Published: Tue, May 21, 2019
Global News | By Blake Casey

DOJ: McGahn can’t be forced to testify about Mueller probe

DOJ: McGahn can’t be forced to testify about Mueller probe

The White House said on Monday that US President Donald Trump is directing former White House counsel Don McGahn to defy a congressional subpoena and not appear before the House Judiciary Committee.

In a summary from the Office of Legal Counsel, the Justice Department argued that the immunity of the president's immediate advisers from compelled congressional testimony is long-standing and is based on the "fundamental working of the separation of powers".

In the short term, the effect of Trump's and Barr's decisions is to stop House Democrats from getting more grist for investigations built to follow up or build upon that completed by Mueller.

Mr McGahn was interviewed for 30 hours by Mr Mueller's team of investigators, and was frequently cited in their 448-page report, released in April.

White House counsel Pat Cipollone told Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler that "because of this constitutional immunity, and in order to protect the prerogatives of the office of the presidency, the president has directed Mr. McGahn not to appear at the Committee's scheduled hearing on Tuesday".

The special counsel's two-year investigation did not determine that Mr Trump conspired with alleged Russian Federation attempts to sway the 2016 U.S. presidential election, but listed 10 instances of possible obstruction of justice by the president.

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The ruling handed an initial defeat to Trump's vow to defy subpoenas by House Democrats and came in one of the first courtroom challenges to a series of lawmakers' investigative demands for his bank records, accounting statements and tax returns.

Nadler and House Democrats are anxious to pursue Trump, demanding testimony from key witnesses mentioned in the Mueller report.

His assertion that President Trump directed him to have the Justice Department fire Mueller drew particular attention as an instance in which Trump may have attempted to obstruct justice. McGahn was directly implicated in several major episodes that Mueller implied were obstructive in nature - including Trump's orders that McGahn see to it that Mueller was sacked, and demands by Trump that McGahn falsely deny that the President ordered Mueller be fired.

"Mr McGahn is a critical witness to numerous alleged instances of obstruction of justice and other misconduct described in the Mueller report", Nadler said last month.

The McGahn news was not surprising. "Even more ridiculous is the extension of the privilege to cover events before and after Mr. McGahn's service in the White House".

That is still possible, since the justice department's legal opinion does not prevent McGahn testifying if he so chooses, although it would be potentially at risk to his own career.

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