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This Week: Faced With Subpoenas, Trump Orders Underlings To Ignore Them

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April 25, 2019 6:46 p.m.

The Trump administration is full of former lobbyists who now have direct access to the levers of power they once so lustily ogled. And so the inspectors generals of the executive branch have their work cut out for them. 

This week, a half-dozen Interior Department political appointees found themselves under the microscope for a series of meetings they took with former clients and employers in their official capacities. Yes, the NRA makes an appearance.

That adds to the workload of the inspector general, who is already looking into their new boss, Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, for similar alleged infractions while he was second-in-command at the Department.

Speaking of former fossil fuel lobbyists: EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler heard again from House Oversight Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-MD) this week that the committee is investigating discrepancies between Wheeler’s own financial disclosures and those submitted by his former employer.

The employer, Faefre Baker Daniels Consulting, told Congress Wheeler made a few thousand dollars in 2015 lobbying on behalf of the firm for Darling Ingredients. Wheeler participated in a meeting with Darling in 2018. An EPA employee told Cummings the meeting didn’t violate Wheeler’s ethics pledge, which required disclosure of any lobbying client who paid Wheeler more than $5,000 in the two years before he took his position — but EPA still hasn’t provided the documentation to back that claim up.

The Treasury Department has stood up a yet another deadline to provide Donald Trump’s and several of his business’ tax returns to the House Ways and Means Committee.

The White House, meanwhile, continues to stonewall congressional Democrats on a number of related probes.

The White House has told Carl Kline, former director of the White House Presidential Personnel Office, to ignore a congressional subpoena to testify regarding the ongoing scandal over who got security clearances, on whose order, and why. Kline allegedly retaliated against a whistleblower with dwarfism by placing files out of her reach.

Trump also told DOJ appointee John Gore not to respond to a subpoena to testify about the administration’s efforts to add a citizenship question to the Census.

Outside lawyers for Trump and his business sued the House Oversight Committee in an attempt to block its subpoena for Trump’s and his business’s financial information.

Trump is similarly set on fighting the subpoena for former White House counsel Don McGahn to testify before Congress. McGahn’s testimony to special counsel Robert Mueller constituted some of the strongest evidence in Mueller’s redacted final report that Trump obstructed justice.

But, were Trump to claim executive privilege regarding his conversations with McGahn, it will be more difficult to do so after he tweeted about the issue Thursday morning.

Finally, the Cummings’ House Oversight Committee, the House Judiciary Committee and the House Homeland Security Committee wrote to the acting Homeland Security Secretary Thursday demanding documents related to the recent spate of dismissals at the department, saying they were “concerned that the President may have removed DHS officials because they refused his demands to violate federal immigration law and judicial orders.”

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