Todd Ruger

Judge questions whether House can sue over border wall funding
The judge was skeptical whether federal courts should jump into the ‘ugly dispute between the political branches’

A federal judge in Washington expressed skepticism Thursday about whether the federal courts should jump into the middle of an “ugly dispute between the political branches” over the Trump administration plan to move around federal funds to build a border wall.

U.S. District Judge Trevor N. McFadden said that a House lawsuit to block the Trump administration’s spending was in “unusual territory,” since higher courts have never ruled on whether the legislative branch could sue the executive branch.

Judge sides with Congress in subpoena fight over Trump records

A federal district court judge in Washington sided Monday with Congress in President Donald Trump’s lawsuit to block lawmakers from getting eight years of his financial records from an accounting firm.

The 41-page ruling from U.S. District Court Judge Amit Mehta in favor of the House Oversight and Reform Committee was not unexpected, and his ruling describes sweeping congressional power to subpoena records for what appears on its face to be a valid legislative purpose.

White House gets back-up from DOJ on Don McGahn testimony stance

President Donald Trump Monday ordered former White House Counsel Don McGahn to not testify at a House Judiciary Committee hearing scheduled for Tuesday, with the administration saying the former adviser has “absolute immunity” and is not legally required to comply with a congressional subpoena.

The move was not unexpected as part of Trump’s “oppose-all-the-subpoenas” stance since the conclusion of the special counsel investigation last month. But it further escalates the separation-of-powers showdown between the Trump administration and congressional oversight.

House urges judge to block Trump’s border wall spending
‘As I think everybody in this courtroom knows, the executive branch can’t build this wall without Congress,’ the attorney said

An attorney for the House urged a federal judge in California on Friday to block the Trump administration from moving federal funds around to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, calling the move “statutory sleight of hand, or, more accurately, three-card monte.”

Douglas N. Letter, the House general counsel, told U.S. District Court Judge Haywood S. Gilliam Jr. that the government can’t claim the authority to divert billions of dollars for wall construction when Congress had just denied President Donald Trump’s demands to appropriate those funds.

House claims broad power in legal fight over Trump records

An attorney for the House described a sweeping congressional power to subpoena information Tuesday during a court hearing in Washington, as a federal judge appeared unlikely to block lawmakers from getting eight years of President Donald Trump’s financial records from an accounting firm.

The hearing was the first showdown over Trump’s efforts to stonewall investigations by House Democrats, including his lawsuit that argues the House Oversight and Reform Committee lacks a legitimate legislative purpose to force Mazars USA to turn over records.

How Congress can break through Trump’s stonewalling
As Trump stands firm against subpoenas, Congress looks for speed in the courts

President Donald Trump’s “we’re-fighting-all-the-subpoenas” strategy threatens to stall congressional oversight with protracted legal fights, but House Democrats have options to try to avoid those delays and pry loose information.

Lawmakers need to push judges for quick action, legal experts say. They can also press forward with subpoenas that seek testimony from witnesses who aren’t in the government, putting them outside of Trump’s executive privilege reach. Forcing the Trump administration to go to court to try to stop their efforts can also work to their advantage if the courts allow the requests to stand while the legal process churns forward.

Bipartisan swipes from McCarthy at House Judiciary and Senate Intelligence chairmen
House minority questions Nadler qualifications, says Burr’s panel ‘got it wrong’ on Trump Jr.

As House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy on Thursday continued his calls for Congress to “move on” from the special counsel investigation, he swiped at House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler and Senate Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr.

The California Republican during his weekly press conference questioned whether Nadler is qualified to hold the Judiciary gavel, saying if he were in charge of the Democratic Caucus he’d haul the chairman in to meet with the House parliamentarian over his “lack of knowledge” about procedure. 

House Judiciary votes to hold Barr in contempt over Mueller report release
Ahead of a House Judiciary vote to hold AG Barr in contempt of Congress, the Justice Department announced the president‘s decision

The House Judiciary Committee approved a resolution Wednesday to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress over access to the full special counsel report, escalating a broadening clash between the legislative and executive branches over congressional oversight.

The resolution, approved on a 24-16 roll call vote along party lines, came after days of negotiations with the Justice Department in public and private that came down to how many lawmakers and staffers could see and discuss the report from Robert S. Mueller III, and how much material they would see because of court orders protecting it

FBI director wants to ‘up our game’ on election interference
Other countries have been eyeing Russia’s efforts in 2016 and the ‘threat just keeps escalating,’ Wray tells senators

FBI Director Christopher Wray told senators Tuesday that “there are still more messages to be sent” to Russia when it comes to interference in American elections, as the bureau prepares to combat foreign meddling efforts during the 2020 elections.

Other countries have been eyeing Russia’s efforts in 2016 and “entertaining whether or not to take a page out of that book,” Wray said, fueling many of the questions from Senate appropriators as they pondered what resources the FBI needs in fiscal 2020.

