- The House Judiciary Committee subpoenaed former White House communications director Hope Hicks and Annie Donaldson – former aide to Don McGahn – for documents and testimony on Tuesday.
- Hicks was one of President Donald Trump’s longest-serving aides before she left the White House last year.
- But legal experts say it’s Donaldson who is Congress’ most important potential witness in the obstruction-of-justice investigation into Trump.
- The committee asked the two women to turn over documents related to several episodes investigated by the special counsel Robert Mueller and other US attorney’s offices.
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The House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday subpoenaed Hope Hicks, the former White House communications director, and Annie Donaldson, a top aide to the former White House counsel Don McGahn, to turn over documents and testify before the committee.
Hicks was one of President Donald Trump’s longest-serving aides before she left the White House last year and she was involved in several key episodes in the special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.
But legal experts say it’s Donaldson who is Congress’ most important potential witness in the obstruction-of-justice investigation into Trump.
The committee asked both women to produce documents related to several key episodes investigated by Mueller, and others, including:
- The investigation into and resignation of former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
- Trump’s communications with former FBI director James Comey.
- Jeff Sessions’ recusal from overseeing the Russia investigation when he was attorney general.
- The resignation, “whether contemplated or actual,” of Sessions, former deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein, Mueller, and McGahn.
- Statements and/or requests to dispute public reporting that Trump wanted to have Mueller removed as special counsel.
- Communications about the Mueller probe that could have amounted to obstruction or violating the law.
- Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s cooperation with Mueller’s office.
- Pardons, “whether possible or actual” related to Manafort, Flynn, Michael Cohen, Rick Gates, Roger Stone, or others associated with the Trump campaign or who were involved in Mueller’s investigation or a Manhattan US attorney’s office investigation into Trump.
- Cohen’s testimony to the House and Senate intelligence committees.
- Payments Cohen facilitated to two women who alleged affairs with Trump before the 2016 election.
- Communications related to US sanctions on Russia.
Donaldson’s role while she served as McGahn’s top deputy was relatively obscure – until Mueller’s report was released last month.
According to the document, Donaldson’s notes painted a devastating portrait of the internal firestorm that roiled the White House throughout the course of the Russia probe.
In one instance, Donaldson detailed Trump’s outrage when Comey revealed in March 2017 that the FBI was probing whether the Trump campaign conspired with Russia during the 2016 election.
“POTUS in panic/chaos,” she wrote. “Need binders to put in front of POTUS. All things related to Russia.”
Donaldson also described the rampant fear that Trump could be charged with obstruction of justice – something Mueller left open ended in his report and Attorney General William Barr decided against pursuing.
“Is this the beginning of the end?” Donaldson wrote after Trump fired Comey three months later. The White House initially said Comey was fired because of his handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation, but Trump later revealed on national television that he ousted Comey because of “this Russia thing.”
Donaldson also detailed colorful quotes from McGahn when he erupted after being asked to engage in what he viewed as obstruction of justice, and notes such as one from March 2017 which said, “Just in the middle of another Russia Fiasco.”
In all, the more than 60 notes from Donaldson revealed in the Mueller report, which otherwise would have never been available to the public, showed similar detail about intimate and tense situations inside a chaotic White House.
Many legal experts compared Donaldson’s meticulously scribbled notes to the White House tapes that arguably tanked Richard Nixon’s presidency during the Watergate scandal.
Donaldson “witnessed, first-hand, as McGahn (at least by his own and Donaldson’s account) sought to curtail the very worst of the President’s abuses of power,” Anne Tindall, a lawyer at Protect Democracy and the former Assistant General Counsel for Litigation and Oversight at the US Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, wrote on Lawfare. “If I were a congressional investigator (and I once was), Donaldson would be high on my witness list.”
“Donaldson knows as much about Trump’s campaign against the Special Counsel as anyone, and in some ways, she is more poised than either Mueller or McGahn to shed new light on the President’s misconduct,” Tindall continued.