Posts tagged with "Behind closed doors"

Don McGahn agrees to testify about events described in Mueller report

May 14, 2021

On May 12, the Department of Justice and House Judiciary Committee reached an agreement that will allow former Trump White House Counsel Don McGahn to offer testimony about events described in special counsel Robert Mueller’s 2019 Russia investigation communiqué, The Wall Street Journal reports.

According to the Journal, Wednesday’s agreement, detailed in a court filing to the Washington, D.C., federal appeals court, “sidesteps a messy legal fight that could have reshaped relations between the Executive Branch and Congress.”

Democrats who run the Judiciary Committee have sought. McGahn’s testimony for two years as part of an inquiry into potential obstruction of justice by former President Donald Trump during  Mueller’s Russia investigation.

The agreement, which comes months after the Biden administration assumed control of the Justice Department, limits McGahn’s testimony to a closed-door transcribed interview with the committee to be scheduled as soon as possible. He will be permitted to testify about matters referenced in the public portion of Mueller’s report. A transcript may be released publicly, according to the agreement.

Neither McGahn, nor an attorney representing him, has responded to a request for comment. The Justice Department didn’t respond to a request for comment.

The deal showcases the limits of the federal courts to enforce congressional claims against executive-branch officials. The committee initially sought McGahn’s testimony through a subpoena in April 2019.

Democrats’ effort to compel him to testify prevailed in a lower court, but the Justice Department, representing McGahn, appealed the decision. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit struggled to reach a definitive conclusion, hearing and rehearing the case several times. The matter was set for another hearing in front of the full D.C. circuit later this month and might have landed in the Supreme Court had no agreement been reached.

The agreement for McGahn’s testimony makes the case moot, leaving unresolved the legal issue of whether the House may subpoena a close White House aide.

“The law requires that when there is a dispute in court between the legislative and executive branches, the two must work in good faith to find a compromise—and I am pleased that we have reached an arrangement that satisfies our subpoena, protects the Committee’s constitutional duty to conduct oversight in the future, and safeguards sensitive executive-branch prerogatives,” said Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, a New York Democrat.

The case was sparked by a dispute between the House panel and the Trump White House, the Journal notes. Although McGahn already had left government service at the time of the subpoena, White House attorneys refused to allow his appearance, asserting that as a close aide of the president he had absolute immunity against being compelled to testify—a legal theory never before tested in court.

At the time, Democrats said they needed McGahn’s testimony to investigate allegations that Mr. Trump had obstructed justice by repeatedly attempting to shut down the Mueller probe. Trump has long denied obstruction and customarily called the Mueller investigation a “witch hunt.”

Research contact: @WSJ