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Trump to McGahn: Ignore Subpoena       05/21 06:18

   House Democrats are facing yet another brazen attempt by President Donald 
Trump to stonewall their investigations , this time with former White House 
counsel Donald McGahn defying a subpoena for his testimony on orders from the 
White House.

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- House Democrats are facing yet another brazen attempt by 
President Donald Trump to stonewall their investigations , this time with 
former White House counsel Donald McGahn defying a subpoena for his testimony 
on orders from the White House.

   A lawyer for McGahn said he would follow the president's directive and skip 
Tuesday's House Judiciary hearing, leaving the Democrats without yet another 
witness --- and a growing debate within the party about how to respond.

   House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, backed by House Judiciary Committee Chairman 
Jerrold Nadler, is taking a step-by-step approach to the confrontations with 
Trump. Nadler said the committee would vote to hold McGahn in contempt, and 
take the issue to court.

   "You face serious consequences if you do not appear," Nadler warned McGahn 
in a letter on the eve of the hearing. Democrats are encouraged by an early 
success on that route as a federal judge ruled against Trump on Monday in a 
financial records dispute with Congress.

   But that hasn't been swift enough for some members of the Judiciary panel 
who feel that Pelosi should be more aggressive and launch impeachment hearings 
that would make it easier to get information from the administration. Such 
hearings would give Democrats more standing in court and could stop short of a 
vote to remove the president.

   The issue was raised in a meeting among top Democrats Monday evening, where 
some members confronted Pelosi about opening up the impeachment hearings, 
according to three people familiar with the private conversation who requested 
anonymity to discuss it.

   Maryland Rep. Jamie Raskin made the case launching an impeachment inquiry 
would consolidate the Trump investigations as Democrats try to keep focus on 
their other work, according to the people.

   Pelosi pushed back, noting that several committees are doing investigations 
already and they had already been successful in one court case. But the 
members, several of whom have spoken publicly about the need to be more 
aggressive with Trump, are increasingly impatient with the careful approach. 
Other Democrats in the meeting siding with Raskin included Rhode Island Rep. 
David Cicilline, California Rep. Ted Lieu and freshman Colorado Rep. Joe Neguse.

   Just before the start of the meeting, Cicilline tweeted: "If Don McGahn does 
not testify tomorrow, it will be time to begin an impeachment inquiry of 
@realDonaldTrump."

   In the hours after the discussion, Pelosi and Nadler met privately. Shortly 
after emerging from that meeting, Nadler said "it's possible" when asked about 
impeachment hearings. But he noted that Democrats had won a court victory 
without having to take that step.

   "The president's continuing lawless conduct is making it harder and harder 
to rule out impeachment or any other enforcement action," Nadler said.

   McGahn's refusal to testify is the latest of several moves to block 
Democratic investigations by Trump, who has said his administration will fight 
"all of the subpoenas." The Judiciary committee voted to hold Attorney General 
William Barr in contempt earlier this month after he declined to provide an 
unredacted version of special counsel Robert Mueller's report. And the House 
intelligence committee is expected to take a vote on a separate "enforcement 
action" against the Justice Department this week after Barr declined a similar 
request from that panel.

   McGahn's lawyer, William Burck, said in a letter to Nadler that McGahn is 
"conscious of the duties he, as an attorney, owes to his former client" and 
would decline to appear.

   Still, Burck encouraged the committee to negotiate a compromise with the 
White House, saying that his client "again finds himself facing contradictory 
instructions from two co-equal branches of government."

   McGahn was a key figure in Mueller's investigation, describing ways in which 
the president sought to curtail that federal probe. Democrats have hoped to 
question him as a way to focus attention on Mueller's findings and further 
investigate whether Trump did obstruct justice.

   If McGahn were to defy Trump and testify before Congress, it could endanger 
his own career in Republican politics and put his law firm, Jones Day, in the 
president's crosshairs. Trump has mused about instructing Republicans to cease 
dealing with the firm, which is deeply intertwined in Washington with the GOP, 
according to one White House official and a Republican close to the White House 
not authorized to speak publicly about private conversations.

   "This move is just the latest act of obstruction from the White House that 
includes its blanket refusal to cooperate with this committee," Nadler said in 
a statement. "It is also the latest example of this administration's disdain 
for law."

   Administration officials mulled various legal options before settling on 
providing McGahn with a legal opinion from the Department of Justice to justify 
defying the subpoena.

   "The immunity of the President's immediate advisers from compelled 
congressional testimony on matters related to their official responsibilities 
has long been recognized and arises from the fundamental workings of the 
separation of powers," the department's opinion reads. "Accordingly, Mr. McGahn 
is not legally required to appear and testify about matters related to his 
official duties as Counsel to the President."

   A federal judge rejected a similar argument in 2008 in a dispute over a 
subpoena for Harriet Miers, who was White House counsel to George W. Bush. U.S. 
District Judge John Bates said it was an unprecedented notion that a White 
House official would be absolutely immune from being compelled to testify 
before Congress. Miers had to show up for her testimony, but still had the 
right to assert executive privilege in response to any specific questions posed 
by legislators, the judge said.

   But in 2014, under the Obama administration, the Justice Department issued 
an opinion arguing that if Congress could force the president's closest 
advisers to testify about matters that happened during their tenure, it would 
"threaten executive branch confidentiality, which is necessary (among other 
things) to ensure that the President can obtain the type of sound and candid 
advice that is essential to the effective discharge of his constitutional 
duties."


(CZ)

 
 
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