On Monday, a federal judge ruled that former White House counsel Don McGahn must obliged a congressional subpoena and testify before the House Intelligence Committee.
Prior to the ruling, the White House and the Justice Department were acting under the belief that they could implement an executive privilege to prevent senior White House staff from testifying.
Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, an Obama-appointed judge, said in a 120-page opinion that these senior officials are not given the same constitutional protections as the president, vice president, and some others.
BizPac Review reports Jackson referred to a situation in 2008 when former George W. Bush counsel Harriet Miers was called to testify before Congress.
“[T]he Court holds only that [McGahn] (and other senior presidential advisors) do not have absolute immunity from a compelled congressional process in the context of this particular subpoena dispute,” Jackson wrote. She added, “Donald McGahn must appear before the Committee to provide testimony, and invoke executive privilege where appropriate.”
“However busy or essential a presidential aide might be, and whatever their proximity to sensitive domestic and national-security projects, the President does not have the power to excuse him or her from taking an action that the law requires,” Jackson added. “Stated simply, the primary takeaway from the past 250 years of recorded American history is that Presidents are not kings.”
According to the report, McGahn’s personal attorney said his client intends to fully comply with Judge Jackson’s ruling.
“Don McGahn will comply with Judge Jackson’s decision unless it is stayed pending appeal,” attorney William Burck said on Monday.
McGahn could resist the congressional subpoena, despite the judge’s ruling, should the Trump administration appeal the decision. Such a process could take weeks or months and could push an eventual testimony until after congressional Democrats deliver a report of their findings in the investigation. A spokesperson from the Department of Justice has said they intend to appeal Judge Jackson’s decision.
Obama-appointed judge rules Don McGahn must testify to Congress; Dems muster faux victory lap https://t.co/YbNAukTIxe
— Conservative News (@BIZPACReview) November 26, 2019
Responding to the ruling, House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff described it as “a very significant victory for congressional oversight” and encouraged McGahn to testify.
“The witnesses who have defied Congress at the behest of the President will have to decide whether their duty is to the country, or to a President who believes that he is above the law,” Schiff said.
Schiff statement on the McGahn ruling pic.twitter.com/52Zfv4mQMc
— Jeremy Herb (@jeremyherb) November 26, 2019