Don McGahn Must Abide By Subpoena — Absolute Immunity ‘Simply Does Not Exist,’ Judge Rules
A subpoena order issued to President Donald Trump’s former White House counsel must be adhered to, despite efforts by the White House and the Department of Justice arguing that the president has the right to restrict such testimony.
Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, a federal judge for U.S. District Court in D.C., ruled Monday that former White House counsel Don McGahn had to abide by a Congressional subpoena order to testify about what he knows regarding President Donald Trump’s potentially obstructive acts that took place during the Russia investigation, CNN reported.
McGahn had been blocked by the White House from being able to testify before Congress prior to the ruling on Monday.
Jackson issued her order in no uncertain terms, ruling that “the president does not have the power to excuse” individuals that worked with him “from taking an action that the law requires,” she wrote in her 120-page ruling.
Precedent was on her side, Jackson said. “Stated simply, the primary takeaway from the past 250 years of recorded American history is that Presidents are not kings,” she explained.
The ruling has the potential to open the floodgates for other witnesses to testify. McGahn was specifically subpoenaed to discuss the Russia investigation, but others, like former National Security Adviser John Bolton, have expressed interest in speaking before the impeachment inquiry about Trump’s behavior during the Ukraine scandal — however, Bolton has also suggested he wouldn’t do so unless he knew his being subpoenaed would be allowed by a court ruling, the New York Times reported.
From the ruling: "the Court holds only that [McGahn] (and other senior presidential advisers) do not have absolute immunity from compelled congressional process in the context of this particular subpoena dispute." https://t.co/DpcM6c86Jq
— Seung Min Kim (@seungminkim) November 25, 2019
The ruling issued on Monday may provide that answer for Bolton and others. However, the Justice Department has stated it intends to appeal the decision. If a stay is granted, it would mean McGahn wouldn’t have to testify anytime soon, until a three-panel set of judges, or perhaps the full D.C. Circuit Court en banc would take up the case. From either of those two situations, an appeal could also be feasibly made to the Supreme Court.
McGahn’s testimony could be important for the impeachment inquiry as it heads toward its next phase. Now on its way to the Judiciary Committee for consideration on drafting possible articles of impeachment, the question of whether other potential charges — including those possible instances of obstruction of justice committed by Trump mentioned before — should be included (in addition to matters relating to the Ukraine scandal) will be debated on.