White House Counsel Don McGahn Must Testify Before Congress, Judge Rules
By R.J. Johnson - @rickerthewriter
November 26, 2019
White House counsel Don McGahn will have to appear before congress after a federal judge ruled late Monday that McGahn must obey a subpoena for his testimony issued by the House Judiciary Committee.
According to the ruling issued by Federal District Court Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, McGahn must appear before Congress, but he will be allowed to invoke executive privileged "where appropriate" during his testimony.
"This court holds that individuals who have been subpoenaed for testimony by an authorized committee of Congress must appear for testimony in response to that subpoena -- i.e., they cannot ignore or defy congressional compulsory process, by order of the President or otherwise," Judge Kentanji Brown wrote in her ruling. "Notably, however, in the context of that appearance, such individuals are free to assert any legally applicable privilege in response to the questions asked of them, where appropriate."
Because subpoenas are legal constructs and not political ones, the judge said her ruling was "inescapable."
"It is clear to this Court for the reasons explained above that, with respect to senior-level presidential aides, absolute immunity from compelled congressional process simply does not exist," she wrote in the ruling.
"Presidents are not kings," Jackson added.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler said in a statement that after the court's ruling, he expected McGahn to "follow his legal obligations" and appear before his committee.
"Don McGahn is a central witness to allegations that President Trump obstructed Special Counsel Mueller's investigation, and the Administration's claim that officials can claim 'absolute immunity' from Congressional subpoenas has no basis in law, as the court recognized today," Nadler said.
House investigators subpoenaed McGahn on April 22 as part of their investigation into actions by President Trump that former special counsel Robert Muller's report said could constitute obstruction of justice.
McGahn's lawyer, William Burck, said his client would comply with the ruling unless it is stayed pending appeal. The Justice Department has indicated it would appeal and seek a stay of Jackson's order. Lawyers for the Justice Department have argued that McGahn could not be ordered to appear before Congress because he was a former close adviser to the president.
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