Rep. Nadler and 23 other Democrats want Trump’s Sheriff Joe pardon invalidated
Trump’s pardon of a contempt of court charge infringed on the judicial branch ability to impose sanctions for disobedience, they say

A group of two dozen Democratic members of Congress foreshadowed in a court case how they might fight back if President Donald Trump pardons someone for a criminal contempt of Congress charge — just as the two political branches ramp up the battle over congressional oversight.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., and Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., a member of the House leadership, were among the lawmakers who filed a brief last week to urge a federal appeals court in California to invalidate one of President Donald Trump’s most controversial pardons.

House Democrats start contempt of Congress process against Barr
The House Judiciary scheduled a Wednesday markup for the 27-page contempt resolution

House Democrats plan to take the first step to holding Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress on Wednesday, in their push to get an unredacted version of the Mueller report and its underlying investigative material.

The House Judiciary Committee scheduled a markup of a 27-page contempt resolution that lays out the need for the full report from special counsel Robert S. Mueller III and the negotiations so far with Barr to get it.

Barr’s empty chair foreshadows the constitutional struggle ahead
Barr skipped the House hearing Thursday because he objected to the format of the hearing allowing committee staff to ask questions

The House Judiciary Committee went forward with a hearing on the special counsel report Thursday without scheduled witness Attorney General William Barr, his empty seat at the witness table a sign of a broader separation of powers battle ahead.

“Ladies and gentlemen, the challenge we face is that the president of the United States wants desperately to prevent Congress — a coequal branch of government — from providing any check whatsoever to even his most reckless decisions,” Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., said in an opening statement.

Barr will be a no-show at House Judiciary Committee
AG objects to staff asking questions about special counsel probe

Attorney General William Barr will not appear as scheduled before the House Judiciary Committee about the special counsel probe Thursday, as he objects to a format that would allow committee staff to ask questions, the Justice Department announced.

Earlier Wednesday, the House panel approved a plan to allow an extra hour of time — divided into equal 30-minute, unbroken segments for each party — for either lawmakers or committee staff to ask questions.

Fight between Barr, House Democrats exemplify balance of power battle

President Donald Trump’s hostility toward congressional oversight power blossomed while lawmakers were on their spring recess, his first week out from the shadow of any possible criminal charges stemming from a 22-month special counsel investigation into his actions.

A Justice Department official was told to defy a congressional subpoena for a deposition on the 2020 census. A former White House security official ditched scheduled testimony before a committee, as did White House senior aide Stephen Miller. The administration declined a request for Trump’s tax returns, as well as a subpoena for an unredacted version of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s report.

Justices ask in Census case: ‘Congress is silent. Should the court then step in?’
Conservative majority appears ready to let citizenship question stand

The House came to the Supreme Court to argue against the Trump administration’s plan to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census — and ended up getting quizzed about why lawmakers didn’t take their own action if they wanted to stop it.

In about 90 minutes of lively questioning Tuesday, the conservative majority of the court appeared ready to defer to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’ decision to add the question even though it could reduce census responses among noncitizen households.

Supreme Court to decide whether LGBTQ people are covered by Civil Rights Act
It's the first time the Supreme Court will decide a major LGBTQ rights case since the appointment of Brett Kavanaugh

The Supreme Court will decide next term whether federal law protects LGBT individuals from workplace discrimination, a major case on the politically divisive social and religious issue that will play out against the backdrop of the 2020 presidential election.

The justices announced Monday they will consider a trio of cases about prohibiting employment discrimination based on “sex” in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and whether it also covers sexual orientation and transgender persons.

House gets its say as Supreme Court takes up census citizenship question
Stakes are high as decision could affect how many House seats each state gets

The House gets a relatively rare chance to directly address the Supreme Court on Tuesday in a legal showdown about whether the Trump administration can add a citizenship question to the 2020 census.

The case is one of the most significant for members of Congress during the current Supreme Court term. The census results determine how many House seats each state gets and affect how states redraw congressional districts. The results are also used to distribute billions of dollars from federal programs that are based on population count to state and local governments.

Mueller report’s second act: congressional scrutiny
CQ on Congress podcast, Episode 149

CQ legal affairs reporter Todd Ruger says House Democrats now have plenty of leads from special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s report to investigate, especially as to whether President Donald Trump sought to obstruct justice.

Mueller cites ‘fairness’ in reasons not to decide if Trump obstructed justice
Such an evaluation ‘could potentially result in a judgment that the President committed crimes,’ Mueller wrote

Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III lists in his report which of President Donald Trump’s actions his team scrutinized to determine whether the president tried to obstruct justice — enough that they could not rule out that Trump committed a crime.

But Mueller’s team decided they should refrain from deciding whether Trump should be prosecuted because of several factors — including “fairness,” the unique role of the president in government and previous Justice Department opinions that a sitting president could not be indicted.

Barr declares ‘no collusion’ ahead of redacted Mueller report release
Redacted version of long-awaited report will be released Thursday before noon, attorney general says