vote tomorrow morning to give Chairman Jerry Nadler unilateral power to subpoena anyone and anything he wants, in the name of forcing the Mueller report to become public. So even as Cummings launches the first of his subpoenas at the Trump regime today, we can expect additional subpoenas from Nadler as soon as tomorrow – and those might even have names like “William Barr” and “Robert Mueller” on them.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report