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Don McGahn Defies Subpoena as Trump Clash With Congress Intensifies
Written by <a href="index.php?option=com_comprofiler&task=userProfile&user=50827"><span class="small">Sabrina Siddiqui and David Smith, Guardian UK</span></a>   
Tuesday, 21 May 2019 12:56

Excerpt: "Democrats faced another brazen attempt by Donald Trump to stonewall their investigations on Tuesday, this time with former White House counsel Donald McGahn defying a subpoena to appear before Congress on orders from the White House."

Don McGahn, lawyer for Donald Trump and his campaign, leaves the Four Seasons Hotel after a meeting with Trump and Republican donors on June 9, 2016, in New York City. (photo: Drew Angerer/Getty)
Don McGahn, lawyer for Donald Trump and his campaign, leaves the Four Seasons Hotel after a meeting with Trump and Republican donors on June 9, 2016, in New York City. (photo: Drew Angerer/Getty)

Don McGahn Defies Subpoena as Trump Clash With Congress Intensifies

By Sabrina Siddiqui and David Smith, Guardian UK

21 May 19


emocrats faced another brazen attempt by Donald Trump to stonewall their investigations on Tuesday, this time with former White House counsel Donald McGahn defying a subpoena to appear before Congress on orders from the White House.

The House judiciary committee held a brief hearing on Tuesday morning in McGahn’s absence, with an empty chair where he was supposed to sit.

Trump blocked McGahn from testifying before Congress about the special counsel’s report on Russian election interference, prompting sharp criticism and fresh threats of impeachment.

The committee chairman, Jerry Nadler, said the House would hold the president accountable “one way or the other” and the committee was ready to hold McGahn in contempt. The committee will hear McGahn’s testimony, “even if we have to go to court”, Nadler said.

McGahn’s move leaves the Democrats without yet another witness – and a fuelled growing debate within the party about how to respond.

The House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, backed by Nadler, is taking a step-by-step approach to the confrontations with Trump.

Democrats were encouraged by an early success on that route, as a federal judge ruled against Trump on Monday in a financial records dispute with Congress.

The ranking Republican on the House judiciary committee, representative Doug Collins, said Democrats were “trying desperately to make something out of nothing”.

In a legal opinion released on Monday, the justice department said lawmakers on Capitol Hill could not compel McGahn, who was subpoenaed by the House judiciary committee, to answer their questions under oath.

“The Department of Justice has provided a legal opinion stating that, based on long-standing, bipartisan, and constitutional precedent, the former counsel to the president cannot be forced to give such testimony, and Mr McGahn has been directed to act accordingly,” the White House press secretary, Sarah Sanders, said in a statement.

“This action has been taken in order to ensure that future presidents can effectively execute the responsibilities of the office of the presidency.”

McGahn is a central figure in special counsel Robert Mueller’s report, often standing in the way of Trump’s efforts to obstruct justice. According to investigators, McGahn threatened to resign when the president ordered him to have Mueller fired.

McGahn was also dispatched by Trump to convince the former attorney general Jeff Sessions not to recuse himself from overseeing the Russia investigation. (Sessions did not heed the president’s demands.)

Some members of the judiciary panel feel 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 on 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.

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

Pelosi resisted, noting that several committees were doing investigations already and they had 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 David Cicilline of Rhode Island, Ted Lieu of California and the freshman Colorado representative 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 the attorney general, William Barr, in contempt earlier this month after he declined to provide an unredacted version of the Mueller 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 was “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”.

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+10 # wilhelmscream 2019-05-21 13:33
Vote 2 hold McGahn in Contemp of Congress; and why hasn't Barr been taken in by the Sargent of Arms, yet?
+3 # RLF 2019-05-22 06:06
Its because the Democrats in charge at the congress have no balls.
+3 # JosephR 2019-05-21 23:21
What is happening with our neighbours to the South? What has become of your Congress being the lawmakers of the United States of Anarchy?

Why has the House judiciary not just said, "If you do not come before the committee when you are subpoenaed, you will go directly to jail until you respect Congress' lawful demands when you've been subpoenaed, as per your constitution." It worked for Sam Ervin during Watergate. Furthermore, your president* obstructs justice, then he may either be impeached or charged with criminal activity, even while in office. There's absolutely nothing in your Constitution regarding someone is above the law! Whatever happened to your beliefs, that all people are equals?

Your country has become the laughing stock of the world, although the criminal in the White House wants to take over your country with the military, Bikers for Trump, and all the other hoopla.

