“I cannot emphasize this enough — the chairman’s track record demonstrates he does not actually want information. He wants the fight, but not the truth. The closer he actually comes to obtaining information, the farther away he runs from it. . . . It is high time the chairman focused this committee’s time on issues the American people actually care about.”
WASHINGTON — Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.), Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee, made the following opening statement at the McGahn hearing.
Below are the remarks as prepared.
Ranking Member Collins: Today the theater continues, and Democrats are once again running roughshod over the Constitution and norms of congressional oversight.
Some of my Democrat colleagues here may believe the witness can provide damaging information against the president, but that isn’t a reason to bring somebody to testify. There is no legitimate legislative purpose here; it’s about embarrassing and harassing the president. The Oversight Committee used a similar tactic three months ago when they invited Michael Cohen to testify, and that was an embarrassment for that committee and for Congress.
That wasn’t enough, though, so today Democrats are trying again.
The Mueller report concluded there was no collusion and no obstruction. Because the report failed to provide damning information against the president, Democrats claim we need to dig deeper — deeper than the two years of investigation conducted by what is considered a prosecutorial dream team — because that probe ended without criminal charges against the president or his family. The special counsel closed up shop without giving Democrats anything to deliver to their base.
Now Democrats are trying desperately to make something out of nothing, which is why the chairman haphazardly subpoenaed today’s witness. That move, though, has actually ensured the witness cannot testify.
We officially learned yesterday what we have known since the day the chairman subpoenaed today’s witness — he’s immune from being compelled to testify before Congress. Prior Democratic and Republican administrations have taken that position, so this administration is doing nothing novel. Cries that this president is expanding executive powers ignore his unprecedented transparency during the special counsel investigation and the practices of previous administrations — including one that declared executive privilege over emails between Attorney General Holder and his mother.
The chairman knew all this when he sent the subpoena last month, but instead of inviting the witness to testify voluntarily, and working with Mr. McGahn’s counsel to find a mutually agreeable time and scope for his testimony, the chairman rushed to maximize headlines by issuing a subpoena. That subpoena was his third in just four months — more subpoenas than the prior chairman issued in six years.
The chairman had several ways out here. He took none of them.
The chairman could have invited the witness to testify voluntarily. That was the practice in the 1990s when the White House Counsel testified before Congress, but the chairman did not do this. Instead, he launched a subpoena at the witness without any consultation or follow-up with the witness’s lawyer.
The chairman could have invited the witness to testify behind closed doors, but that wouldn’t have been politically expedient. A closed-door conversation would not have garnered the headlines a hearing delivers — headlines Democrats so desperately crave. Even gaveling in today’s hearing without a witness is theatrical. Cameras love a spectacle, and Democrats covet the chance to rant against this administration. I’m pleasantly surprised to see the chairman hasn’t allowed fried chicken on the dais today.
The chairman orchestrated today’s confrontation when he could have avoided it, because he is more interested in fighting than fact-finding.
Take the Mueller report, more than 99% of which the Justice Department has offered to the chairman. For an entire month, the chairman has refused to look at it.
Take the attorney general, who volunteered to testify before the committee. The chairman changed the rules — for the first time in this committee’s 200-year history — thus blocking Attorney General Barr from testifying.
I cannot emphasize this enough — the chairman’s track record demonstrates he does not actually want information. He wants the fight, but not the truth. The closer he actually comes to obtaining information, the farther away he runs from it.
Democrats claim they need today’s witness to investigate obstruction of justice, but that investigation was already done. Robert Mueller spent two years running it, and then closed it. We are not a prosecutorial body. We are a legislative one.
The chairman claims he needs the unredacted Mueller report to better understand what Russia did in 2016 and therefore better protect the 2020 elections. Ninety-nine percent of that information is at Democrats’ fingertips. It’s in the Mueller report Attorney General Barr offered to Speaker Pelosi, Chairman Nadler and others. I’ve seen it, but the chairman has refused!
Don’t be fooled. The chairman wants the fight and the drama. He does not actually want the information he claims to be seeking. After the administration made volumes of information available to this committee, the chairman issued overbroad subpoenas and now harangues the administration for being unable to comply with those subpoenas. In fact, it’s Democrats who aren’t engaging in the accommodations process, abruptly cutting off negotiations and rejecting all olive branches offered by the administration.
It is high time the chairman focused this committee’s time on issues the American people actually care about. Perhaps over the Memorial Day recess he will realize citizens outside the beltway have moved on. Americans care about maintaining the lowest unemployment we’ve seen in 50 years. They care about stopping China from stealing our intellectual property, and they care about the crisis at the southern border, which this committee has spent the last five months ignoring.
Mr. Chairman, it’s time to move on. After the recess, I look forward to using our time wisely to improve the lives of all Americans.