Baltimore-born Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., isn’t backing off his push for answers about the unfolding White House scandal regarding Russia. In fact, this weekend he revealed he’s already drafted a subpoena for Donald Trump’s administration. He just needs his Republican committee co-chair to sign it.
Cummings announced yesterday on ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” that he’s already drawn up the paperwork that could force the White House to comply with his oversight committee’s investigation. His appeal on air wasn’t aimed first and foremost at Trump, though; it was directed more so at Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz, the outgoing chair of the House Oversight Committee.
“The White House is obstructing our investigation on the Oversight Committee, covering up for General Flynn, and refusing to produce a single document that Chairman Chaffetz and I asked for in a bipartisan letter two months ago,” Cummings said in a statement. “I have prepared a subpoena that the Chairman could sign today. If he does not want to do that, we ask that he allow the Committee Members to vote on it.”
Chaffetz, a GOP congressman who’s already announced he plans to resign this year, shares the power with Cummings of leading the lower house’s chief investigation committee. The two have worked together in that capacity since 2015, butting heads along partisan lines but still managing to collaborate on investigations.
In March, the pair signed a letter calling on the White House to release documents related to Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser who resigned in a record-setting 24 days due to his history of accepting paid work in Russia. Specifically, they wanted info on Flynn’s contacts with foreign nationals, the vetting process used to hire him and communications about his departure from the White House.
A month later, the Trump administration refused, saying such documents “are likely to contain classified, sensitive, and/or confidential information.”
Chaffetz is the cog that Dems hope will link them up to talk with the White House. Thus far, he and other GOP lawmakers have resisted calls to set up meetings between Trump administration officials and House Oversight Committee members. This has made Cummings very unhappy and critical of Trump’s party, which he says won’t hold the president accountable for potentially colluding with Russia during the election.
Now, he needs Chaffetz to once again work with him, if only by signing his name to a subpoena. The sweeping federal summons calls on White House staff to release all the documents about Flynn that they asked for in March, any communications relating to former FBI Chief James Comey’s mysterious firing, correspondence with or about Jeff Sessions’ delayed self-recusal in the Trump-Russia investigation and much more.
Chaffetz would appear to be ready to help Cummings right away, based on his Twitter activity:
.@GOPoversight is going to get the Comey memo, if it exists. I need to see it sooner rather than later. I have my subpoena pen ready.
— Jason Chaffetz (@jasoninthehouse) May 16, 2017
However, the Baltimore congressman wants to see more than lip service from his GOP counterpart. Chaffetz has little to lose, politically. He’s already well-loathed in his home district in Utah, and announced earlier this month that he’ll resign on June 30 to get back into the private sector.
In a Medium post, the House Oversight Committee indicated Chaffetz has refused to draw up his own subpoena for all of this information from the White House. Clearly, Cummings thought that maybe by doing the work for him and simply asking for a signature, his Republican colleague might break down and comply.
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