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Ex-WH counsel Don McGahn to testify before House panel after deal in subpoena dispute

McGahn says he thinks Trump deserves to be reelected
McGahn says he thinks Trump deserves to be re... 06:45

Washington — Former White House counsel Don McGahn is expected to answer questions from the House Judiciary Committee behind closed doors "as soon as possible" after Democrats on the panel and the Justice Department reached an agreement this week in a long-running dispute over enforcement of a subpoena for his testimony.

Lawyers for the Justice Department, who are representing McGahn, and House Democrats on Wednesday requested the federal appeals court in the District of Columbia postpone oral arguments in the case, set for May 19, because the two sides reached "an agreement on an accommodation."

Under the agreement, the Judiciary Committee will conduct a transcribed interview with McGahn, resolving the years-long dispute over the subpoena for his testimony. The interview will be limited to information from McGahn, who worked in the Trump White House, in the publicly available parts of special counsel Robert Mueller's report on Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. 

The former White House counsel voluntarily met with Mueller's investigators about his interactions with former President Donald Trump and was cited extensively in the special counsel's report, including about possible instances of obstruction of justice by the former president during the FBI's investigation.

Don McGahn
Former White House counsel Don McGahn. Drew Angerer / Getty

The agreement, filed with the D.C. Circuit, notes that McGahn's communications with other executive branch officials not disclosed in the public portions of Mueller's report are outside the scope of his interview with the Judiciary Committee. However, executive privilege cannot be asserted with regard to the information McGahn provided to Mueller and attributed to him in the public report.

The Justice Department and House Democrats notified the court in a filing Tuesday that the two sides reached an agreement and noted that "former President Trump, who is not a party to this case, is not a party to the agreement in principle regarding an accommodation." 

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, a Democrat from New York, said he is pleased a deal with the Justice Department could be reached that satisfies the subpoenas and protects the committee's duty to conduct oversight.

"When the former president vowed to fight 'all of the subpoenas' aimed at his administration, he began a dangerous campaign of unprecedented obstruction," Nadler said in statement. "We begin to bring that era of obstruction to an end today."

The Judiciary Committee said it will provide additional information about McGahn's interview when available.

The separation-of-powers dispute between Democrats on the Judiciary panel and the Trump administration began in April 2019, when the committee approved its subpoena for testimony from McGahn after Mueller issued his report on Russian interference in the 2016 election. Mueller and his team identified 10 instances in which Mr. Trump may have obstructed justice during the FBI's probe, but they did not make a determination on whether the former president did so. 

The Trump White House blocked McGahn from complying with Democrats' subpoena, arguing he was "absolutely immune" from testifying. The Judiciary Committee went to court in August 2019 to enforce the subpoena, but a three-judge panel on the D.C. Circuit last year ordered the case to be tossed out on technical grounds and said it didn't have the authority to enforce congressional subpoenas.

Democrats then asked the full D.C. Circuit to rehear the case, and the court was scheduled to hear arguments May 19.

Once McGahn's interview with the Judiciary Committee is complete, the Justice Department and House Democrats agreed to ask the D.C. Circuit to dismiss their case and request the court to toss out the earlier opinion from the three-judge panel in favor of McGahn.

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