Top House Republican pretends Congress doesn’t have subpoena power

It does.

House Judiciary Committee ranking member Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA) falsely claimed on Tuesday that the committee is powerless to do oversight or issue subpoenas
House Judiciary Committee ranking member Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA) falsely claimed on Tuesday that the committee is powerless to do oversight or issue subpoenas, which is false. (Photo credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA) has used his perch as the ranking Republican member on the House Judiciary Committee to oppose every attempt by the Democratic majority to conduct oversight of President Donald Trump and his administration.

On Tuesday, Collins rolled out a new argument as to why the panel should not bother to investigate the president: it lacks the same kind of subpoena power that special counsel Robert Mueller had.

This isn’t true, of course, but it didn’t stop Collins from trying to push the idea anyway. During an interview with Fox News, he claimed that the committee’s examination of the administration — as well as the 10 instances of possible obstruction involving Trump documented in Mueller’s final report — amounted to little more than an attempt to damage the president by highlighting the findings.

“[T]hey’re gonna take little bits and pieces and they’re gonna say, ‘what about this?” he said. 

Collins then made the false argument that Mueller had subpoena powers that Congress lacked.

My question to our committee, the Mueller report had unlimited resources, many investigators, grand jury, subpoena options, everything that we don’t have,” he said. “How is our committee, who can’t even seem to get through a hearing yesterday without looking like a total joke, how are they going to investigate better than a Mueller who was fully funded and after a specific reason? We’re not gonna be able to do that. They’re just trying to tar this president.”

Congressional committees do indeed have the power and the constitutional duty to do oversight of the executive branch. The Judiciary Committee employs several expert investigators and even brought on Norm Eisen, former Obama White House special counsel for ethics and government reform, to assist with its current investigative efforts.

The panel’s subpoena power has been used for decades.

While the Trump administration has so far attempted to stonewall and ignore congressional subpoenas for documents and testimony about the president and his business and associates, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed as far back as 1927 that investigations are presumed to have a legislative purpose.


And Collins should know this: In 2015 and 2017, he voted for rules packages for the House that expressly authorized subpoenas. Indeed, a footnote from the House rules manual Collins voted to approve even states that the Judiciary Committee voted for articles of impeachment against President Richard Nixon in 1974 for, among other reasons, “failing to honor subpoenas issued by the Committee on the Judiciary in the course of its impeachment inquiry.”