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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THE TRUTH...

is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

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