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U.S. House Votes to Take Trump Subpoena Fights to Court

The U.S. House of Representatives voted Tuesday to allow lawsuits against Attorney General William Barr and former White House counsel Don McGahn

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U.S., Trump, Subponea Fights
Authorizing the lawsuits would allow leaders in the Democratic-led House to go forward with those steps if they choose to do so at a later date. VOA

The U.S. House of Representatives voted Tuesday to allow lawsuits against Attorney General William Barr and former White House counsel Don McGahn over their refusal to cooperate with congressional subpoenas in connection with the investigation of Russian election interference.

Lawmakers want access to documents from special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on his probe into whether President Donald Trump obstructed justice by trying to thwart the investigation, and for McGahn to testify about what took place inside the White House.

Authorizing the lawsuits would allow leaders in the Democratic-led House to go forward with those steps if they choose to do so at a later date.

McGahn was a key witness for Mueller, but has declined to testify before congressional committees, complying with the wishes of the White House. Mueller’s team interviewed McGahn for 30 hours, with the lawyer telling prosecutors that Trump pressured him to try to get Mueller ousted from overseeing the investigation, a demand he ignored.

U.S., Trump, Subponea Fights
FILE – Attorney General William Barr testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, May 1, 2019. VOA

On Monday, the House reached a deal for the Justice Department to turn over crucial documents collected from the Mueller investigation.

Congressman Jerrold Nadler, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said the Justice Department would be opening Mueller’s “most important files to us, providing us with key evidence that the special counsel used to assess whether” Trump and others “obstructed justice or were engaged in other misconduct.”

Nadler said that all members of the Judiciary panel — Democrats and Republicans alike — would be able to see the documents, which he said “will allow us to perform our constitutional duties and decide how to respond to the allegations laid out against the president” by Mueller.

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Contempt vote

U.S., Trump, Subponea Fights
FILE – Former White House Counsel Don McGahn arrives at the Department of Justice in Washington, May 9, 2019. VOA

With the agreement, Nadler said he would withdraw a vote set for Tuesday whether to hold Barr in criminal contempt of Congress for failing to comply with the House committee’s subpoena for the information.

Nadler said he is giving the Justice Department “time to demonstrate compliance with this agreement. If the department proceeds in good faith and we are able to obtain everything we need, then there will be no need to take further steps.” But he said if the agreement collapses, it “will have no choice” but to pursue a court case to try to obtain the underlying documents from the Mueller probe that it is seeking.

Nadler’s committee and others in the House are pursuing several investigations of Trump, along with the obstruction allegations, including about his business affairs, taxes and administration policies during his 29-month presidency. Trump has vowed to fight all Democratic subpoenas, but Nadler’s agreement for information from the Mueller probe signals there also is room for negotiation rather than to let every dispute end in a legal fight in a courtroom.

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Impeachment question

U.S., Trump, Subponea Fights
FILE – House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., gavels in a hearing on the Mueller report on Capitol Hill in Washington, May 2, 2019. VOA

On Monday, the Judiciary panel heard from former White House counsel John Dean, who was instrumental 46 years ago in the downfall of another U.S. president, Richard Nixon. At the time, Dean testified before Congress about White House corruption that led to Nixon’s resignation as he was about to be impeached.

Mueller declined to exonerate Trump of obstruction allegations after a 22-month investigation. But he said that in any event Trump could not have been charged because a Justice Department policy prohibits filing criminal charges against sitting presidents. Subsequently, Barr and then-Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said criminal charges against Trump were not warranted.

About a quarter of the 235 Democrats in the 435-member House, along with one Republican, have called for Trump’s impeachment or the start of an impeachment inquiry. But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has resisted such calls, saying she prefers continued investigations by several House committees.

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Last week, the political news site Politico reported that Pelosi told Democratic colleagues that she does not want Trump impeached, but “in prison,” after facing criminal charges once he leaves office.

U.S., Trump, Subponea Fights
FILE – U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) holds her weekly news conference with Capitol Hill reporters in Washington, May 23, 2019. VOA

Trump retorted, “She’s a nasty, vindictive, horrible person.” (VOA)

Next Story

Trump to Pursue Higher Sales Age for Vaping Devices: ‘An Age Limit of 21 or So’

Trump told reporters his administration will release its final plans for restricting e-cigarettes next week but provided few other details

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Trump, Sales, Vaping
President Donald Trump speaks to reporters on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Nov. 8, 2019. VOA

President Donald Trump said Friday his administration will pursue raising the age to purchase electronic cigarettes from 18 to 21 in its upcoming plans to combat youth vaping.

Trump told reporters his administration will release its final plans for restricting e-cigarettes next week but provided few other details.

“We have to take care of our kids, most importantly, so we’re going to have an age limit of 21 or so,” said Trump, speaking outside the White House.

Currently the minimum age to purchase any tobacco or vaping product is 18, under federal law. But more than one-third of U.S. states have already raised their sales age to 21.

Trump, Sales, Vaping
FILE – A woman buys refills for her Juul at a smoke shop in New York, Dec. 20, 2018. VOA

A federal law raising the purchase age would require congressional action.

Administration officials were widely expected to release plans this week for removing virtually all flavored e-cigarettes from the market. Those products are blamed for soaring rates of underage use by U.S. teenagers.

However, no details have yet appeared, leading vaping critics to worry that the administration is backing away from its original plan.

Trump resisted any specifics on the scope of the restrictions.

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“We’re talking about the age, we’re talking about flavors, we’re also talking about keeping people working — there are some pretty good aspects,” Trump said.

Mint flavor

Underage vaping has reached what health officials call epidemic levels. In the latest government survey, 1 in 4 high school students reported using e-cigarettes in the previous month.

Fruit, candy, dessert and other sweet vaping flavors have been targeted because of their appeal to underage users.

Trump, Sales, Vaping
FILE – A man blows a puff of smoke as he vapes with an electronic cigarette, Oct. 18, 2019. VOA

On Thursday, Juul Labs, the nation’s largest e-cigarette maker, announced it would voluntarily pull its mint-flavored e-cigarettes from the market. That decision followed new research that Juul’s mint is the top choice for many high school students who vape.

With the removal of mint, Juul only sells two flavors: tobacco and menthol.

Vaping critics say menthol must be a part of the flavor ban to prevent teens who currently use mint from switching over.

‘Tobacco 21’ law

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Juul and other tobacco companies have lobbied in support of a federal “Tobacco 21” law to reverse teen use of both e-cigarettes and traditional tobacco products. The effort also has broad bipartisan support in Congress, including a bill introduced by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

The logic for hiking the purchase age for cigarettes and other products is clear: Most underage teens who use e-cigarettes or tobacco get it from older friends. Raising the minimum age to 21 is expected to limit the supply of those products in U.S. schools.

Delaying access to cigarettes is also expected to produce major downstream health benefits, with one government-funded report estimating nearly 250,000 fewer deaths due to tobacco over several decades.

Still, anti-tobacco groups have insisted that any “Tobacco 21” law must be accompanied by a ban on flavors, which they say are the primary reason young people use e-cigarettes. (VOA)