House Pushes McGahn Case Towards Immediate Resolution

on April 13, 2018 in Washington, DC.
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 13: U.S. White House Counsel Don McGahn after the investiture ceremony for U.S. District Judge Trevor N. McFadden April 13, 2018 at the U.S. District Court in Washington, DC. (Photo by Alex W... WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 13: U.S. White House Counsel Don McGahn after the investiture ceremony for U.S. District Judge Trevor N. McFadden April 13, 2018 at the U.S. District Court in Washington, DC. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images) MORE LESS
August 27, 2019 11:35 a.m.

House Democrats made a substantial push on Monday to force former White House counsel Don McGahn to testify in Congress, asking that a federal judge issue an early, final ruling on the matter.

In a lengthy court filing, the House Judiciary Committee pushed for a preliminary injunction in the case, restating their position in a move that could see a judge issue a final ruling on McGahn in a matter of weeks.

“The very nature of the Committee’s investigation speaks to its urgency: the Committee is examining conduct by a sitting President that strikes at the foundations of the rule of law,” attorneys for the House Judiciary Committee wrote in the filing.

If granted, the preliminary injunction would come as a declaration from the district court that McGahn is required to comply with a Congressional subpoena he received in April for testimony before Rep. Jerry Nadler’s (D-NY) House Judiciary Committee.

Trump has asserted immunity over McGahn’s testimony, and would be expected to appeal any decision that doesn’t go his way.

House Democrats framed the request’s urgency in stark terms that go to what the McGahn lawsuit represents: whether Congress can hold a sitting president accused of criminal wrongdoing accountable when a standing Office of Legal Counsel opinion prohibits the indictment of a president while in office.

Nadler sued to force McGahn to comply with his subpoena on Aug. 7, triggering a battle over what the lawsuit describes as the “delicate balance” of the country’s system of checks and balances.

In the Monday filing, the House asked that the judge provide “an enforcement mechanism” for the subpoena, saying that without one, “Congress would be hamstrung in its ability to perform its core constitutional functions.”

“The Executive’s contention that the President is both immune from criminal prosecution and able to direct his former advisors to refuse to provide highly relevant testimony in an impeachment investigation would allow the President to remain unaccountable for wrongdoing while in office,” the filing reads.

The preliminary injunction process will force McGahn and the Justice Department attorneys working on the case to defend the merits of their positions over the next few weeks.

From there, a federal judge will hear arguments before deciding whether to issue a substantial ruling on the merits of the House’s claim.

Nadler is also seeking a declaration from the court that McGahn’s failure to comply with the subpoena is “unlawful.”

The filing recycles earlier language used by the committee to claim that McGahn’s testimony is crucial for potentially impeaching President Trump and for continuing to examine whether the Justice Department is pursuing politically motivated cases.

Attorneys wrote in the motion that Nadler is “investigating whether there are proper safeguards to protect these and other pending law enforcement investigations against improper interference, and how best to prevent inappropriate political considerations from influencing DOJ’s decision-making concerning new investigations.”

Read the filing below:

Support The TPM Journalism Fund
  • Contributions allow us to hire more journalists
  • Contributions allow us to provide free memberships to those who cannot afford them
  • Contributions support independent, non-corporate journalism
Masthead Masthead
Founder & Editor-in-Chief:
Executive Editor:
Managing Editor:
Senior Editor:
Special Projects Editor:
Editor at Large:
General Counsel:
Head of Product:
Director of Technology:
Associate Publisher:
Front-End Developer:
Senior Designer: