Looks like the Senate Judiciary Committee doesn’t feel the need to take a bad deal in exchange for testimony from Paul Manafort. Chair Chuck Grassley and ranking member Dianne Feinstein issued a subpoena to Trump’s onetime campaign convention manager for their investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election after negotiations broke down. Manafort will have to show up to a public hearing tomorrow and produce records for the committee to review.
According to both Fox and ABC, Manafort offered one transcribed interview for all committees in Congress, but … didn’t want Judiciary or its staff to have access to it. “So you wonder how that’d be helpful, right?” asks Bill Hemmer at Fox. Apparently, Grassley and Feinstein didn’t wonder for long:
JUST IN: Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman issued a subpoena to compel Paul Manafort's presence at a public Judiciary Committee hearing. pic.twitter.com/Q9xtKzi1IX
— Fox News (@FoxNews) July 25, 2017
JUST IN: Senate Judiciary Committee issues subpoena to compel Paul Manafort to appear at a public Judiciary Committee hearing Wednesday. pic.twitter.com/UqWfP2Fb8L
— ABC News (@ABC) July 25, 2017
The statement contains an offer for Manafort to get out of the public hearing if he cooperates. “We may be willing to excuse him from Wednesday’s hearing,” the SJC notes, “if he would be willing to agree to production of documents and a transcribed interview, with the understanding that the interview would not constitute a waiver of his rights or prejudice the committee’s right to compel his testimony in the future.” In other words, the deal from the committee is cooperate … or else.
Congressional committees will often try to get willing cooperation by working with witnesses, but they won’t cut a deal that cuts them out of the loop, because they have the authority to compel testimony. Will Manafort cooperate with the subpoena? If he doesn’t, he’ll face a contempt of Congress charge, which in this political environment would be an inevitability. The Department of Justice would have to prosecute it, but because this relates to the Russia probe, that decision would be made by Rod Rosenstein and not Jeff Sessions. It could also be taken up by special counsel Robert Mueller, who will wonder mightily why Manafort isn’t cooperating with the Senate Judiciary Committee’s probe.
As Wilfred Brimley said in Absence of Malice, “Wonderful thing, subpoenas.” Manafort has no leverage and a lot to lose, especially if (as he insists) he’s clean in the matter. If he’s smart, he’ll take up the offer from Grassley and Feinstein and submit to the deposition. If not, he’s practically guaranteeing himself a court date for contempt.