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Trump tells ex-White House counsel McGahn not to appear before Congress

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Trump tells ex-White House counsel McGahn not to appear before Congress

By Sarah N. Lynch, David Morgan and Steve Holland

 

2019-05-20T182457Z_1_LYNXNPEF4J172_RTROPTP_4_USA-COURT-KAVANAUGH.JPG

FILE PHOTO: White House counsel Don Mcgahn listens to U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh testify before a Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., September 27, 2018. REUTERS/Jim Bourg

 

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday told former White House counsel Don McGahn to defy a subpoena to testify before Congress about the Russia investigation, deepening his fight with Democratic lawmakers.

 

McGahn would "respect the President's instruction" and not testify, his lawyer said later, in a letter sent to the head of the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee.

 

The committee is investigating whether Trump illegally obstructed the probe into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. It wants to quiz McGahn after he figured prominently in a report by Special Counsel Robert Mueller about the Russia probe and whether Trump committed obstruction of justice.

 

But in a letter to the committee, White House Counsel Pat Cipollone said McGahn should not appear due to both "constitutional immunity" and "in order to protect the prerogatives of the Office of the Presidency."

 

The committee's Democratic chairman, Jerrold Nadler, responded by saying Trump was trying to block damaging testimony about his obstruction of justice.

 

"The President acted again and again - perhaps criminally - to protect himself from federal law enforcement. Don McGahn personally witnessed the most egregious of these acts. President Trumpknows this. He clearly does not want the American people to hear firsthand about his alleged misconduct," Nadler said in a statement.

 

He said his committee would meet on Tuesday morning and expected McGahn to show up and testify.

 

Another Democrat on the committee, David Cicilline, warned that if McGahn stays away on Tuesday, lawmakers might need to push ahead with an impeachment inquiry against Trump in order to compel his administration to produce witnesses and documents.

 

"There are a number of colleagues who have suggested that if Mr. McGahn doesn't appear tomorrow and answer questions that it's an appropriate time to open an impeachment inquiry," Cicilline told reporters.

 

He said an inquiry would begin the process to determine whether or not articles of impeachment should be voted on.

 

In his report, Mueller cited McGahn as saying that Trump called him several times in June 2017 to tell him to direct the Justice Department to remove Mueller because of conflicts of interest.

 

McGahn did not carry out Trump's order. Later, when news articles about the incident surfaced, McGahn told Mueller's investigators that Trump tried to get him to dispute the accuracy of the reports. McGahn again refused.

 

OBSTRUCTION?

Many Democratic lawmakers, as well as many former prosecutors not involved in the investigation, have said the alleged order by the president to fire Mueller and attempt to coerce McGahn to lie about it could amount to committing the crime of obstruction.

 

Trump has denied any wrongdoing and said he did not ask McGahn to have Mueller removed.

 

Mueller's report described numerous links between Trump's 2016 campaign and various Russians but did not find sufficient evidence to establish there was a criminal conspiracy with Moscow.

 

Mueller also described numerous attempts by Trump to impede the investigation, but stopped short of declaring the president had committed a crime.

 

Attorney General William Barr determined after reviewing Mueller's findings that there was insufficient evidence to bring criminal obstruction charges against the president.

 

Nadler's committee has been locked in multiple battles with the Trump administration over access to information contained in the Mueller report.

 

Trump said following the release of the report in March that it showed he was exonerated of colluding with Russia and obstruction of justice.

 

He has hardened his administration's position of defying the legal demands of Democrats in Congress, who want more information on the Russia investigation and Trump's taxes and business dealings.

 

Earlier this month, the committee voted to hold Barr in contempt after he defied a subpoena seeking an unredacted copy of the Mueller report and its underlying investigative materials.

 

Nadler also issued a subpoena last month compelling McGahn to testify on Tuesday, and he has previously said he would hold the attorney in contempt if he did not show up.

 

The Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel issued an opinion on Monday that gave legal cover to the decision to block McGahn from testifying.