Those of you who do not like the Nazism of the United States of Anarchy should be after all of your representatives to STAND UP to this crapola! He is not only destroying your country, but the entire world. Land's sake, he should be removed and jailed solely on his CLIMATE CHANGE denial! Why do you wish for all of your the children and theirs, etcetera to have ferocious weather? For what? The oil & gas industry gets 4.2 Trillion USD world-wide every single year! Why are you not taking those funds and put them into renewables? Why do you have such a HUGE military budget?
+1 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2019-05-22 05:15
Now I'm reading that Mueller is saying he won't appear in a public hearing. He might appear in a closed door hearing or he might just make a statement to congress and answer no questions.

Mueller is saying he does not want to get into the politics of all this.

Mueller is the star witness. If he won't talk, the case is pretty much tainted. It also makes it pretty clear that the Report set up congress for an impeachment but gave no real support. So Mueller hung congress out to dry. Without testimony of the Report's author, congress is just flapping in the wind.
+3 # MikeAF48 2019-05-22 08:22
White House counsel Don McGahn is a COWARD to the people of America. Are you ready to stand up to the heat from dictator Trump your job is not over. You will be held accountable.
-4 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2019-05-22 11:57
Mike, McGahan was the white house counsel; that is legal advisor to the president. There is attorney-client privilege. A president (or anyone) has the right to talk over all kinds of options (even illegal ones) with his or her attorney and be confident that it will always be secret. Very often people discuss illegal options with an attorney. The attorney is bound to tell them that the action is illegal and the person should not do it. But still they talk about it. They have to. You need to know what is legal to do and what is not legal to do. And where the dividing line is. This is privileged communication. Congress does not have a right to pry into this.

What we know is that no illegal actions were taken. We also know illegal actions were talked about. That's how it all should work.

Congress just needs to find witnesses who are legal for it to interview. It is not legal to force a lawyer to reveal his privileged conversations with a client.
+1 # punch 2019-05-23 07:44
It turns out that you are exactly wrong. Not the last sentence in the following quote:

"The Court held in Eastland v. United States Servicemen's Fund that Congressional subpoenas are within the scope of the Speech and Debate clause which provides "an absolute bar to judicial interference" . . . Under that ruling, courts generally do not hear motions to quash Congressional subpoenas; even when executive branch officials refuse to comply, courts tend to rule that such matters are "political questions" unsuitable for judicial remedy. In fact, many legal rights usually associated with a judicial subpoena do not apply to a Congressional subpoena. For example, attorney-client privilege and information that is normally protected under the Trade Secrets Act do not need to be recognized."

Quoted from the WP article "Contempt of Congress". The source is a whitepaper by the law firm Mayer Brown, where more detail is given.

Why do you try to spin matters in favor of Trump?
+1 # Kootenay Coyote 2019-05-22 08:28
It is hard to see how McGahn has legal immunity. A subpoena is a subpoena, & most folks are arrested as soon as they refuse to obey one. One law for some, the rest of the law for others, eh?
-1 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2019-05-22 11:53
KC -- "A subpoena is a subpoena, & most folks are arrested as soon as they refuse to obey one."

No most folks are not. The arrest has to follow an order from a judge to the police to pick up someone and put them in jail until they testify. This is what happened to Chelsea Manning. There was a court ruling first.

Most of the time a subpoena leads to a negotiation about how the person will testify. That's what's going on now with Barr and the house judiciary committee. Barr has said he will come under certain conditions; Nadler has a different set of conditions. This is how it works. Neither side has absolute dictatorial power to slam the other side. That's how dictators behave.

Most of us think the judge was wrong in the Manning case. This judge is an extremist. Manning has good and legal reasons or constitutional objections why she won't appear before the grand jury. Her case will go to an appeals court and likely the judge's ruling will be over turned.
+2 # PABLO DIABLO 2019-05-22 14:06
Trump rolled over 16 competitors in the primaries. He has been sued 4,000 times, lied 10,000 times while in office. The time to be "nice" is over. We're dealing with a pro. Get out the nails.
0 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2019-05-23 05:49
PD -- I've written this many times on RSN but perhaps it is relevant here. LBJ was perhaps the smartest democrat in the last 50 years. He said, "don't ever get into a pissing match with a pole cat." Pole cat is Texas-speak for skunk. A pole cat can't smell his own stink but every else can smell it all over you. Democrats are playing Trump's game by battling him in pissing matches. Trump is a pole cat, as you say. He will win the pissing match.

Demos need a different strategy. The Obamas used to say, "when they go low, we go high." It was good advice. Take the high road. Stick to the issues and work on the problems facing the American people. Trump will find he has nothing to say that interests anyone. This is basically what Sanders has been doing for two years.