BREAKING NEWS: Federal court rules Don McGahn must comply with House subpoena – giving new boost to Democratic impeachment inquiry
- House Judiciary Committee subpoenaed McGahn for his testimony
- The Obama-appointee’s ruling is almost certain to face an appeal
- Ruling could impact former national security advisor John Bolton and acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney over testimony being sought
- McGahn, who left his post in October 2018, last May defied a subpoena from the Democratic-led Judiciary Committee for testimony
- House Intel panel is preparing a report on impeachment for Judiciary, which will consider potential articles of impeachment
A federal judge ruled Monday that former White House counsel Don McGahn must comply with a House subpoena – boosting a House impeachment inquiry as a committee is already drafting a report that could lead to articles against the president.
U.S. District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson ruled McGahn, whose explosive clashes with Trump are catalogued in Robert Mueller’s report, must comply with a House Judiciary Committee subpoena.
After a week of public hearings, the House Intelligence Committee has begun work on a report it will send to Judiciary, which will draw up any articles of impeachment.
Former White House counsel Don McGahn must comply with a House subpoena, U.S. District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson ruled Monday
Other top officials, including former national security advisor John Bolton and acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, have been watching the courts for direction as they navigate their own situations.
The Obama-appointee’s ruling is almost certain to face an appeal.
McGahn has a starring role in the Mueller report, which describes President Trump’s efforts to fire Mueller as a potential obstruction of justice offense. McGahn told investigators Trump told him to secure Mueller’s removal, then write a memo stating that the president had never directed him to do so.
McGahn, who left his post in October 2018, last May defied a subpoena from the Democratic-led subpoena for testimony.
The subpoena was issued months before the House opened an impeachment inquiry in September into the Republican president’s actions concerning Ukraine. The committee sued McGahn in August to try to enforce the subpoena.
Jackson’s ruling concerns only McGahn’s testimony. But by rejecting Trump’s key legal argument for defying congressional subpoenas it could give other former and current presidential advisers a legal basis for cooperating with the ongoing House impeachment inquiry, legal experts said.
The House Intelligence Committee has sought testimony from a raft of top national security officials, White House officials, and State Department officials in conneciton with its probe of the Ukraine affair.
McGahn’s interactions with President Trump are catalogued in the Mueller report
The House Ways and Means Committee is fighting in court to obtain Trump tax return information as proscribed in a statute. The Trump administration has asserted a right of total immunity from committee requests.
The Trump administration has refused to cooperate with the impeachment inquiry as well as other Democratic-led investigations and has directed current and former officials to defy subpoenas for documents and testimony. There are other legal fights over subpoenas seeking Trump tax and financial records.
McGahn emerged as a pivotal figure in the 448-page report completed in March by former Special Counsel Robert Mueller that detailed Russian interference in the 2016 election, through a campaign of hacking and propaganda, as well as extensive contacts between Trump’s campaign and Moscow.
Mueller’s report, released in redacted form in April, revealed about 10 instances in which Trump took actions aimed at impeding the investigation. Mueller did not exonerate Trump of obstruction of justice, though Attorney General William Barr, a Trump appointee, afterward decided that the president had not committed obstruction.
When the committee sued McGahn in August, it said it needed to speak with him to help lawmakers decide whether to include Trump’s actions toward the Mueller investigation as part of an impeachment inquiry.
According to the Mueller report, McGahn told Mueller’s team that Trump repeatedly instructed him to have the special counsel removed and then asked him to deny having been so instructed when word of the action emerged in news reports. McGahn did not carry out either instruction.
McGahn’s relationship with Trump was strained by events of the Mueller investigation. Trump replaced him with Pat Cipollone, who still holds the job.
Several aides and advisers to Trump were charged in the Mueller investigation. All but two pleaded guilty, while longtime adviser Roger Stone and former campaign chairman Paul Manafort were convicted by juries. Mueller said he found insufficient evidence to charge Trump with criminal conspiracy concerning Russia.
House Democratic leaders have focused their impeachment inquiry on Ukraine, but have discussed pursuing a broader count of obstruction of Congress among any articles of impeachment – formal charges – brought against Trump. McGahn’s testimony could bolster that part of their inquiry.
House passage of any articles of impeachment would lead to a trial in the Senate on whether to convict Trump and remove him from office. The Senate is controlled by Trump’s fellow Republicans, who have shown little support for removing him.