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House Democrats plan to push for McGahn testimony next year, lawyers say

Court rules on House subpoena effort
Court rules on House subpoena effort 08:24

Washington — House Democrats intend to continue pursuing testimony from former White House counsel Don McGahn in 2021, lawyers for the House told a federal appeals court in the District of Columbia, charging ahead with its separation-of-powers fight to enforce a subpoena to the former White House lawyer.

Lawyers for the House Judiciary Committee said in a filing with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on Wednesday that the Democratic-led panel "maintains a right and need for McGahn's testimony," as lawmakers plan to continue their examination into President Trump's actions during special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation, even after he leaves office.

"The committee, whose chairman will not change in the next Congress, will reissue the subpoena, consistent with House rules and precedent," they told the court. "This case will thus continue, and nothing about the end of this Congress will prevent this court from resolving it."

House Democrats and the White House have been involved in a 16-month-long legal battle over the subpoena to McGahn, which the committee approved in April 2019 after Mueller issued his report on Russian meddling in the 2016 election. The report also detailed 10 instances in which Mr. Trump may have obstructed justice, though Mueller's team did not make a determination on whether the president did so. McGahn provided Mueller's investigators with information about his interactions with Mr. Trump, and his testimony was cited extensively throughout the report.

But the White House blocked McGahn from complying with the subpoena from the committee and argued he was "absolutely immune from compelled congressional testimony." The Judiciary Committee then filed a lawsuit in August 2019 seeking to enforce the subpoena, but a three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit ordered the case to be tossed out on technical grounds in late August, the latest decision in the winding fight.

The Democrats are now waiting for the full D.C. Circuit to rehear the dispute

The Justice Department, however, argues the case should be dismissed because the matter will become moot on January 3, when the 116th Congress ends and the subpoena expires.

"There is no reasonable likelihood that this controversy will recur in the future, and it is purely speculative at this time whether a new Congress will renew the same dispute and call on the courts to resolve the same legal issue," federal prosecutors told the D.C. Circuit.

But lawyers for the House said the new Congress, with Democrats maintaining control of the House, is expected to authorize committee chairs to continue ongoing litigation, including by reissuing subpoenas. McGahn's testimony, they said, "remains relevant to consideration of remedial legislation" after Mr. Trump is out of office.

Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, a Democrat from New York, "has stated that he will reissue the subpoena to McGahn and continue this litigation. McGahn's testimony will remain relevant to the committee's oversight and legislative priorities," lawyers for the committee said.

Congressman Jim Jordan, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, condemned Nadler for his intention to reissue the subpoena to McGahn next year and accused him of misusing "limited committee resources on your fanatical obsession with attacking" the president.

"For too long, you have allowed your oddly personal obsession with President Trump to cloud the committee's work," he wrote in a letter to Nadler on Wednesday. "It is time that you stop."

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