What if Someone Just Ignores a Subpoena?

pollyanna

Last night Dr. Aardvark and I were sitting in connubial contentment watching the PBS Evening News when she asked, “What happens if someone just ignores a subpoena?” I am afraid that my top-of-the-head answer was not entirely complete or accurate.

These two posts provide lots of helpful insights into the question:

Philip Bump, How the Trump-Congress subpoena fight is likely to play out

Martin Longman, Congress Needs to Lock Up Non-Complying Witnesses

Pollyanna Speaks Again

The flavor of the day is gloom and doom over Trump’s ability just to stonewall and “run out the clock.” But I have talked this situation this over with my daughter, Polyanna Aardvark, and she has some helpful thoughts.

First, by signaling that he will oppose any and all subpoenas, Trump has weakened his ability to advance any plausible argument he may have that any particular subpoena suffers from some legal defect.

Second, stonewalling doesn’t make you look “strong.” It makes you look guilty.

The strategy will appeal to those who don’t care whether or not Trump has done this or that execrable act. And there are many such people. But, to those who were unsure, but might be inclined to give Trump the benefit of the doubt as to his wrongdoing—and there are lots of those folks, too—obstruction will not accrue to his advantage.

Third, Pollyanna’s sense is that the situation will be very strongly influenced by what Don McGahn decides to do, or not to do.

McGahn, the former White House Counsel, current six- or seven-figure Jones Day partner, and Mr. Pack-the-courts-with-rightwingers par excellence, sang like a canary to the Special Counsel. Any arguable executive privilege has long since been waived with respect to the topics about which he would testify to Congress. Any arguable attorney-client privilege, ditto.

Jones Day partners, upon receipt of a proper subpoena, do not tell the entity that issued the proper subpoena to go take a flying fuck. For one thing, if they did take that course of action, then the D.C. Bar Association would not take kindly to it.

Trump has already “punished” Jones Day by taking business away from it. He doesn’t really have a hold on McGahn or on Jones Day.

Pollyanna thinks it’s likely that McGahn will testify in public, reprising the role of John Dean—and of Martin Sheen playing John Deen in the movie.

She also thinks that Brett Kavanaugh, who owes his seat on the Court to McGahn, will sit up and take notice.

Finally, she thinks that, in the aftermath of the McGhan testimony, things are likely to really go pear shaped for the Trumpster.

I told Pollyanna that we are getting a little ahead of ourselves, but she might well be right.

In the immortal words of President Eisenhower, “The future lies ahead.”