Updated 4:03 p.m. | Outrage over Capitol Hill’s meddling in the District of Columbia’s affairs could soon come full circle.
The Republican staff director of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has agreed to trek from the halls of Congress to a local courtroom on Nov. 19. Sean McLaughlin will testify in D.C. Superior Court on why he directed a D.C. activist to leave the panel’s hearing room during an April 21 markup.
After initially indicating he would fight the subpoena request, McLaughlin voluntarily agreed to testify about the disruption and his authority for asking Adam Eidinger to exit the room, according to court documents filed Monday. The committee will also produce a “substantial quantity of documents,” House lawyers stated, including correspondence with Eidinger, a transcript and photos from the meeting where he was arrested, plus video of Eidinger discussing the incident.
Chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, and ranking member Elijah E. Cummings, D-Md., do not plan to take the stand. Both moved to quash subpoenas for testimony and documents. Eidinger cannot establish the “extraordinary circumstances” required to compel the congressmen to testify, attorneys argued, and what the lawmakers say would likely be a repeat of McLaughlin’s testimony.
Eidinger requested any document or recording related to his presence in the crowd of D.C. statehood activists and the committee’s legal authority to expel the public from its proceedings. He is challenging misdemeanor charges for unlawful entry, with plans to sue if his fight is successful.
But the committee wants to keep under wraps internal collections of press releases, press clippings and social media commentary from the controversial vote to block a D.C. reproductive health law, plus emails sent between staff regarding the subpoenas. McLaughlin has not agreed to testify about the substance of the committee’s meeting itself.
A spokeswoman for the committee declined to comment on the pending litigation.
Eidinger’s attorney, Mike Rothman, is still pressing for Chaffetz and Cummings to take the stand.
“I’m interested knowing whether he was targeted ahead of the hearing,” Rothman said in an interview. No one has clarified why the staff director had the authority to eject people from the hearing, and without the congressmen present Rothman won’t have the chance to “cross-examine the people who gave him that authority.”