 

"Congress may not constitutionally compel the President's senior advisers to testify about their official duties," Justice Department Assistant Attorney General Steven Engel wrote.

 

(Reporting by Steve Holland, Sarah N. Lynch, David Morgan and Tim Ahmann; writing by Mohammad Zargham; editing by Cynthia Osterman and Rosalba O'Brien)

 

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-- © Copyright Reuters 2019-05-21

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2 hours ago, quandow said:

THIS is the kind of behavior that brought Nixon down.

 

One more time - Honest men have nothing to hide.

 

Nor do Honest Women!

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Posted (edited)
2 hours ago, attrayant said:

After having looked over the brand-new policy that the Office of Legal Counsel is relying on for this decision, I can't find one single supporting court decision that supports it.  You'd think if there were any they'd surely have cited them in the memo.

 

[Edit] I just found one court decision mentioned on page 9:

 

689591113_2008miers.PNG.94790918465f8464f8051a6c09b973f8.PNG

 

"...presidential advisers were not entitled to absolute immunity from compelled congressional testimony..."

 

Well that's not good.  The only relevant court decision OLC could find, and it makes the case against the OLC!

 

 

 

 

Great research, Counsel!

 

I found the text of that recent OLC opinion on their website.  To be honest, I lack your time and/or energy to read the entire text.  I relied on the intro paragraphs and the conclusion.  So, I admire your stamina!

 

Just FYI, they have your cited quote on page twelve on their site, but maybe you were using a different website than me.  No big deal, but just in case someone else wants to check it out, here's the link I have used:

 

https://www.justice.gov/olc/file/1164186/download

 

I agree with everything you have written.  Great work in pointing out that case! 

 

I'd like to add something extra that risks making me appear cynical.  As you know, the Office of Legal Counsel falls within Barr's Dept. of Justice.  As you may also know, law students are taught to argue "both sides of the law," i.e., effectively argue both for and against an issue.

 

I have a funny feeling that the attorneys involved in drafting and editing this more recent OLC opinion like their jobs and would like to get a favorable job review when that time arrives.  Thus, it does not surprise me that this new OLC opinion just happens to be argued in a way that makes the boss(es) happy.  

 

Yes, Mueller followed that older OLC opinion in his report about not being able to criminally indict a sitting president.  However, Mueller was a Dept. of Justice employee.  A court may give the OLC opinions some "persuasive" value.  However, neither the older nor the newer OLC opinions have to be followed by a court.  The courts can simply say that counsel's opinion is interesting; but, we are the courts, we make the rulings and we do not have to follow your opinions.

 

 

 

 

Edited by helpisgood
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Posted (edited)

Been down this road before.... over Congressional subpoenas, redacted transcripts, obstruction of justice and notions of an imperial presidency.

 

One difference in the Nixon case that he lost before the U.S. Supreme Court was that the subpoena in that case was from a court in connection with a Watergate criminal prosecution, not from Congress. Hence the murkier grounds when the obstructed subpoena is coming from Congress.

 

Quote

Following a subpoena from the Judiciary Committee, in April 1974 edited transcripts of many Watergate-related conversations from the Nixon White House tapes were made public by Nixon, but the committee pressed for full tapes and additional conversations. Nixon refused, but on July 24, the U.S. Supreme Court ordered him to comply.

On July 27, 29, and 30, 1974, the Committee approved three articles of impeachment against Nixon, for 
obstruction of justice, abuse of power, and contempt of Congress, and reported those articles to the House of Representatives. Two other articles of impeachment were debated but not approved.

Before the House could vote on the impeachment resolutions, Nixon made public one of the additional conversations, known as 
the "Smoking Gun Tape", which made clear his complicity in the cover-up. With his political support completely eroded, Nixon resigned from office on August 9, 1974. It is widely believed that had Nixon not resigned, his impeachment by the House and removal from office by a trial before the United States Senate would have occurred.

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Impeachment_process_against_Richard_Nixon

 

Edited by TallGuyJohninBKK

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