This whirlwind week began somberly for one former Trump lackey. On Monday, Michael Cohen reported to prison — but not before he took a final dig at President Trump during his last few hours in the sunlight.
Meanwhile in Washington, the Justice Department and Congress have been engaged in a very public tit-for-tat over the release of the unredacted version of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report to Congress, which culminated in the White House invoking executive privilege over the entire report and the House Judiciary Committee voting to recommend that Attorney General William Barr be held in contempt of Congress.
The White House made the executive privilege decision at Barr’s request. After House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) made it clear he intended to keep a contempt vote on his committee’s schedule while it negotiated with the DOJ, Barr sent Trump a letter with the request for the declaration, citing as a rationale the “abrupt resort to a contempt vote.”
The next day, the vote moved forward. The Judiciary Committee voted 24-16 Wednesday to recommend the House take up a contempt vote. Nadler issued a biting warning: That the U.S. was in the midst of a “Constitutional crisis”; later that day, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) agreed with his assessment. And while Pelosi acknowledged that she agreed with the direction in which Nadler was heading, she wouldn’t commit to a timeline for taking up a contempt vote.
Barr didn’t seem too concerned about the development, joking that he might set a record for shortest time in office before being held in contempt.
As the Judiciary Committee was voting, the Senate Intelligence Committee made a surprise, bipartisan move: it subpoenaed the President’s son to testify. The committee wants Donald Trump Jr. to explain discrepancies between his initial testimony to the Senate and the findings of Mueller’s report. Members will likely zero in on his involvement in Trump Tower Moscow. The move was predictably met with bedlam: Republicans scolded their fellow GOPers for breathing new life into the Russia investigation and Trump went on a tirade during a press conference Thursday.
During that same presser, Trump also said that it would be up to his attorney general to decide if Mueller is allowed to testify before Congress, just days after advising on Twitter that Mueller “should not” be allowed to. (Reports say he’s secretly been stewing about the prospect of a public Mueller hearing because he doesn’t want it to get media coverage.) Barr is reportedly pretty likely to agree to let Mueller testify.
Earlier in the week, Republicans made good on their vow to investigate the investigators in response to Mueller’s probe. Several top Republicans, including Trump himself, have demanded answers about the origins of the Russia probe, claiming it was a politically motivated.
Meanwhile, the president’s personal lawyer is doing just that. Rudy Giuliani intends to fly to Ukraine to launch a series of investigations that could prove politically useful for Trump.