McGahn Must Testify, Judge Rules

Wednesday, 27 Nov, 2019

A federal judge ruled late on Monday that former White House counsel Donald McGahn must testify before the impeachment probe into Donald Trump, a decision that could have major implications for the US president.

William Burck, a lawyer for Mr McGahn, said the former White House counsel will comply with the subpoena, absent a court-imposed stay.

Former Trump White House counsel Donald McGahn must comply with a House subpoena, a federal court ruled Monday, finding that "no one is above the law" and that top presidential advisers can not ignore congressional demands for information.

White House counsel Pat Cipollone has said, "McGahn is absolutely immune from compelled congressional testimony with respect to matters occurring during his service as a senior adviser to the president", citing previous opinions from the Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel, along with OLC guidance that said McGahn specifically is "absolutely immune" from providing such testimony.

The judge, Ketanji Brown Jackson, quoted Founding Fathers by ruling that "the primary takeaway from the past 250 years of recorded American history is that presidents are not kings".

While the focus of the impeachment inquiry has moved to Trump's dealings with Ukraine, some House Democrats consider the McGahn case the key test of congressional subpoena power for other ongoing investigations.

Democrats subpoenaed McGahn on May 21, months before the start of the impeachment inquiry.

The case arose from a subpoena issued by the House of Representatives for the testimony of former White House counsel Donald F. McGahn, one of the witnesses most frequently cited in the Mueller report into allegations of collusion by the 2016 Trump campaign with Russian Federation and Trump's actions in response to the charges.

"Boy, it looks like a complete win for Nancy Pelosi and the House of Representatives and a very devastating loss for the president", Katyal said. The administration is likely to appeal, per NBC, which could freeze the judge's ruling for now. McGahn told investigators that a day after the revelation broke in the press, Trump asked him to write a letter denying that the president had wanted Mueller fired.

USA media reported that the Justice Department will appeal the ruling and will, in the meantime, seek to halt the order from taking effect.

John Bolton's attorney is suggesting that a court order directing White House counsel Don McGahn to testify to Congress has no bearing on whether his client and another ex-national security official will also appear.

Mueller's report, released in redacted form in April, revealed about 10 instances in which Trump took actions aimed at impeding the investigation.

Judge Jackson's ruling reinforced that no matter how high one has risen within the administration, they must still show up when subpoenaed. She says that as a matter of law, presidential aides, and that includes the top White House lawyer, must appear before Congress if compelled to do so. Kupperman, who left the administration when Bolton exited in September, was slated to appear before the House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight Committees as part of their impeachment investigation.