Former White House counsel Donald McGahn failed to appear before the House Judiciary Committee after Trump instructed him to defy a subpoena.“Our subpoenas are not optional,” House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler said at the hearing, McGahn’s empty seat directly in his view. “The president has taken it upon himself to intimidate a witness who has a legal obligation to be here today. This conduct is not remotely acceptable.”
Nadler vowed to hold McGahn in contempt of Congress, and to hold Trump accountable “one way or the other.”
“We will not allow the president to block congressional subpoenas, putting himself and his allies above the law,” he said. “We will not allow the president to stop this investigation. Nothing in these unjustified and unjustifiable legal attacks will stop us from pressing forward with our work on behalf of the American people.”
McGahn was a key witness in special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Trump’s attempts to stop his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. House Democrats want to hear more from McGahn.
Trump’s vow to defy all congressional subpoenas has led some Democrats — and one Republican — to call for the launch of impeachment proceedings.
On Tuesday morning, the two co-chairs of the Progressive Caucus issued statements pushing for those proceedings to begin.
(National Law Journal) The U.S. Justice Department said Monday that President Donald Trump could block former White House Counsel Donald McGahn from complying with a congressional subpoena demanding his testimony related to Special Counsel Robert Mueller III’s investigation.
The release of the Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel’s 15-page opinion came as the White House for a second time instructed McGahn, now a Jones Day partner, to defy a subpoena issued by the U.S. House Judiciary Committee.
“We provide the same answer that the Department of Justice has repeatedly provided for nearly five decades: Congress may not constitutionally compel the President’s senior advisers to testify about their official duties,” Assistant Attorney General Steven Engel said in the Monday opinion. “This testimonial immunity is rooted in the constitutional separation of powers and derives from the President’s independence from Congress.”
The OLC pointed to the office’s previous guidance, including one 1999 opinion published during the Bill Clinton administration, that explained that a congressional subpoena requiring a senior presidential adviser to testify would be “akin to” requiring the president himself to appear.
OLC argued that a former White House Counsel fits the description of a senior adviser.
The opinion also rejected arguments from Nadler and other Democratic lawmakers that the White House’s decision to not assert executive privilege over Mueller’s report amounted to a waiver of privilege over McGahn’s communications with Trump.
While the opinion said Congress cannot compel McGahn to testify before lawmakers, it does not necessarily bar McGahn from voluntarily speaking to Congress as a private citizen.
McGahn’s attorney, William Burck of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, informed Nadler in a letter Monday that his client would not appear before lawmakers.
Burck’s letter said McGahn was following the White House’s instruction, consistent with the OLC opinion.