Mulvaney drops plans to file lawsuit on impeachment testimony

Acting White House chief of staff Mick MulvaneyJohn (Mick) Michael MulvaneySenate Republicans must stand up for the rule of law and ensure a fair, open proceeding Democrats cap impeachment arguments with focus on Trump stonewalling Lindsey Graham will oppose subpoena of Hunter Biden MORE on Tuesday reversed plans to file a lawsuit regarding his compliance with a subpoena for congressional testimony in the House impeachment inquiry into President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump says his advice to impeachment defense team is 'just be honest' Trump expands tariffs on steel and aluminum imports CNN's Axelrod says impeachment didn't come up until 80 minutes into focus group MORE.

His attorneys notified a federal court that Mulvaney, after further consideration, “does not intend to pursue litigation regarding the deposition subpoena issued to him by the U.S. House of Representatives” and will instead obey directions from Trump to ignore the subpoena altogether.

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The filing came hours after Mulvaney’s lawyers said he planned to file his own suit after encountering opposition to joining a similar one filed by former White House official Charles Kupperman.

“Rather, he will rely on the direction of the President, as supported by an opinion of the Office of Legal Counsel of the U.S. Department of Justice, in not appearing for the relevant deposition,” Mulvaney’s attorneys, William Pittard and Christopher Muha, wrote in a filing in D.C. District Court on Tuesday.

Judge Richard Leon had scheduled a status conference for 3:30 p.m. Tuesday on the matter, but Pittard and Muha said it would no longer be necessary in light of Mulvaney’s decision.

Mulvaney was subpoenaed by the House Intelligence Committee to testify on Friday in connection with the impeachment inquiry focused on the Trump administration’s policies on Ukraine. Mulvaney did not show up for the appearance, and House Democrats have signaled decisions by the acting chief of staff and others not to cooperate in the impeachment inquiry would be taken as evidence of obstruction.

Hours later, Mulvaney raised eyebrows when he tried to join Kupperman’s lawsuit, which sought a ruling from a federal court on whether he should comply with a subpoena in connection with the impeachment inquiry or obey directions from the White House that he is immune from compelled congressional testimony. Kupperman served as former national security adviser John BoltonJohn BoltonSenate Republicans must stand up for the rule of law and ensure a fair, open proceeding Democrats cap impeachment arguments with focus on Trump stonewalling Lindsey Graham will oppose subpoena of Hunter Biden MORE’s deputy on the National Security Council and recently left his post in the administration.

“Mr. Mulvaney, like Mr. Kupperman, finds himself caught in that division, trapped between the commands of two of its co-equal branches — with one of those branches threatening him with contempt. He turns to this Court for aid,” Mulvaney’s attorneys wrote in a filing late Friday asking to join the lawsuit.

However, the move reportedly rankled Bolton’s allies. On Monday, Kupperman along with House Democrats formally registered their opposition to his efforts.

House Democrats last week withdrew the subpoena for Kupperman’s appearance, which was widely interpreted as an effort to avoid a prolonged legal battle that could result in extending impeachment proceedings. Democrats hope to complete the inquiry by the end of the year.

Mulvaney is viewed as a central witness in the inquiry in part because of his involvement in the Trump administration’s decision to withhold $400 million in military aid from Ukraine over the summer.

Mulvaney appeared to acknowledge at a press conference last month that the aid, which has since been released, was in part held up because the administration wanted Ukraine to investigate a debunked conspiracy theory about Kyiv’s involvement in the 2016 hack of a Democratic National Committee server. Mulvaney later walked back the remarks, saying there was “no quid pro quo” and that reporters had misinterpreted them.

"Mr. Mulvaney has already publicly admitted from the White House briefing room that the President withheld vital military aid in order to pressure Ukraine to conduct investigations intended to benefit the President’s personal and political interests. For Mr. Mulvaney to now claim that he cannot discuss under oath the same matters which he has already discussed publicly doesn’t fool anyone — but it does lay bare the superficial, inconsistent and insupportable nature of the President’s obstruction of Congress," an official working on the impeachment inquiry said Tuesday.

"If Mr. Mulvaney had information that contradicts the consistent and incriminating testimony of numerous public servants, Mr. Mulvaney would be eager to testify, instead of hiding behind the President’s ongoing efforts to conceal the truth," the official continued.

Trump in a July phone call also asked Ukraine's president to investigate former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenSchiff closes Democrats' impeachment arguments with emotional appeal to remove Trump Conservative reporter on Sanders: He's not a 'yes man' Democrats feel political momentum swinging to them on impeachment MORE, who is running for president, and his son over unfounded corruption allegations. House Democrats are investigating whether Trump abused his office to push Ukraine for investigations that could benefit him politically.

The president has repeatedly argued that he did nothing wrong and has accused Democrats of a partisan "witch hunt" aimed at overturning the results of the 2016 election.

Updated at 11:18 a.m.