Lawmakers from the Democratic Party in the United States House of Representatives have renewed calls for impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump, after a former White House counsel failed to appear before Congress despite a subpoena.
Donald McGahn skipped a hearing on Tuesday about the Mueller report.
In an extraordinary move, President Trump has vowed to block all subpoenas of his current and former staff.
“Our subpoenas are not optional,” said House Judiciary Committee chairman Jerry Nadler, after the failed hearing.
“Let me be clear: this committee will hear McGahn’s testimony, even if we have to go to court to secure it,” he said.
The Trump administration claims that the report by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, into allegations of Russian collusion and obstruction of justice, cleared him of wrongdoing, and that there are no further questions to answer.
The administration also claims that staff cannot legally be compelled to testify, but Nadler said he would hold Mr McGahn in contempt and pursue other means of compelling testimony.
“We will hold this president accountable, one way or the other,” he said.
President Trump responded on Twitter on Tuesday, arguing that he had “allowed everyone to testify” to Robert Mueller’s team, and accusing the Democrats of seeking a “do-over” of the special counsel investigation.
Democratic Party leaders have so far held off pressure from their lawmakers to begin impeachment proceedings, and the party is divided over the merits of the move, but the pressure is growing as the president stonewalls congressional inquiries.
“Stonewalling Congress on witnesses and the unredacted Mueller report only enhances the president’s appearance of guilt, and as a result, he has pushed Congress to a point where we must start an impeachment inquiry,” said Democratic representative Mark Pocan, one of the leaders of the progressive wing of the Democratic Party.
“We need to do our job and vote on impeachment,” tweeted Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi scheduled a party meeting Wednesday to discuss the issue. Asked on Tuesday about impeachment, Pelosi’s deputy, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, said: “I don’t think we’re there at this point in time.”
In the wake of McGahn’s failure to appear, Nadler announced he had issued subpoenas to former White House Communications Director Hope Hicks and Annie Donaldson, Mr McGahn’s former chief of staff.
According to a New York Times report, Democratic lawmakers and aides were examining possible rules changes to allow the House to fine people held in contempt, as well as other means to break the impasse.
Presidential administrations have challenged subpoenas before, but analysts said President Trump’s vow to block all subpoenas issued by the House Judiciary Committee in relation to the Mueller report is unprecedented.