WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
- Former White House counsel Don McGahn needs to comply with a congressional subpoena seeking his testimony into President Donald Trump’s impeachment inquiry, according to US District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson.
- The Washington judge rejected the Trump administration’s legal claim that current and former senior White House officials are immune from the House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry.
- Accordimg to legal experts, Jackson’s ruling could give other former and current presidential advisers a legal basis for cooperating with the ongoing House impeachment inquiry.
Former White House adviser Don McGahn needs to comply with a congressional subpoena asking for him to testify into President Donald Trump’s efforts to delay the now-completed federal investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election, U.S. District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson ruled on Monday.
The Washington judge rejected the Trump administration’s legal claim that current and former senior White House officials cannot be compelled to testify before Congress.
“Executive branch officials are not absolutely immune from compulsory congressional process – no matter how many times the executive branch has asserted as much over the years – even if the president expressly directs such officials’ noncompliance,” Jackson wrote, adding that “this result is unavoidable as a matter of basic constitutional law.”
McGahn left his post in October 2018 and in May, he defied a subpoena from the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee to testify. The committee sued McGahn in August for defying the subpoena that was issued months before the House launched an impeachment inquiry in September.
Judge Jackson also wrote that “compulsory appearance by dint of a subpoena is a legal construct, not a political one, and per the Constitution, no one is above the law.”
According to Reuters, the judge was not addressing the separate issue of whether McGahn could withhold information by citing executive privilege, which is intended to keep confidential the nature of discussions between a president and close aides.
Even though Jackson’s ruling is intended for McGahn’s testimony, legal experts believe that by rejecting Trump’s key legal argument for defying congressional subpoenas, this could give other former and current presidential advisers — like former White House national security adviser John Bolton — a legal basis for cooperating with the ongoing House impeachment inquiry.
The Trump administration has clearly refused to cooperate with the House impeachment inquiry and has instructed current and former officials to refuse subpoenas for documents and testimony.
In an email sent to Reuters, a Justice Department spokeswoman said: “We will appeal.”