Next to Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani, there may be no one who has done more to screw up the relationship between the United States and Ukraine than Mick Mulvaney. In his twin roles as acting chief of staff and director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), Mulvaney both assembled the “three amigos” who were set loose to arm-twist the Ukrainian president, and pulled the lever to prevent a check being cut for already approved military assistance funds. Better still, at an October hearing Mulvaney flat-out said that the reason Trump held up assistance to Ukraine was to pressure them into opening investigations into Joe Biden and the 2016 election. “That’s why we held up the money,” said Mulvaney. If that wasn’t snarly enough, he added a “Get over it. There’s going to be political influence in foreign policy” to demonstrate his genuine disregard for both the law and Congress.
Trump’s over-acting chief of staff was involved in every aspect, aware of all the moving parts, and directly responsible for handing out marching orders. From that perspective, the fact that the House impeachment inquiry decided to subpoena Mulvaney on Thursday seems completely reasonable. Except for the part where he is never going to come.
Mulvaney has already put his boot to the throat of other OMB employees. While State Department officials and even staff from the Department of Defense have walked around White House orders to provide depositions, no one from the Office of Management and Budget has so far sat down with the inquiry, even when they were the proud owners of a shiny new congressional subpoena.
And the Thursday night note to Mulvaney wasn’t for some distant date, it was for now, as in Friday morning. As in less than 12 hours after the paperwork hit his desk. Mulvaney had been given a summons to appear voluntarily on Tuesday, but the White House had already made it clear that neither the acting chief of staff, nor fellow summons recipient Energy Secretary Rick Perry were going to show up for their respective closed-door hearings.
The biggest question concerning Mulvaney on Friday would seem to be not “will he come,” but why subpoena him at all? This week the House deliberately withheld issuing a subpoena to former national security advisor John Bolton and withdrew a subpoena to former deputy NSA Charles Kupperman in order to wait out a court decision on the ability of Congress to compel appearances by members of the executive branch … the last minute subpoena to Mulvaney would seem to be reversing the strategy used in other cases.
Despite knowing that Mulvaney, like 11 of the 13 other people summoned to appear this week, is unlikely to show, there is apparently some technical advantage to be found in issuing this request before the inquiry moves to open hearings beginning next week. If nothing else, Mulvaney’s failure to appear will likely go on the list supporting counts of obstruction and contempt of Congress when the inquiry moves toward a final vote.
Only Mike Pence adviser Jennifer Williams and Deputy Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale have actually appeared to give testimony this week.