US House Speaker says Trump moving closer to impeachment

Mr Donald McGahn (standing, in a file photo) was earlier stopped by the White House from handing over documents subpoenaed by House investigators because US President Donald Trump may want to assert executive privilege.
Mr Donald McGahn (standing, in a file photo) was earlier stopped by the White House from handing over documents subpoenaed by House investigators because US President Donald Trump may want to assert executive privilege.PHOTO: NYTIMES

President asserts executive privilege over Mueller report

WASHINGTON • US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi said yesterday that President Donald Trump was moving closer to impeachment with his effort to thwart congressional subpoenas and obstruct lawmakers' efforts to oversee his administration.

"Every single day, the President is making the case" and "he's becoming self-impeachable", Ms Pelosi said in an interview with The Washington Post, when asked about the possibility of the Republican President being impeached by the House.

Mr Trump yesterday asserted executive privilege over Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report on Russian meddling in the 2016 campaign and its underlying investigative materials, escalating the battle with the Democrats on the US House Judiciary Committee.

The move came shortly before the House Judiciary Committee was to vote to hold Attorney-General William Barr in contempt for defying a congressional subpoena to hand over the full unredacted report.

The Judiciary Committee is one of number of committees in the Democratic-controlled House that are investigating Mr Trump and his administration on multiple fronts, including White House security clearances and Mr Trump's personal and business dealings.

"The President has asserted executive privilege over the entirety of the subpoenaed materials," the Justice Department wrote in a letter yesterday to House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler.

"Faced with chairman Nadler's blatant abuse of power, and at the Attorney-General's request, the President has no other option than to make a protective assertion of executive privilege," White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement.

The Justice Department told Mr Nadler that it is terminating all negotiations with the panel over access to the full and unredacted Mueller report.

The White House has also stepped in to stop Mr Donald McGahn, the former White House counsel and a key witness for Mr Mueller, from handing over documents subpoenaed by House investigators because Mr Trump may want to assert executive privilege.

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin also has defied Congress, this week not acting on the House Ways and Means Committee's request for Mr Trump's tax returns.

Democrats are divided over how far to take their investigations, with some calling for impeachment proceedings and others backing continued panel investigations.

"The President... wants to goad us unto impeachment," Ms Pelosi said.

Such proceedings would also be "divisive" for the country, she said.

REUTERS, NYTIMES, BLOOMBERG

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 09, 2019, with the headline 'US House Speaker says Trump moving closer to impeachment'. Print Edition | Subscribe