Former White House counsel Don McGahn, who figures prominently in the Mueller report, defied a summons from Congress to appear Tuesday before the House Judiciary Committee, vexing Democrats who had hoped his testimony would shed light on President Trump’s conduct during the special counsel investigation.
Representative Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), the chair of the House Judiciary Committee, slammed McGahn for refusing to comply with the subpoena, writing
in a letter that the Committee is “prepared to use all enforcement mechanisms at its disposal” to compel him to appear.
McGahn, who served as President Trump’s legal counsel between January 2017 and October 2018 and is mentioned more than 100 times in the Mueller report, has been at the forefront of Democratic plans to determine if Trump obstructed the Special Counsel investigation. On one consequential
occasion, according to the Mueller report, Trump instructed McGahn to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller in June 2017, but McGahn demurred, later telling investigators he was prepared to resign rather than carry out the order.
The White House on Monday sabotaged
the scheduled testimony before Congress by directing McGahn not to appear, citing executive privilege. The Office of Legal Counsel, part of the Justice Department, released a legal memo later that day that justified
McGahn’s immunity from Congressional subpoenas on the basis of “the fundamental workings of the separation of powers.”
Nadler, in his letter to McGahn, rejected the OLC’s reasoning.
As a private citizen, McGahn could testify if he wanted to, though his lawyer has said he will respect the White House’s wishes.
The relationship between the White House and Congress has grown increasingly dysfunctional since Attorney General William Barr refused a request by Nadler in early May to turn over an unredacted version of the Mueller report. Since then, in addition to instructing McGahn to snub the House Judiciary Committee, the White House sued to challenge a subpoena by the House Oversight and Reform Committee that would have forced the Trump Organization’s accounting firm to release eight years of Trump’s financial records.
On Tuesday a judge ruled
against the President, arguing the Constitution grants Congress the authority to investigate the Executive Branch for any reason, even in the absence of impeachment proceedings. The Trump administration plans
on appealing the ruling within the next seven days.