Pelosi Floor Speech on Resolution to Hold Attorney General Barr and Don McGahn in Civil Contempt
June 11, 2019
Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi delivered remarks on the Floor of the House of Representatives on a resolution to hold Attorney General Barr and Don McGahn in civil contempt for their refusal to comply with Congressional subpoenas. Below are the Speaker’s remarks:
Speaker Pelosi. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
I thank the gentleman for yielding, and I thank him for giving us this opportunity to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, which is our oath of office.
Let me salute the Chairs of the Committees of Jurisdiction who have led us down this path [with] great respect for the law, precedent and the oath we take: Congresswoman Maxine Waters, Congressman Cummings, Congressman Nadler, Congresswoman – Congressman Richie Neal, Congressman Eliot Engel. One more. All whom have been fighting the fight, gathering the facts to protect and defend our Constitution.
The oath of office that we take is why we are on the Floor today: to hold the Attorney General of the United States Barr and former White House Counsel McGahn in civil contempt for their refusal to comply with Congress’s subpoenas. We must follow and uncover the truth for the American people.
At the birth of our democracy, amid war and revolution, Thomas Paine said, ‘The times have found us.’
We are here today because the times have found us. While we do not place ourselves in the same category of greatness as our Founders, we do recognize the urgency of the threat to our nation we face today.
This body has a solemn duty, Mr. Speaker, a solemn duty to protect and defend our democracy, honoring the oath we take and the Constitution that is the foundation of our freedom. That Constitution, which begins with our beautiful preamble: ‘We, The People.’
Immediately following those words of the preamble is Article I, establishing a Congress in which ‘all legislative powers herein granted are vested.’
The Founders conferred upon the First Branch responsibilities that are sweeping in scope. We set an agenda. We hold the power of the purse. We write the laws – laws that all of us are bound by, including the President of the United States and those who surround him.
Fundamental to those responsibilities is oversight of the executive branch and all of the areas essential to the well-being of the American people.
Oversight is our institutional duty to ensure against the abuse of power, protect the rule of law and expose the truth for the people who are the, quote, ‘only legitimate fountain of power,’ end of quote, in the words of James Madison.
To conduct that oversight, the Congress is both constitutionally obligated and legally entitled to access and review materials from the executive branch, which it can subpoena. Yet, the President and the Administration have shown an unprecedented and unjustifiable refusal to furnish Congress with that information.
President Trump himself has said, ‘We are fighting all subpoenas,’ ‘I don’t want people testifying,’ ‘No do-overs.’
His Administration has employed every tool it can find to obstruct legitimate committee oversight: everything from witness intimidation to blanket stonewalling to spurious claims of executive privilege, absolute immunity and lack of legislative purpose.
This obstruction violates decades of established legal precedent. Throughout our history, the courts have made absolutely clear that the House has the authority to follow the facts, to uncover the truth for the American people, and that the ‘power of Congress to conduct investigations is inherent in the legislative process.’ Those are all in quotes.
Our oversight responsibility continues to be resoundingly affirmed in the courts again and again. Last month, the District Court in the District of Columbia ruled in the Mazars court decision, ‘There can be little doubt that Congress’s interest in the accuracy of the President’s financial disclosures fall within the legislative sphere,’ end of quote.
That same week, a judge ruled in the Deutsche Bank case that Congress’s ‘subpoenas are all in service of facially legitimate investigative purposes.’
The Administration’s obstruction not only violates long-established precedent. It endangers our very democracy.
We need answers on the many questions left unanswered by the Mueller report, which made clear that the Russians waged an all-out attack on our democracy and documented – the Mueller report documented 11 incidents of obstruction from the White House itself.
This is a grave threat to our democracy, but the President calls it a ‘hoax’ and refuses to protect our democracy. Why is that? We take an oath to protect our Constitution from all enemies, foreign and domestic, and what the White House and Administration are doing is a danger and a threat to our democracy.
At the same time, the Administration’s campaign of stonewalling extends far beyond the Mueller report. The Administration is obscuring the truth behind the disastrous policy decisions, from attacking the Affordable Care Act – coverage for millions of Americans, including those with pre-existing conditions, and taking it to court to overturn it while saying to the American people, ‘We support pre-existing conditions and the rest – ‘
For tearing apart vulnerable immigrant families at the border, for stealing military funds for an ineffective, wasteful border wall, for rolling back civil rights for women, LGBTQ Americans and people of color. The list goes on and on. Also, in court, to try to defend their abusive power when it comes to the Census, which the Constitution is very clear about, that every ten years the people of the country will be enumerated, and they want to put a citizenship phrase in there to put a chilling effect on us getting an accurate count.
The well-being of the American people and integrity of our democracy are imperiled by this brazen behavior.
Yet, Senator McConnell declares ‘case closed’, enabling this campaign of blanket, unprecedented obstruction. Why aren’t the Senators – we see the obstruction in this House for our trying to uphold our proceedings, but we have the votes to proceed, but the United States Senate has a responsibility to protect and defend the Constitution, and they are ignoring that.
As Members of Congress, we have a responsibility to honor our oath of office, strengthen the institution in which we serve for the people. We have a responsibility under the vision of our Founders and the text of the Constitution – ensure that the truth is known.
No one is above the law. Everyone will be held accountable, including the President of the United States. The People’s House will continue to fight to make the truth known for the American people and will defend Congress’ role under Article I.
I urge a strong bipartisan vote for this resolution to hold Attorney General Barr and former White House Counsel McGahn in civil contempt for their refusal to comply with Congress’s subpoenas and honor the oath of office that they take. With that I urge an aye vote and yield back the balance of my time.