Judge Orders Trump’s Former White House Counsel to Testify Before Congress

Don McGahn “is not immune from compelled congressional process,” a judge says.

Melina Mara/ZUMA

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A federal judge has ordered Don McGahn, President Donald Trump’s former White House counsel, to comply with a subpoena issued last April by the House Judiciary Committee, dealing a blow to the White House’s ongoing efforts to prevent current and former officials from testifying before Congress. 

McGahn “is not immune from compelled congressional process” and “had no lawful basis for refusing to appear for testimony pursuant to the duly issued subpoena issued to him by the Committee on the Judiciary of the United States House of Representatives on April 22, 2019,” US District Court Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson said in a order issued Monday evening. “Mr. McGahn’s failure to appear was without legal justification.”

McGahn was a key witness cited in former special counsel Robert Mueller’s report released in April. The report cites McGahn’s description of efforts by Trump to compel him to fire Mueller, evidence of what Mueller described as a potential attempt by Trump to obstruct justice by blocking the special counsel’s investigation. Mueller declined to charge Trump for obstruction, due in a part to a Justice Department policy that bars indicting a sitting president. Despite cooperating with Mueller, McGahn refused to appear before the Judiciary Committee.

“Now that the court has ruled, I expect him to follow his legal obligations and promptly appear before the Committee,” House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) said in a statement Monday.

Kerri Kupec, a spokeswoman for the Justice Department, which opposed Congress’ effort to compel McGahn’s testimony, said it will appeal Jackson’s decision and will seek a stay of the order pending the appeal.

Jackson’s ruling is the latest in a series of wins for House Democrats as they attempt to enforce subpoenas against the Trump administration, which has asserted absolute immunity from House oversight efforts.

*This article has been updated.

Read the full ruling below:

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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