During yesterday’s questions portion of the impeachment trial, Dep. WH Counsel Patrick Philbin responded to Democrat Impeachment Manager Hakeem Jefferies statements about “blanket defiance.”

Rep. Jefferies, the chairman of the House Democrat Caucus, was the first to respond to a question about why House Democrats didn’t contest the Trump administration’s refusal to respond to subpoenas. Jefferies said “Simple. We did not challenge any claims related to executive privilege because, as the President’s own counsel admitted during this trial, the president didn’t raise the question of executive privilege. What the president did raise was this notion of blanket defiance, this notion that the executive branch, directed by the president, could completely defy any and all subpoenas issued by the House of Representatives, not turn over documents, not turn over witnesses, not produce a single shred of information…”

It didn’t take Counsel Philbin long to shred Rep. Jefferies intentionally dishonest statement. Philbin started, saying “Let me frame this, partly in response to what Mr. Jefferies just said and I went through this before. The idea that there was blanket defiance and no explanation and no case law from the White House is simply incorrect. I put up slides showing the letters, the letter from Oct. 18th that explained specifically that the subpoenas that had been issued by the House were not authorized by a vote from the House were invalid and there was a letter from the White House Counsel’s office saying that. And there was a letter from OMB saying that. There was a letter from the State Department saying that. There were specific rationales given, citing the specific cases, Watkins, Roonley, explaining that defect. The House managers chose not to take any steps to correct that. We also pointed out other defects. We asserted the doctrine of absolute immunity for the president’s senior advisors to the president, which has been claimed by every president since Nixon.”

Compulsory subpoenas are different than the subpoenas that Congress routinely uses because those subpoenas are used to gather information for legislative purposes. Compulsory subpoenas are different because they include the Article II responsibilities of investigations. On Sept. 24, Speaker Pelosi stepped before some microphones and gathered reporters to announce the start of an impeachment inquiry.

Pelosi’s problem, which turned into the House Democrats’ problem, is that the Constitution gives sole authority for impeachment to the House. It doesn’t give that authority to the Speaker or to a committee. The Founders insisted on this to guarantee accountability of the entire House of Representatives. The men who wrote the Constitution wanted everyone to be accountable and they wanted impeachment to be rare and bipartisan because of the division impeachment causes.

On another subject, Republicans should reject additional witnesses because impeachment is a privileged resolution. That means, literally, that all other work in the Senate stops until impeachment trials are finished. Imagine the chaos that might happen if the House passed articles of impeachment without doing the investigation. The House could conceivably impeach a president multiple times and tie up the Senate indefinitely. That means no budgets, no funding the government, no ratifying trade agreements.

The House would have the ability to grind the Senate to a halt. That isn’t acceptable.

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