The House Judiciary Committee has voted to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress, escalating the legal battle with the Trump administration over access to special counsel Robert Mueller's report.
House Judiciary Committee chief Jerrold Nadler slammed the U.S. president's decision as "blanket defiance" of Congress' rightful demands and accused the White House of "misapplying the doctrine of executive privilege".
Two examples demonstrate House Democrats' true motivation.
The divided US Congress' fight over the Mueller report intensified on Tuesday as the US Senate's top Republican sought to shut the door on congressional probes while House Democrats pushed ahead with efforts to gather testimony from top administration officials. He said the assertion of executive privilege in this case would be "utterly without merit or legal or factual basis".
Democrats must explain to voters that the precedent Trump is setting would have made impeachment of Richard M. Nixon impossible (the House eventually went to court to get the unredacted report from the independent prosecutor), would make it impossible to investigate future presidents and would be a green light for president to engage in wrongdoing knowing they can stonewall Congress while simultaneously avoiding indictment.
Nadler said Trump's stonewalling of Congress in various investigations is "an assertion of tyrannical power by the president and that can not be allowed to stand".
The Justice Department told Nadler on Wednesday that it is terminating all negotiations with the panel over access to the full and unredacted Mueller report. Mr Nadler rejected a White House claim that documents Mr McGahn refused to provide despite a subpoena are controlled by the White House and thus Mr McGahn has no legal right to them.
"The president's wholesale, blunderbuss assertion of executive privilege over the entirety of the Mueller report is legally groundless to the point of being preposterous", says constitutional scholar Laurence Tribe.
With the resolution adopted in a 24-16 vote, the full House can hold a vote to find Barr in contempt. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the top Democrat in Congress, told The Washington Post that Barr should be held in contempt.
The omission was noted in a statement by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of NY, both Democrats.
A contempt vote against Mr Barr would head to the full House for a vote.
But when former Attorney General Eric Holder faced a House vote that ultimately led to him being held in contempt for the Fast and Furious scandal in 2012, Nadler was singing a different tune.
McConnell also fiercely defended Barr against attacks by Democrats who, he said, "seem to be angrier at Bill Barr than Vladimir Putin".
By pursuing contempt, Democrats hope to send a message to the Trump administration about their willingness to invoke congressional powers in the majority.
In addition to defying the subpoena, Barr declined to testify before the Judiciary Committee after the Democrats refused to back down from a demand that staff attorneys be allowed to question the attorney general.
Barr has said he had no objection to letting Mueller testify before Congress about his investigation. "It comes in and decides, 'We're going to go after the attorney general who's trying to clean up the mess'".
McGahn is also being asked for documents related to "the subject of investigating James Comey or Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton [and on] presidential pardons, whether possible or actual for Paul Manafort, Michael Flynn, Michael Cohen, Rick Gates, Roger Stone, individuals associated with the Trump campaign, or individuals involved in matters before the U.S. Attorney's office for the Southern District of NY".