ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION) The U.S. House of Representatives committee that would handle any impeachment of President Donald Trump convened a hearing on Tuesday with another empty chair at the witness table, as former White House counsel Don McGahn did not show up to testify.
In a further escalation of a constitutional struggle between Trump and Congress over its power to investigate him, the White House on Monday told McGahn, who left his post in October, to disregard a subpoena from the Democratic-led House Judiciary Committee to appear at the hearing.
"When this committee issues a subpoena, even to a senior presidential adviser, the witness must show up.
Our subpoenas are not optional," Chairman Jerrold Nadler said at the beginning of the hearing on Capitol Hill.
"Mr. McGahn has a legal obligation to be here for this scheduled appearance.
If he does not immediately correct his mistake, this committee will have no choice but to enforce this subpoena against him." Doug Collins, the panel's top Republican, accused Nadler of engaging in political theatrics.
The panel is investigating Trump and Special Counsel Robert Mueller's inquiry into Russian election meddling.
Attorney General William Barr on May 2 also snubbed the committee, which later voted to hold him in contempt of Congress for not handing over an unredacted copy of Mueller's final report.
At the hearing that Barr skipped, an empty witness chair figured prominently and a Democratic committee member put a ceramic chicken on the table in front of it for the cameras.
There was no sign of a repeat chicken appearance on Tuesday.
In the Mueller report, McGahn was a key witness regarding possible obstruction of justice by Trump.
Career prosecutors who are not involved in the case have said that the report contained strong evidence that Trump committed a crime when he pressured McGahn to fire Mueller and later urged him to lie about the episode.
Trump is stonewalling numerous congressional inquiries into himself, his turbulent presidency, his family and his sprawling business interests, which he did not divest or put into a blind trust when he took office in January 2018.
Trump and most fellow Republicans in Congress dismiss the inquiries as political harassment ahead of the 2020 elections.